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Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide

by : John Reed
Friday June 24, 2005 - 10:28

Having followed the story of the death of Col. Ted S. Westhusing, the highest-ranking US officer killed so far in the Iraq, since June 5, the date he died, it is with a heavy heart and much trepidation that I have finally arrived at the conclusion you read in the headline, that Ted’s death was a suicide. Westhusing was a professor in the English Department at the US Military Academy at West Point who volunteered to go to Iraq.

Officially, Ted died of a non-combat injury at Camp Dublin near the Baghdad Airport. As of June 16, the date of Westhusing’s funeral at West Point, the military was still conducting an investigation into the death, which could have been caused by accident, homicide or suicide. A blog posting on the No More Apples blog on Wednesday, June 8, along with many other clues, leads me the suicide theory.

The posting stated that the blogger, Motherlode, had heard on CNN’s American Morning show that morning that Westhusing died of a single gunshot wound. Photo of Motherlode here. She is the Director of Communications at a Fortune 250 construction company in Dallas, Texas. The implication is that he may have committed suicide, which seems odd given his basic character and the lack of reports that he was depressed.

In a later post, On Col. Westhusing’s Death, Motherlode attempted to explain why she felt that Barbara Starr’s reports from the Pentagon on June 8 made her feel that Westhusing may have been a suicide. Motherlode apparently received several letters from irate people accusing her of maligning the memory of this fine officer.

I managed to find a transcript of Barbara Starr speaking to Soledad O’Brien and Bill Hemmer on CNN’s Morning Show on June 8. If you read it you can see why the CNN show got Motherlode thinking. Starr says:

"If it comes to it, they will conduct what they call a psychological autopsy. That will be conducted by Army medical personnel. That is the standard procedure in all of these cases. They will try and determine what factors were at play and what did happen here."
A psychological autopsy? My comment on Motherlode’s later post is on her site, followed by her response, followed by an irate comment by a poster telling those of us reporting on his death to butt out. The irate poster makes some interesting points about the possibility of Westhusing dying of an accident, but unfortunately, if you read his post, he actually ends up also suggesting Westhusing may have been a suicide.

The next comment was just posted the other day by one of Westhusing’s cousins, whom I am not going to name. Part of his (edited) comment is reproduced below (my comments are in brackets; the bolding of certain words was done by me):

Was it an accident? There is pure danger, as Anonymous mentioned, everywhere, yet that wasn’t what I think caused his death. Motherlode, you mention "accusations that you had maligned Col. Westhusing’s reputation".

Seeking the truth is admirable, and we all can only sort through what we believe are true facts and come to a hypothesis, as Robert clarified. In all the press I have been searching, it is here in these blogs that I think the truth is closest to the honest answer that I am searching for. Thank you all.

In a letter my mother (RL: Possibly Westhusing’s sister?) sent to me over a month ago regarding Ted, it mentioned that he was frustrated with all the distrust, lying and killing by the contractors and also by the Iraqi police amongst each other and in police cases where they were supposed to be protecting people.

He felt it was unsolvable. He had asked for prayers, saying they were "really needed now". The letter mentions that he was fed up with the Army and was getting out. I read this and then put more facts together ...one bullet, non-combat, closed casket, no info from military to the public and it seems like the worst may have happened.

In a further (edited) comment this morning by the same cousin on The Fulcrum blog, he elaborates further on his theory:
I am sad, too, that I think...and I am thinking out loud, to be frank and honest, and striving for the truth in this crazy war where facts are hard to get. I say it looks like he may of committed suicide, by piecing facts and emails and Internet news and blogs together.

I don’t want to cause problems by claiming this. I just want to know what happened. If it did happen, as I suspect, I would like to know why. Actually, I think the world might need to know the effects of what is going on. Thanks, Robert, for your well-covered blog.

A story on June 16 about Westhusing’s funeral contained quoted Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd about the investigation into Ted’s death:
"It’s ongoing. When someone dies in Iraq or Kuwait that’s not a combat death, the death is investigated. It doesn’t mean there is anything criminally suspected here," she added.
Take note of that last comment, which definitely seems to rule out homicide. That leaves us with accident or suicide. And why conduct a "psychological autopsy" (see Barbara Starr’s comments above) in the case of an accident?

