- Title: VARIOUS: U.S. takes a hard look at its military after Haditha allegations
- Date: 4th June 2006
- Summary: VARIOUS STILL IMAGES OF BODIES AFTER MASSACRE (3 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 19th June 2006 13:00
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA2C3CE3ODD9B0U1EH2DE8LHQMF
- Story Text: With U.S. forces in Iraq ordered to undergo "core warrior values" training because of allegations that U.S. Marines killed 24 civilians in an unprovoked attack in Haditha last November, some in the United States have raised eyebrows over the need to conduct such training for professional, experienced soldiers - many of which having already seen combat in Iraq.
The U.S. military is a volunteer force, having left conscription, or a military draft to wars of years past.
All military members undergo basic training, and most have ongoing training throughout their military careers.
Many undergo specialised training for their particular jobs in the military.
The volunteers, the training, and discipline all comprise what the Pentagon regularly calls its most capable, professional military in the history of the country.
Nevertheless the top American operational commander in Iraq has ordered the training in effect over the next 30 days. It's designed to emphasize the "legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield."
U.S. President George W. Bush said recently that the U.S. Marines would work to re-instill their own distinct "culture" on its members.
"If in fact these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture, will be reinforced and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished," Bush said.
P.J. Crowley, a former special assistant to President Clinton for National Security Affairs, and a former Pentagon spokesman says it makes sense for commanders to take a step back in light of the recent allegations, and re-inforce basic tenets of military conduct.
"It's important for the military to reflect on these failures, identify where individuals have made mistakes, and where they've made serious errors in judgement or committed even criminal acts, they should be punished. On the other hand, you have to look at the broad institution - how well our soldiers prepare for these missions, how well they are led, and well they're trained. And there's a constant adaptation that goes through as modern warfare evolves," Crowley said.
Though the confusion, pressure, and so-called "fog" of war can hardly be reproduced, the U.S. military takes steps to prepare its soldiers.
Many soldiers going to Iraq even participate in combat training exercises, where they fire real weapons, albeit with lasers affixed rather than bullets inside. Units even take simulated casualties, and are charged with dealing with them in the battlefield.
Along with field exercises, there's real-world experience the U.S. military can learn from as well.
U.S. Army units administering the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners in their charge.
Some, like Private Lynndie England, have been convicted and imprisoned for their roles in the prison scandal.
And in Vietnam, U.S. soldiers were found responsible for the deaths of over a hundred men, women and children in the village of My Lai. A different war, but uncomfortable similarities to the developing story in Haditha.
While military leaders, and psychologists will analyse how and why a breakdown of discipline could occur in war, the consequences for innocent victims is tragic. What isn't immediately known is the larger affect incidents can have on the overall conflict.
"Just as this will have an impact in Iraq, and can tragically be exploited by those in the Middle East who object to U.S. presence and influence in that region, it likewise is likely, just like My Lai, to have a profound affect here in the United States. And I think it is going to make it much more difficult. A military can only succeed with the support of the American people. That support for operations in Iraq is eroding. Haditha is obviously going to continue to have a negative impact in the perceptions of the American people, and the options available to our military leaders," Crowley told Reuters.
Officials involved in the Haditha investigation have acknowledged that the incident may make the U.S. mission in Iraq more difficult.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he is losing patience with reports of U.S. troops killing civilians. Many Iraqis believe unjustified killings by U.S. troops are common, but few have been confirmed by official investigations. END
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