Army prosecutors have reportedly offered West a choice: resign before he becomes eligible for a pension, or be charged with assault. The charge could carry a sentence of up to eight years.
Question: Does the Army want all of its soldiers to be Jessica Lynches?
Some readers will recall that nine months ago, I wrote a column in which I shrank from the use of torture even against members of Al Qaeda. By torture, I meant the infliction of severe pain. That pistol shot was not torture. It was rough treatment. It scared the villain into revealing life-saving information. As a recent Atlantic Monthly article argues, our overall victory in the war on terror will depend, to some not insignificant extent, upon success at the "dark art of interrogation."
After all, when it comes to outright warfare, there is no power on earth that can touch us. Those who predicted that the war against Iraq would be relatively easy were exactly right. It required only three weeks to effect regime change. If Turkey had permitted us to use her territory to launch a northern thrust, it would have taken even less time.
But now we are in the more difficult part of the conflict, the battle against hit and run subterranean terrorists and Baath loyalists (a distinction without a difference). And in this battle, reliable intelligence is more valuable than a fantastic infantry and a supersonic air force. And while our soldiers are in part goodwill ambassadors -- and they do an excellent job of stilling suspicion and winning converts (probably better than all of the State Department's diplomats ever could) -- there are some less-than-comfortable tactics that remain necessary. West employed one of them. He undoubtedly saved the lives of Americans.
If he is prosecuted or threatened in any way, it will be a terrible affront to justice and common sense. Secretary Rumsfeld, are you listening?