It is an odd phenomenon
that a nation immersed in a war for civilization itself is inspired more
by the capture of a soldier than by a soldier who prevents capture by enemy
I’m speaking of course about Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who is currently enjoying
the spoils of media celebrity, and Lt. Col. Allen West, who is right now
being punished for brilliantly thwarting an ambush against his troops in
To be fair, it isn’t surprising that the media has jumped all over the Jessica
Lynch story. Pretty, young, and blonde are three attributes not uncommon
to success in the entertainment industry, and we all sympathize with the
hardship that Jessica endured during her capture in Iraq. However, intending
no disrespect to her, Ms. Lynch is not a heroine -- which she herself recently
acknowledged to Diane Sawyer in her first TV interview -- but merely the
victim of an unfortunate wrong turn.
In stark contrast, Lt. Col. West, who commanded an artillery unit in the
Army’s 4th Infantry Division, is being charged with aggravated assault for
the heroic tactics he employed a short time ago to save the lives of his
Facing gunfire and ambushes, Col. West detained a local police officer he
learned had been cooperating with the enemy. Following futile attempts to
question the officer, West decided to interrogate his detainee using stronger
methods. He discharged his pistol to frighten the police officer, taking
care to stand between his weapon and the man, and effectively elicited information
that allowed his unit to preempt the ambushes.
For his trouble, Col. West is now faced with the decision to resign from
the Army without his pension (for which he would have qualified one week
after this incident), or face charges of assault. This is highly disturbing,
not least because a distinguished officer is facing his ruin at the very
time that the Bush administration is being scolded constantly by the media
and other critics for mounting American casualties in Iraq. But when engaged
in unconventional warfare, one would think that unconventional methods of
survival are appropriate when the alternative is sudden and certain death.
The courage of Col. West is evident, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
should affirm this by absolving West of these charges. But in the event that
Mr. Rumsfeld needs some encouragement, I might point out some earlier heroic
actions of one of Rumsfeld’s current employees: General John “Mad Arab” Abizaid,
Commander, U.S. Central Command.
Abizaid, a highly decorated and accomplished general who now serves as the
Pentagon’s point man inside Iraq, began his impressive military career, ironically,
it seems, similarly to Col. West’s end.
Abizaid’s reputation for decisive action was cemented during the 1983 U.S.
invasion of Grenada, where, facing a nest of hostile Cuban troops, then-Capt.
Abizaid ordered one of his Army Rangers to climb aboard a bulldozer, raise
its shovel, and drive it towards the enemy while he and his men advanced
behind it (which inspired a fictional scene in Clint Eastwood’s 1986 movie
But a story that is not so well documented is one told by many senior officers
at West Point, and it concerns an event that occurred prior to touching down
in Grenada. During the approach from the air, Capt. Abizaid allegedly put
a .45 to the head of the Air Force pilot who initially would not fly over
the drop zone. He also jumped from below 600 feet, which is extremely dangerous.
But Abizaid knew that securing the airport with his Ranger Company was critical
to the success of the mission.
As one Army expert tells me, “Abizaid probably could have been charged with
some type of Article 15 offense (Nonjudicial Punishment)” for the harsh measure
of threatening another officer, “but any officer (especially in the Special
Operations community) worth the rank on his collar would do the same thing.”
General consensus in the military is that when the bullets start to fly,
good leaders do what needs to be done in order to accomplish the mission
(within guidelines of the Geneva Convention, of course).
Most Democrats and critics of this war seem to think we can defeat radical
Islamists by sending the cast of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” into the
desert to slap our way to victory. America chose to send its best into Iraq
because it recognized the need to destroy lunatics who would murder innocent
Americans in their sleep. And Col. West exemplifies the bravery and nerve
that we’d better demand if we expect to come out of this campaign on top.
Jessica Lynch didn’t ask to stand at the altar of idolatry. Indeed, her TV
movie was even made without her cooperation. But her ordeal should not highlight
the dignity of placing women in combat nearly as much as it should spur consideration
of its discontinuation.
Perhaps the media needs Jessica Lynch. But the U.S. military certainly needs Col. Allen West, if it knows what’s good for it.
Trevor Bothwell is the editor of The Right Report.