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Iraq torture incident
While serving in Taji, Iraq, West received information from an intelligence specialist about a plot to ambush his unit. The alleged plot involved Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi, an Iraqi police officer. West had his men detain Hamoodi. Soldiers testified that in the process of detaining Hamoodi, he appeared to reach for his weapon and needed to be subdued. Hamoodi was beaten by four soldiers from the 2/20th Field Artillery Battalion on the head and body. West then fired his pistol near Hamoodi's head, after which Hamoodi provided West with names and information, which Hamoodi later described as "meaningless information induced by fear and pain". At least one of these suspects was arrested as a result, but no plans for attacks or weapons were found. West said "At the time I had to base my decision on the intelligence I received. It's possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi."
West was charged with violating Articles 128 (assault) and 134 (general article) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. During a hearing held as part of an Article 32 investigation in November 2003, West stated, "I know the method I used was not right, but I wanted to take care of my soldiers." The charges were ultimately referred to an Article 15 proceeding rather than court-martial, at which West was fined $5,000. West accepted the judgment and retired with full benefits as a lieutenant colonel in the summer of 2004. Asked if he would act differently under similar circumstances, West testified, "If it's about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I'd go through hell with a gasoline can." At his hearing, West said that there were no ambushes against American forces in Taji until he was relieved of his leadership post a month later. After West's retirement he received more than 2,000 letters and e-mails offering him moral support. A letter supporting West was signed by 95 members of the U.S. Congress and sent to the Secretary of the Army.