I recently found a nice, but odd, obituary for Ted on a site for the West Point Class of 1983 (Ted graduated from West Point that year), with a great picture of a young Ted. This obit has very nice eulogies of Ted. Curiously, his obituary is on the same page as a classmate, Lori Good Loucks.

Sadly, Loucks seems to be an obvious suicide - she was bipolar (manic - depressive), and in the midst of an episode of psychotic depression when she died of an unstated cause in a mental hospital. Was Ted’s obit placed next to hers by chance or design?

On the morning of June 8, I started getting search engine hits for "Ted Westhusing suicide", some from military sites like Centcom. That’s what first got me thinking along those lines. I have now received many more search engine hits like that, including some more from the military. I didn’t get my first "Ted Westhusing homicide" until today.

At this point, after spending hours investigating this story, we can rule out everything except accidental death and suicide. After adding up the clues, including the excessive silence typical and suggestive of shame and the strange silence of the investigative team, my best theory is that Ted committed suicide. But we really need to wait for the full investigation to have a final say on the matter.

For a long time, I thought the suicide theory didn’t make sense due to Ted’s superior character and life, which seemed to be the ultimate negation of the death instinct. At first glance, Ted seemed one of the people least likely to commit suicide.

Charles, the author of the fine blog The Fulcrum and a former classmate of Ted’s, echoes my sentiments in this comment on his site here. But Charles had not seen Ted since West Point (Ted and Charles were students at West Point in the early 80’s). But the comments of Ted’s cousin, quoted above, show that Ted Westhusing, the man who seemed like Superman, was really just as human as measly you and me.

In a way, Ted’s suicide is terribly disturbing. For if a man like Ted, a warrior who stood tall as the tallest of men, the last man in the world you would think of as a suicide, can kill himself, then the world is a stranger and scarier place. Suicide, always mysterious, is more baffling than ever. And far more of us, maybe even all, are capable of killing ourselves, even if we don’t think we are, a thought that strikes terror deep to the bone.

When he died, Ted was near the end of his deployment in Iraq, and was due to return to West Point this summer. Before he left, he was said to be very enthusiastic about going to Iraq to train Iraqi troops. Ted was also one of the nation’s top experts on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he apparently felt was overdiagnosed. Sounds like Ted was a real suck-it-up type.

Camp Dublin, where Ted died, is a very poorly-known US base that is probably located just outside Baghdad Airport. Dublin is apparently located adjacent to Camp Sather, a large US Air Force base inside Baghdad Airport on the west side. Camp Dublin may be located somewhere just west of the airport.

An overhead photo of Baghdad Airport is here; Camp Dublin is possibly located to the left of the area sketched in red on the photo, near the solid white line that represents the large runway on the west side of the airport. An overhead photo of the airport in comparison with the rest of Baghdad is here.

Many on the ground photos of Baghdad Airport are here. Photos of Camp Sather. Here airmen at Camp Sather walk amidst blackout conditions - the camp went to blackout as a force protection measure - after a major guerrilla attack in Baghdad.

Here Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristina Baker and her dog Rex are seen searching a car carrying equipment to set up a coffee shop on Camp Sather. The airmen at Camp Sather live in a relative luxury that would make most US forces in Iraq jealous. See here for details on the "luxurious" Air Force accommodations at Sather.

There is another reason that Camp Dublin is not widely-known. The camp was apparently set up to train the emergency-response unit (ERU) of the Iraqi police, an elite force. The ERU’s duties are to carry out high-risk missions like hostage rescues and searches and arrests of high-value targets. The program is very rigorous, with a dropout rate of 70%. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Dublin recently.

Here is a rare photo of Camp Dublin. At Dublin, Westhusing was serving as Senior Advisor for the Counter Terrorism Special Operations training program under the U.S. military’s Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT). That title apparently means he was in charge of training the ERU unit at Camp Dublin.

Here is the only photo I could find of Westhusing at Camp Dublin; in the photo, he is praising ERU forces for storming a training building and shooting targets of hostage takers without shooting the targets of the hostages or shooting each other. A hostage taker target peppered full of holes by Westhusing’s ERU is here.

He had taught English at West Point since 2003. In his extremely distinguished career, he held a variety of staff and command positions in Army airborne units and in Army’s 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea.

