Lt. Colonel West and General Mattis

From the day it broke some thirteen years ago, I have had a real problem coming to grips with with the Allen West story.  I mean, how does it happen that a battalion commander would decide, with criminal intent aforethought, to interpose himself in a low-level interrogation of a common detainee and commit a blatant violation of both the U. S. Military's Code of Conduct and the Geneva Conventions?

Furthermore, how does it then happen that, having done so, that battalion commander would decide to report himself to his superiors, confess, and then resign from the Army?

It made no sense then, and it does not now make sense!  The first thing that came to mind then, and persists today, it that West did it to get out of the fighting ahead.  But that makes no sense, either, given his history of impressive, brave, and exemplary service in the Army:

Bronze Star; Meritorious Service Medal (two Oak Leaf Clusters); Army Commendation Medal (three Oak Leaf Clusters, one Valor Device); Army Achievement Medal (one Oak Leaf Cluster); Valorous Unit Award; Air Assault Badge; and the Master Parachutist Badge.

That collection of medals doesn't come easily, nor without strong devotion to duty!

Well, incoming secretary of defense and war veteran Gen. James Mattis once made clear what he thought of the incident:

As he was preparing documents before his Marines deployed to Iraq, Mattis described West's case as "commander who has lost his moral balance or has watched too many Hollywood movies," according to author Thomas Ricks' 2006 book, "Fiasco."

I don't know if the general is correct in his assessment, but it makes about as much sense as anyone else can make in assessing the story.

Watching Col. West over the years as a member of Congress and as a commentator on things military and on many other matters, I have had nothing but the highest admiration, particularly because of his strong and unabashed positions on conservative issues.  But I have never ceased to wonder: how does it happen...?

The author is retired, his profile may be found on LinkedIn, and he may be argued with at