Daily Archives: May 5, 2007

Survey finds many troops would not report civilian killings

Houston Chronicle | May 4, 2007

In a survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq, less 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.

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.

“It is disappointing,” said analyst John Pike of the Globalsecurity.org 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 abuses and ethics lapses in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ranging from the killings of 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.

“I don’t want to, for a minute, second guess the behavior of any person in the military — look at the kind of moral dilemma you are putting people in,” CATO Institute’s Christopher Preble said of the mission in Iraq. “There’s a real tension between using too much force, which generally means using force to protect yourself, and using too little and therefore exposing yourself to greater risk.”

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

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

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:

•62 percent of soldiers and 66 percent 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 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.

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

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

•39 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 Marine Corps takes this issue of battlefield ethics very seriously,” he said. “We are examining the study and its recommendations and we’ll find ways to improve our approach.”

Pollock said officials concluded from the overall study that “there’s a robust system in place to provide mental health care, but issues continue with the stress of a combat deployment.”

Based on the findings, officials have revised training programs to focus more on Army values, suicide prevention, battlefield ethics and behavioral health awareness, 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. Pollock acknowledged that was “going to be a stress” on troops.

One in three US combat troops condone torture

Sydney Morning Herald | May 5, 2007

Well over a third of US combat troops deployed in Iraq condone torture to obtain information from an insurgent and nearly one in 10 acknowledge mistreating civilians, said a survey released today.

The study by an army mental health advisory team also found continuing problems with morale and said acute mental health issues were more prevalent among troops with extended tours or on their second and third deployment to Iraq.

“They looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at,” said Ward Casscells, the Pentagon’s health affairs chief.

For the first time ever, soldiers and marines in combat units were questioned on issues of character and ethics, and their answers suggested hardened attitudes toward civilians among front line troops:

— About 10 per cent of soldiers surveyed reported mistreating non-combatants or damaging their property when it was not necessary;

— Less than half of the soldiers and marines would report a team member for unethical behaviour;

— More than a third of all soldiers and marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow soldier or marine.

Major General Gale Pollock, the army’s acting surgeon-general, sought to make a distinction between soldiers’ thoughts about torture and their actions.

“These men and women have been seeing their friends injured and I think that having that thought is normal,” she said at a Pentagon news conference.

“But what it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they’re not acting on those thoughts. They’re not torturing the people,” she said.

General George Casey, then the commander of US forces in Iraq, asked the survey team to include questions on ethics.

It came at a time when the US military was beset by a string of high profile cases involving civilian killings by soldiers and marines, and concerned that some commanders had done little about it.

The team surveyed 1,320 soldiers and 447 marines between August and October 2006 in Iraq. Although the report was completed in November, it was only released today in censored form after its findings began to leak to the press.

On whether torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or marine, 44 per cent of the marines surveyed said it should, as did 41 per cent of the soldiers.

When asked if torture should be allowed to gather important information about insurgents, 39 per cent of marines and 36 per cent of soldiers surveyed said it should.

Only 38 per cent of marines and 47 per cent of soldiers surveyed agreed that “all non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect”.

Among both soldiers and marines, 17 per cent said “all non-combatants should be treated as insurgents”.

Only about one in four soldiers or marines surveyed said they would put themselves at risk to help a non-combatant in danger.

In terms of battlefield behaviour, seven per cent of marines and four per cent of soldiers admitted to having physically hit or kicked a non-combatant when it was not necessary.

Twelve per cent of marines and nine per cent of the soldiers said they had damaged or destroyed Iraqi property when it was not necessary.

Asked whether they would report a member of their unit for injuring or killing a non-combatant, only 40 per cent of the marines surveyed said they would. Fifty-five per cent of the soldiers answered affirmatively to that question.

Only about a third of the marines said they would report a member of their unit for mistreating a non-combatant, not following orders, violating the rules of engagement, or unnecessarily destroying private property.

Fewer than half the soldiers responded positively to those questions.

