Friday, May 11, 2007

Study: Many U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Admit Abusing Civilians, Backing Torture

Study: Many U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Admit Abusing Civilians, Backing Torture: "WASHINGTON In a survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq, less than half of Marines soldiers said they feel they should treat noncombatants with respect. Only about a half said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

More than 40 percent support the idea of torture in some cases, and 10 percent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said Friday in what it called its first ethics study of troops at the war front. Units exposed to the most combat were chosen for the study, officials said."

The military has seen a number of high-profile incidents of alleged abuse in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the killings of 24 civilians by Marines in Haditha, the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the slaying of her family in Iraq and the sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.

The study team also found that long and repeated deployments were increasing troop mental health problems.

But Maj. Gen. Gale Pollock, the Army’s acting surgeon general, said the team’s “most critical” findings were on ethics.

“They looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at,” said Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health.

Findings included:

• Sixty-two percent of soldiers and 66 percent of Marines said that they knew someone seriously injured or killed, or that a member of their team had become a casualty.

• The 2006 adjusted rate of suicides per 100,000 soldiers was 17.3 soldiers, lower than the 19.9 rate reported in 2005.

• Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

• About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.

• About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.

• Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.

• Thirty-nine percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents.

Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, a Marine Corps spokesman, said officials were looking closely at the ethics results, taken from a questionnaire survey of 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines.

The military services blame lengthy deployments and short intervals between deployment for these results. So how is it that we had better behavior and attitudes in WWII, when soldiers served for the duration? For one thing, a lot of time was spent letting soldiers know why we were fighting, and we told them how we expected them to behave toward civilians. Misbehavior was punished swiftly, harshly. Some of our soldiers were even executed.

In the Korean war and in Viet Nam, things were very different. Huge numbers of atrocities were ignored, whenit couldn't be ignored penalties were light and those fell most heavily on the guy at the bottom. As they do now.

con·cept: Study: Many U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Admit Abusing Civilians, Backing Torture