US troops 'condone torture'

It's the first time that the US military has taken a comphenesive look at both the mental effects of combat in Iraq and the ethics of its troops on the battlefield.


Fewer than half of Marines and a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian, according to the study.

More than 40 per cent supported the idea of torture in some cases and 10 per cent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said today.

Units exposed to the most combat were chosen for the study, officials said.

"It is disappointing," said analyst John Pike of the Globalsecurity深圳桑拿, think tank.

"But anybody who is surprised by it doesn't understand war … this is about combat stress."

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 Mahmoudiya and the sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The overall study was the fourth in a series done by a special mental health advisory team since 2003 aimed at assessing the wellbeing of forces serving in Iraq.

Officials said the teams visited Iraq last August to October and talked to troops, health care providers and chaplains.

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

But Major General 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 defence for health.

US Marines trainings to be revised

Lieutenant Colonel 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.

Based on the findings, officials have revised training programs to focus more on Army values, suicide prevention, battlefield ethics and behavioural health awareness, Ms Pollock said.

The study team said shorter deployments or longer intervals between deployments would give soldiers and Marines a better chance "to reset mentally" before returning to combat.

The Pentagon last month announced a policy that extends tours of duty for all active duty Army troops from a year to 15 months.

Ms Pollock acknowledged that was "going to be a stress" on troops.

Marine tours are seven months, probably a reason that soldier morale was lower than Marine morale, she said.

Key findings

– Sixty-two per cent of soldiers and 66 per cent of Marines said 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 per cent of the soldiers and 38 per cent of Marines said non-combatants 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 per cent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.

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

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

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