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The suicide or murder of Col. Ted Westhusing in Iraq

Posted by John Reed on

The suicide, or murder, of Col. Ted Westhusing in Iraq

Shot in the head

Ted Westhusing graduated from West Point in 1983. He was his West Point class’s honor captain, in other words, the top cadet in the whole student body on the subject of the Cadet Honor Code. We had no such rank when I was a cadet there, but the company honor representatives, of which Westhusing was one, were elected by their fellow students. The Honor Code is considered the property of the Corps of Cadets (student body), not the Army officers who run West Point. Officers promulgate cadet regulations and enforce them. The cadets promulgate the honor code and enforce it. So even among cadets who all adhere to the Cadet Honor Code, Westhusing apparently stood out in that department.

On 6/5/05, he was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head in his trailer at Camp Dublin in Baghdad, Iraq. Army investigators ruled it a suicide. He was 44, left a wife and three children, and was the highest ranking U.S. military person to die in Iraq.

Investigated by the Army which found itself ‘not guilty’
Based on my eight years in the Army and reading media acccounts of such investigations throughout my adult life, I do not trust Army investigators.

Reporter Robert Bryce, writing in the Texas Observer, said that Westhusing appears to have committed suicide because of his despair over the corruption of the U.S. military effort in Iraq. I did not find the evidence in the Observer article so conclusive. But the article raises so many red flags that I would call for an investigation by persons more trustworthy than the Army. You can read the article at

The Army reportedly is spinning this to blame only corruption among civilian contractors in Iraq for Westhusing’s despair. But the Observer article seems to blame corruption in both the military and the civilian contractors in Iraq.

Although the Obsever article seems to support much of what I allege about the military’s integrity in my military articles at this Web site, and I would like to cite it as additional evidence that I am right, I simply am not sufficiently comfortable with the sources quoted in the article and their integrity and completeness to cite it as evidence equal to the other evidence I have cited in my other articles.

Record suicide rate
I note that numerous other articles have reported that the suicide rate among U.S. servicemen in Iraq is higher than previously and higher than the normal suicide rate in the U.S. military. See articles at SourceWatch, USAToday, and the International Herald Tribune.

Westhusing was apparently extremely unhappy about widespread corruption in Iraq and speaking out about it. That can get you killed.

Allegations directed at superior officers
Here are portions of Westhusing’s suicide note that refer to the behavior of his superior officers. They were Major General Joseph Fil and General David Petraeus. The suicide note was explicitly addressed to them. I am not certain Westhusing wrote it. Westhusing’s wife says it is almost verbatim what he told her in discussions she had with him. She also said it was his handwriting.

You are only interested in your career and provide no support to your staff—no [mission] support and you don’t care. I cannot support a [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuses and liars. I didn’t volunteer for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission...when your evey effort and breath to succeed meets with lies, lack of support, and selfishness? Reevaluate yourselve, [commanders. You are not what you think you are and I know it.

I must add that I do not think it is wise to base government policy on the contents of suicide notes. Physically healthy people who commit suicide are arguably experiencing temporary insanity by definition. And the tone of this note sounds petulant and childlike. But at the same time, there is almost certainly at least a kernel of truth to the allegations made by Westhusing. They should be investigated and appropriate action taken. But I will not hold my breath. As explained in my article on military integrity, “You can’t change the Army,” is a widely-held view and one that has substantial evidentiary support.

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed

Link to information about John T. Reed’s Succeeding book which, in part, relates lessons learned about succeeding in life from being in the military

John T. Reed military home page

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