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Colonel Theodore S. Westhusing (November 17, 1960 – June 5, 2005),[1] a West Point professor of English and Philosophy, volunteered to serve in Iraq in late 2004 and died in Baghdad in June 2005 from an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound. At the time he was the highest-ranked American to die violently in Iraq since the start of the March 2003 United States-led invasion. He was 44 years old, married with three young children.

Col Theodore S. Westhusing Ph.D United States Army
Born(1960-11-17)November 17, 1960
Dallas, Texas
DiedJune 5, 2005(2005-06-05) (aged 44)
near Baghdad, Iraq
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1983 to 2005
Battles/warsWar in Iraq


Early life and careerEdit

Westhusing was born in Dallas, Texas and attended high school at Jenks High School in Jenks, Oklahoma where he was a student and starter for the basketball team. He attended West Point, where in his senior year he was selected as honor captain (the highest-ranking ethics official within the cadet corps) and graduated third in his class. He served in the 82nd Airborne Division among other duties, and eventually became a professor at West Point.[2] In 2003, he wrote a dissertation in philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta, "The competitive and cooperative aretai within the American warfighting ethos". The dissertation explores "an ideal functional description of the American warrior [which] makes heavy demands of the warrior's entire being in supporting and defending the United States Constitution to which he has sworn his allegiance."[3] He held degrees and majored in Russian, Philosophy and Military Strategy.

Iraq deploymentEdit

Westhusing served with what the U.S. Department of Defense called the "Multi-national Security Transition Command - Iraq". His primary duty was to oversee the training of Iraqis for civilian police duty, in collaboration with USIS, a private military company. In mid-May 2005 he received an anonymous letter alleging fraud, waste and abuse by USIS. He also witnessed many of the following charges as well.[citation needed] The accusations included the following: forged employees' résumés claiming elite forces background, inadequate skills and competence of trainers, insufficient numbers of trainers in order to maximize profits, disappearance of large quantities of weapons, radios, and other equipment, and employees boasting of killing Iraqis.

Although Westhusing initially wrote to his commanders only seven days before his death that the allegations in the letter were false, many[who?] have determined that he was forced to write to his commanding officers, General Petraeus and General Fil, in order to keep his position and his commanding officers and USIS's cover on their activities, or perhaps until he could get the information to a source that would not cover up the illegalities. According to documentation, Colonel Westhusing then decided to go forward with the allegations about the illegalities to his commanders and the management of USIS, feeling that his life was now threatened and that he needed to get the information to outside sources before something happened to him. He did this regardless of the consequences to himself, to confront the injustices and to have the allegations exposed. He had also planned on returning to the U.S. to bring these allegations forward, but now feared for his life. This decision led to a subsequent, final confrontation and to his death. There is evidence that something happened in those remaining seven days that caused him to turn angrily upon the management of USIS because of threats, referring to them with intense disgust as "money grubbing" and to their participation in illegal activities with members of the Iraqi police and others.

His anger soon extended to his own commanders for taking no action on his recommendations to bring honesty and efficiency to the Army's training of Iraqis, with particular reference to USIS' role in that training and many illegal activities within the Iraqi Army and police. These commanders included the current Commander of Multinational Force - Iraq, 4-star General David Petraeus (then a 3-star General in charge of U.S. operations in northern Iraq).[2]

Colonel Westhusing died at Camp Dublin outside Baghdad, Iraq in June 2005, leaving a note saying, “I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuses and liars.”[4]

Westhusing, who was left-handed, was found in his trailer with a gunshot wound behind his left ear from his own 9mm Beretta service pistol on June 5, 2005, a month and three days before his tour of duty was to end. He had had a heated and confrontational meeting with General Petraeus that morning concerning these issues with USIS. A DOD Army report also stated that an administrator near his trailer had heard a very loud argument in Colonel Westhusing's office trailer before he was found dead by the contractor. Approximately an hour after this argument and the earlier meeting with Generals Petraeus the USIS contractors that morning, he was found by a USIS contractor who then altered the death scene before reporting it. A note was found at his side in which he wrote, in addition to a short explanation, "I am sullied - no more". Three of the seven numbered pages of the document by his side were not disclosed in the investigation.[5] This note was part of a journal he was keeping to document these issues. Other pages were excluded from the Army's final report because of what was considered sensitive government issues.[6]

His suicide note to his commanding officer, General Petraeus, featured in an article by Robert Bryce published in the Texas Observer on March 8, 2007,[7] read:

Thanks for telling me it was a good day until I briefed you. [Redacted name]—You are only interested in your career and provide no support to your staff—no msn [mission] support and you don’t care. I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human right abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more. I didn’t volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves. I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. I trust no Iraqi. I cannot live this way. All my love to my family, my wife and my precious children. I love you and trust you only. Death before being dishonored any more. Trust is essential—I don’t know who trust anymore. [sic] Why serve when you cannot accomplish the mission, when you no longer believe in the cause, when your every effort and breath to succeed meets with lies, lack of support, and selfishness? No more. Reevaluate yourselves, cdrs [commanders]. You are not what you think you are and I know it.
COL Ted Westhusing
Life needs trust. Trust is no more for me here in Iraq.

Controversy surrounding his deathEdit

The New York Times/Los Angeles Times reporter T. Christian Miller reported [8] on the possibility that he was murdered by defense contractors who feared he would become a whistle-blower against their alleged fraudulent activity throughout the Iraq War.[9]


Westhusing's funeral service and burial at West Point were attended by General Petraeus (who returned from Iraq for the event) as well as three other generals of two stars or more.

Dramatized accountsEdit

The controversy of Westhusing's death is depicted in the one act play "Duty, Honor, Profit," written by Westhusing's West Point classmate, Dave Tucker, a Seattle playwright.[10]


  1. ^ Obituary at
  2. ^ a b "I am Sullied - No More". Texas Observer. 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-07-07. By late May, Westhusing was becoming despondent over what he was seeing. Steeped in—and totally believing in—the West Point credo that a cadet will “not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do,” Westhusing found himself surrounded by contractors who had no interest in his ideals. He asked family members to pray for him. In a phone call with his wife, Michelle, who was back at West Point, he indicated that he wanted a military lawyer, but was refused. Westhusing then told his wife that he planned to tell Petraeus that he was going to quit. His wife pleaded with him to just finish his tour and to then return home.
  3. ^ The competitive and cooperative aretai within the American warfighting ethos
  4. ^ Reviving Vietnam War Tactics -
  5. ^ Text of suicide note of Theodore Westusing
  6. ^ "Sworn Statement (of Michelle Westhusing)" (PDF). United States Army. 2005-06-17. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2007-07-08. Q. Was your husband left or right handed? A. He is left handed, like myself.
  7. ^ Texas Observer article "I am Sullied - No More", by Robert Bryce, March 9, 2007
  8. ^ Melissa Block (November 28, 2005). "Military Ethicist's Suicide in Iraq Raises Questions". NPR. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
  9. ^ Frank Rich (October 21, 2007). "Suicide Is Not Painless". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-22.
  10. ^

External linksEdit