The study found morale among soldiers was worse than among marines, which it said was explained in part by the marines’ shorter six month tours.

Suicide rates were higher among soldiers in combat units than in the army as a whole.

The team recommended the army’s year-long tours in Iraq either be shortened, or soldiers be given 18 to 36 months between deployment to recover.

Instead, the army is moving in the opposite direction, extending tours to 15 months to keep pace with a surge in forces. The army is struggling to allow units a year at home between deployments.

Tighter restrictions on military blogs anger US soldiers

The Guardian | May 5, 2007

Ban aimed at curbing critics of Bush, say troops

US troops in Iraq have reacted angrily to Pentagon restrictions aimed at curbing internet postings from war zones.

The Pentagon cited the risk of providing sensitive information to insurgents. Blogs and emails from troops in the field can often be extraordinarily vivid and indiscreet. One last weekend from a soldier in Iraq advised a trooper in the US who was about to deploy in Iraq on ways to watch for and detect explosive devices planted by insurgents.

The Pentagon said blogs had to be cleared first with officers, and that soldiers would be punished if they publicly revealed troop movements, planned raids, travel itineraries, photographs of casualties, new technology or material that could compromise their location.

Reacting to the ban, soldiers said the real reason for the curbs were their negative comments about the war, including scepticism about George Bush’s claims about progress. Soldiers in the field and former soldiers, in blogs posted on sites such as Black Five, an unofficial site run by former paratrooper Matthew Burden, said the regulations would be inoperable with most troops obeying the rules but dissidents finding ways round the ban.

Mr Burden, editor of The Blog of War, a book pulling together accounts from the field, also criticised the decision: “No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has – its most honest voice out of the war zone. And it’s being silenced.”

Soldiers at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, often bored, spend lots of time on the internet. One posting to Black Five, from Uncle Jimbo, described the Pentagon’s move as “an incandescently stupid decision of the military to allow the anal-retentive, mistake-avoidance police have their way”.

And it added : “It’s not like we aren’t already getting our asses kicked in the information war. Now let’s take the one authentic voice, the one group best able to tell the real story and let’s shut ’em down. Fools!”

The guidelines require soldiers and civilians working for the military to obtain approval from an officer for every blog entry and some emails.

Anyone who fails “to protect critical and sensitive information” could face punishment including a court martial. Major Ray Ceralde, who worked on the regulations, said that the aim was not to have soldiers clear every public posting with commanders.

“Not only is that impractical, but we are trusting the soldiers to protect critical information,” he said.

The rules, he said, did not affect private emails. Instead, soldiers were expected to consult or clear with commanders when they start a blog, in part so they could be warned about the information which they cannot publish.

Ron Paul Wins MSNBC Debate Poll

Ron Paul 2008 | May 4, 2007

ronpaul_constitution

This is great news and very encouraging for Ron Paul and all his supporters, myself included. It means he has a real fighting chance to get the nomination, though the elite establishment would hate it and try to stop him by any and all means. All the more reason to pull for him!

I know, some of you out there have thought you would never consider voting Republican, but if you are an anti-war Democrat, you are better off voting for Ron Paul than any of the Demopublicans who sound pretty much like the Republicrats on the war. None of them would pull the troops immediately after swearing in as Ron Paul will. So think it over if you want to see a rapid de-escalation of hostilities in the world.

PW

Ron Paul steps into national spotlight

Congressman Ron Paul finished first in the MSNBC poll following the GOP primary debate last night held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.  Dr. Paul received 43 percent, beating the second-place finisher by five points, and crushing the rest of the field.

“Last night, Americans met Ron Paul and loved what they heard,” said Ron Paul 2008 campaign chairman Kent Snyder.  “Dr. Paul’s message of freedom and limited government resonates with Republicans hungry for a return to their party’s core values.”

“Ron Paul is the only true conservative in the GOP race.  Americans saw that last night,” continued Snyder.  “The campaign looks forward to further debates and opportunities so even more Americans will discover Dr. Paul’s message of freedom, peace and prosperity.”