Westhusing was very highly educated, holding an incredible three separate doctorate degrees. His degrees were in philosophy, Russian and military strategy. I do not think I have ever heard of any American getting three doctorates before!

Articles about Ted’s unbelievable achievements, transcripts of his talks and presentations, and articles about him in general are here. Ted served as a consultant for the Discovery Channel’s program on the Greek Trojan Horse. He also consulted on the movie Troy.

I realize I oppose this war, but Westhusing sounds like a fascinating guy, and I would have been honored to meet him. Great minds, great men, great souls and great spirits like Ted don’t come along too often.

As noted above, Ted was buried at his beloved West Point, where he graduated, an incredible third in his class, in 1983. Ted leaves behind a wife, Michelle, of West Point, and the couple’s three children, apparently two boys and one girl, all under age 12.

Anyway, tip of the hat and a toast to Colonel Ted S. Westhusing, an inspiration for all, and a prayer for his worldly soul, wherever it may be. As they say in Latin America when a great person, especially a fighter, dies, "Ted Westhusing, Presente!" Note: This idiom is not easily translated. It means something like, "Three cheers"; except it’s said after the death of a hero, and it’s often said in a tone of spirited defiance.

Those who are unconvinced and prefer conspiracy theories, here is a theory that Ted was double-crossed and shot dead by one of the Iraqi police he was training. The shame of a top officer being killed inside a US base was so great that the military is covering it up. Lauren Westhusing, Ted’s nephew and a fine soul, doesn’t believe Ted was a suicide in her comment here, but she may have her reasons for believing that.

Me, I am about done with this story. Surely, as Ted’s death continues to percolate through the media, we will hear more moving eulogies, more theories and countertheories about his death, more accusations of tarnishing Ted’s character. A lot more back and forth, in other words. Unless there is something really newsworthy that adds to this piece, I will not be covering all of that.

I may add some more about Ted’s life and achievements, and will add the findings of the military investigation, assuming they even wrap it up and publicize the findings.

Let us now close with some eulogies for Ted. From Eric Alterman’s column, look for comments by Joseph Alferio, Dr. James R. Goetsch Jr., Charles Perez, Bruce Henke and finally, Major Bob Bateman from Iraq. From The Fulcrum blog, a neat little eulogy, and another, much simpler, from Georgia Weblog. Best of all is this glorious, soaring, terse, powerful eulogy from the War Historian blog. Oh God, it leaves me shaking with emotion. Ted Westhusing an Apparent Suicide

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> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Friday June 24 - 20:39 - Posted by b5ddaf3ca62bb7ec...

Ted was due to return to his first love, teaching at West Point, in July. 1905. Accordingly, he had some 4x days of duty in Iraq prior to his returning to his wife, 3 children, his extended family, friends, and fellow officers and cadets. He was looking forward to that return. He had his disappointments with what was occurring in the training of Iraq security troops, but thought he was gaining some success in accomplishing the task. He was a Catholic and attended mass regularly with his family in the U.S. and as he could when posted in Iraq. He was an intellectual as well as a soldier and challenged his intellect by majoring in philosophy, one of the more difficult subjects to master. He excelled in the subjects associated with that study which include the Greek language, Greek literature and history, and the great Greek philosophers. He involved himself with a broad range of philosophers including Kant, Witgenstein, and other contemporary published teachers of philosophy. He has published papers in his field and has a manuscript at several publishing houses for review. He was deeply concerned about and involved with the teaching of ethics and honor theory and practice to the cadets at West Point. Beyond study and teaching, he was an excellent athlete and actively involved in intermural basketball and biking at West Point. He took pride in the fact that he could defeat most of the young crowd in bike climbing Bear Mountain near West Point. As you can see, Colonel Ted Westhusing had much to live for. In that regard, I question the speculation that he is an apparent suicide. We need to await the findings of the Army investigation to learn the facts that will be presented. Ted’s father, Keith Westhusing, Laramie, WY.

> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Friday June 24 - 23:43 - Posted by 05603605351e716f...

I agree. I knew Ted. I can’t imagine anybody who was *less* likely to commit suicide. I also know people who were in contact with Ted while he was in Iraq shortly before his death. Ted was excited about returning home. To those who knew him, this speculation just sounds stupid.

> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Monday August 6 - 22:03 - Posted by PJS - f115841ad96489d5bb15c0ac8affed60...

I was a weapons/tactics/PSD instructor at Camp Dublin, BIAP, Iraq. He, Col, USA Theodore S. Westhusing, committed suicide in his quarters, with a 9mm Berretta with one shot, about 20/30 feet from where I was standing with about 10 others present. Yes, thier was a note.
He was proven to steal money from the DOS and DOD, in the contract that was awarded to USIS. USIS was going to produce the information to the Dept of State. USIS asked the Dept of Defense to reassign him, so that no formal charges would be brought to bear. He was given a choice by the Dept of Defense to accept an instructor job at the USMA.

Ask his family...

> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Tuesday November 29 - 00:48 - Posted by e77bfcb16213b321...

I was very disturbed to hear of Mr. Westhusing’s death having been ruled as suicide. My heart goes out to his family and friends who, I’m sure, know the painful truth.

I never had the privilege of having met Mr. Westhusing, but what I’ve read of him suggests to me that he was a man with great integrity—something that is sadly missing in our current government. Although I do not know them, my heart goes out to his friends and family. I am sure that a man with such honor and integrity will be sorely missed by many and for a long, long time.

People do not commit suicide unless severe conditions are present. Suicide is an act of murder, a violent act committed against one’s self. It is an act that ordinary people do not commit under ordinary circumstances. It is not even an act that ALL people who are suffering from depression commit. Though depression is usually present, there are other factors which push a person toward suicide. We all have a natural instinct toward self-preservation. Suicide is truly an unnatural act that does not occur because someone is simply disappointed or unhappy or frustrated by something they don’t like.

In order for someone to commit suicide, he must be either suffering from a severe mental illness or enduring a severely painful and hopeless situation and lacking the emotional/spiritual resources for dealing with that.

Mr. Westhusing does not fit the criteria of a suicide victim. Successful, happy people who are healthy mentally, physically and spiritually, who’ve developed the self-discipline resulting from years of military service, have the religious conviction of Christianity, which, by the way, teaches that suicide is wrong, who have supportive, loving families to come home to, AND who are well educated do not typically commit suicide. There is no reason to believe that Mr. Westhusing committed suicide. The fact that he was unhappy with unethical conditions occuring in Iraq would have been more reason for such an honorable man to want to live and to fight for what he believed in. I’m really shocked that intelligent people are believing this propaganda suggesting that Westhusing committed suicide.

Listen, organized criminals often cover up their murders by
making them appear to be suicides. During the Reagan administration, for example, a writer planned to expose involvement on the part of the CIA, some major corporations and government officials in the Iran-Contra affair. He had evidence that would have led to an indictment of many but was found dead shortly before he was able to get his book published. Before he died, he had warned his friends and family that he had been receiving death threats and that if something happened to him, he asked that they know that his life was being threatened so that they would not believe any ruling to the contrary. Shortly after a newspaper published an article about this, they published another statement apologizing for the article, stating that the writer’s cause of death was suicide and that they were sorry about having published an article suggesting the contrary. Apparently the newspaper had received some sort of threat which prevented them from publishing any more articles about this poor man. In fact, the man had, as I recall, died from several stab wounds so it was unlikely that he could have killed himself that way. You don’t need to be a detective or a psychologist to see that the writer’s death as well as Mr. Westhusing’s were not caused by suicide.

Something very frightening is happening in this country right now. We need to be concerned, we need to stop watching TV and start thinking, and we need to stop believing propaganda.

> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Saturday September 15 - 04:40 - Posted by 84af9f25f1e9d6d8...

One question: Whose propaganda do we stop believing?
Gramma Rose

> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Sunday July 26 - 08:12 - Posted by Country - 5eaad87ed99000bb...

The Col did commit suicide. I was the fist to find the body in his trailer after noon chow.

> Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Sunday January 31 - 01:52 - Posted by daytona - 278bec13d0597f49...

Country I thought Duke and Snake were the first ones there?

Highest Ranking US Officer Killed in Iraq Was An Apparent Suicide
Saturday October 15 - 07:24 - Posted by 6ab9bc11ba2f1677f0121a212417c04e...

I believe that was NOT a case of suicide, but it was a case of homicide. There was lots of corrupted Iraqi and US Millitary at Camp Dublin.

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