A Deluge of Greed III
I suspect Westhusing, like most active duty military officers, generally regarded contractors as non-professionals who were really over in Iraq to make a fast buck. What he could not comprehend was the same lack of professionalism among the uniformed military, among those sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies even if it meant paying the ultimate price, making the ultimate sacrifice. His fellow officers seemed more interested in serving their time – what is often called “checking the box” marked “combat veteran” on one’s service record – and getting home in one piece than in fulfilling the promises made by President Bush that “as Iraqi forces stand up, American forces will stand down.”
Westhusing truly believed in the crusade against Saddam Hussein that President and commander in chief George W. Bush declared in March 2003. But while the president simply asserted that his war on Saddam’s regime was a “just war,” Westhusing could marshal the classical arguments from Cicero to the current conflict to “prove” the president’s claim. (Some media reported that before he left West Point for pre-deployment training, Westhusing “debated” with the senior colonel overseeing the philosophy instructors as to whether the Iraq war was “just.” None of the accounts indicated who “won.”)
Put another way, Westhusing’s entire mind-set, his emotional and rational energy, committed him to the belief that if he participated in the Iraq venture, he would find experiential validation for his trust in his commander in chief, validation for the profession of arms and its system of values, and validation for his conclusion that God’s justice was being furthered in Iraq through the United States and its coalition partners.
By April 2005, according to army investigators who questioned, Westhusing’s co-workers, he became less communicative and less positive about his mission. An anonymous letter accusing USIS of falsifying training reports, fraudulent billing for services not rendered, and even the murder of Iraqi civilians, added to Westhusing’s darkening outlook. He reported the allegations to higher-ranking officers in his chain of command, but the subsequent enquiry cleared USIS of wrongdoing.
Apparently Colonel Westhusing did not – nor could he – accept this finding. I suggest that in the four months he had been in the combat zone he had seen, from his reference point, a nearly wholesale betrayal of the military professional’s code of honor at every level of command. The anonymous letter acted as independent verification of the empirical “evidence” visible during planning meetings with Iraqi officials and USIS contractors. His inability to force the system to acknowledge its betrayal of the vision for Iraq that he shared with President Bush became an indictment of his own professional inadequacies. And as part of the iron-clad hierarchy that is the military, he was as guilty as every other officer of this sordid betrayal.
And with that, he could not live.
In early February 2009, five years after becoming the first and only Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen warned Congress that the absence of an adequate management structure – a professional structure – to implement rebuilding in Afghanistan will result in the same debacle as occurred in Iraq. The latter cost U.S. taxpayers and Iraqis $50 billion; $30 billion has already been poured into Afghanistan with no end in sight. The problem in both countries is that the Bush administration did not have a strategy for reconstituting good governance in either nation.