Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What kind of contractor improprieties would make an ethicist give up on life?

I've been thinking about the report on the 'suicide' of Ted Westhusing. (His family doubts that his death was a suicide. He was staying in the camp run by the private firm that he oversaw, and was having problems with.

The Security firm is about USIS a Virginia company, but the cases sound almost like the one Custer Battles another Virginia company is embroiled in. Custer Battles is facing civil charges of money mismanagement and last winter faced the charges of four former employees on human right violations.

(Photo from unrelated source. Rather appropriate though.)

Four security guards have claimed that their former employer, hired by the US government, has arbitrarily killed Iraqi civilians, a local news report said.

"These aren't insurgents that we're brutalizing," retired Army Ranger captain Bill Craun told NBC News.

"It was local civilians on their way to work. It's wrong."

Craun and three others said their former employer, Custer Battles, allowed heavily armed guards to roam Iraq (news - web sites) brutalizing civilians, while they were supposed to be guarding supply convoys from rebels.

Custer Battles was one subject of a hearing Monday by Democratic lawmakers into allegations of corruption in Iraq.

A lawyer representing former employees told the senators the firm had received millions of dollars for work not done because of the owners' connections with the Republican Party.

The four former employees told NBC that their convoys fired on Iraqi pedestrians and crushed children with a truck.

The US Army is looking into the allegations, NBC said.

The men claimed that on November 8, a Kurd guard traveling with them fired into a passenger car to move traffic out of the way.

He "sighted down his AK-47 and started firing," former army corporal Ernest Colling told NBC.

The bullet "went through the window. As far as I could see, it hit a passenger. And they didn't even know we were there."

Colling said that later day, an Iraqi teenager walking on the roadside was shot.

"The rear gunner in my vehicle shot him," Colling told NBC. "Unarmed, walking kids."

And a large Ford pickup truck crushed a smaller car with Iraqis inside.

"The front of the truck came down," Craun said.

"I could see two children sitting in the back seat of that car with their eyes looking up at the axle as it came down and pulverized the back."

Will Hough, a retired US Marine said it was unlikely that anyone survived.

"Probably not. Not from what I saw," Hough told NBC.

Colling and Craun told NBC that they quit immediately.

Retired sergeant Jim Errante said he quit after witnessing similar abuses on other occasions.

"I didn't want to be a witness to any of these, what could be classified as a warcrime," Errante told NBC.

U.S. contractors in Iraq allege abuses

Custer Battles isn't the group who's violations got to Westhusing, but apparently a lot of capricious killing is going on in Iraq. Enough to make a good person give up.

Interestingly, the army psychologist said
that Westhusing had placed too much pressure on himself to succeed and that he was unusually rigid in his thinking. Westhusing struggled with the idea that monetary values could outweigh moral ones in war. This, she said, was a flaw.

Another officer and presumed gentleman said:
he felt Westhusing had trouble reconciling his ideals with Iraq's reality. Iraq "isn't a black-and-white place," the officer said. "There's a lot of gray."

Welcome to war by George W. Bush and friends.

U.S. Will Address E.U. Questions on CIA Prisons:
Verbatim: The Time Is (Perpetually) Now
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Transcript: President Bush's Speech on the War on Terrorism


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