Hit & Run

The Case of Allen West


Allen R. Naugle, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, spent four months in Iraq and Kuwait and is slated to return home soon. Another officer, Army Lt. Col. Allen West, faces charges for allegedly improper interrogation of a detainee, prompting a number of conservatives to rally to the man's defense. When Naugle received an online petition urging "Col. West's reprieve from prosecution and return to duty," he e-mailed this reply to his colleagues:

It is indeed rare that I find myself in complete disagreement with the conservative establishment, but this is one of those times. I find it distressing and troubling that Christians and conservatives are espousing, in essence, that the ends justify the means.

I take no issue with Lt Col West's motives. He was jealous with the lives of his soldiers. For that, he is to be commended. I too zealously guard those whom the people of the United States entrust to my care. But I cannot, and will not, place my life and theirs in higher import than the rule of law.

If Lt Col West is indeed guilty of that which he is being charged, he violated DOD and Army standards. He may have violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He may also have violated the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is a signatory, and which carry the force of law for the U.S. Armed Forces. To put it quite simply, he may have crossed the line from aggressive soldiering to criminalized inhumanity.

We, as a nation, object when other nation-states use torture, in whatever form, against U.S. personnel, be they military or civilian. And rightly so. Torture has no place in a civilized society. However, if we are to support West's actions, then we have no moral or intellectual standing to object when others detain and torture Americans in order to extract information that could potentially save the lives of those who would engage in violence against us.

It is only a very short intellectual distance from torturing purported 'enemies' to winking at the torture of detainees in America. And that would take us one step further away from representative democracy, and one step closer to a place we dare not approach. And that is a step that Christians and conservative should be actively oppposing!

Perhaps, once the facts are in evidence at his trial, he will be adjudged as to have committed no crime. But in any event, the ends do not justify the means, however noble the cause may or may not have been. And morality is not situational. No man, especially someone who has taken an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America, is above the law.