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Richard Allen Smith

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No, Rep. West, That's Not How We Speak in the Military

Posted: 07/22/11 05:59 PM ET

It shouldn't be any surprise to anyone that Rep. Allen West (R-FL) went on an unhinged tirade against Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz this week, merely for doing her job as a member of Congress and debating West on the budget. The Congressman has a history of being little more than a bully. For example, on his 2010 campaign, West hired a criminal motorcycle gang that had been indicted by the FBI for violent racketeering and attempted murder to preform security for campaign events. And of course, who can forget West's claim to tea party fame, the fact that he tortured a detained Iraqi police officer:

Arriving at the interrogation room, West approached Hamoodi, took out his gun, and chambered a round. He placed it in his lap with the gun barrel facing Hamoodi. "I had drawn out my pistol as a means of conveying a threat to him for the seriousness of wanting the information," West told investigators.

Hamoodi said that after West's arrival, "a soldier pulled his shirt over his head, and numerous others began to punch him in the chest." The beating bruised his ribs, said Hamoodi, but those bruises had healed in the month that passed before he met with investigators.

Said West: "Yes, there had been sporadic body punches and shoving to the individual, which I witnessed but did not allow to get too brutal."

Hamoodi still didn't give West or the soldiers the information they wanted, either because he wasn't part of the assassination plot or because he was being an uncooperative witness.

West ordered Hamoodi out of the interrogation room and took him outside the facility, where Hamoodi says West pointed to six soldiers who were standing in line with their weapons in hand. Through the Egyptian translator, West told Hamoodi: "If you don't talk, they will kill you."

When that didn't work, West admitted to pushing Hamoodi's head into a clearing barrel full of sand, which is typically used for clearing weapons. West then put his gun into the same barrel, near Hamoodi's head and fired.

"In my anger I do not know if I fired two shots in to the barrel or one into the air and another into the barrel," said West in his sworn statement.

Clearly, when we look at Allen West's record, the fact that an extremist reactionary is reacting in an extreme manner is kind of a "Dog Bites Man" story.

But when the story morphs into West disgracing the military that I served in and love, that's when I have a problem:

Interestingly enough, when you first interviewed me back when I was a candidate, you referred to me as a military man. There are certain ways that we speak in the military. I guess I haven't learned the DC-insider talk.

Let's be clear: the sexist and disrespectful language West directed at a colleague is incompatible with military service. There is not one officer worth his or her salt that would refer to a peer as "vile, unprofessional ,and despicable". If an Army leader were to criticize another's performance, that leader would criticize them as a Soldier, not levy the insult that the individual is not "a lady". Soldiers are Soldiers, and the same is true of members of Congress.

To take it a step further, to refer to Wasserman Shultz as West's "peer" is rather generous to Rep. West. West is a freshman lawmaker representing a marginal district where he is likely to be beaten in 2012. Wasserman Shultz is not only a member of her party's leadership in the House, serving as Chief Deputy Whip, but also serves at Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Not to mention that Wasseman Shultz is actually West's representative in Congress.

That's right. West doesn't even live in his own district. He's a constituent of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz. This is more like Private Pyle telling General Patton to pound sand than pecking order peers having a disagreement.

Now certainly, we say things in the military that you wouldn't repeat in church or in front of your grandmother. As a noncommissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne Division, I dressed down my share of subordinates (which, of course, is not analogous to West's tirade), but a leader attacks the work performance, not the Soldier. It's no surprise, however, given the circumstances surrounding West's military discharge, that he lacks many of the qualities of a good leader.

One of those qualities is respect, and it is taught to all Soldiers, not just leaders. In fact, respect is one of the seven Army Values that all Soldiers are taught within the first days of Basic Training:

Treat people as they should be treated. In the Soldier's Code, we pledge to "treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same." Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. The Army is one team and each of us has something to contribute.

Clearly, this is a value that eluded West when we was supervising the torture of a detainee in Iraq, as well as torturing him personally, and continues to elude him as he serves in the United States Congress.

And really, being disrespectful in the United States Congress is fine with me. If we starting booting all the disrespectful members in that institution we'd severely reduce it's population. But when Allen West asserts that he learned disrespect from the Army, he is disgracing every Veteran and currently serving member of that honorable institution.

I won't stand for such disgrace, and neither should anyone else who has worn the uniform of our country.

No, Allen West, that's not how we talk in the military. If you aren't going to apologize to your Congresswoman, you should at least apologize to the brave men and women you insulted with your pitiful excuse.

 

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