General Orders Ethics Training In Iraq

Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division of the US Army Major General Peter Chiarelli gestures as he answers a question during a press conference at a US base in Baghdad, September 15, 2004.
Getty Images/Jewel Samad
The U.S. military ordered coalition troops in Iraq on Thursday to undergo special training in ethics and "the values that separate us from our enemies" in the wake of allegations that Marines killed two dozen unarmed civilians in Haditha.

The order came as Iraq's government launched its own investigation of the deaths last November in the western town as well as other incidents involving U.S. troops. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the killings "a horrible crime," his strongest public comments on the incident since his government was sworn in May 20.

"This is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces," al-Maliki said. "No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It's unacceptable."

Al-Maliki's remarks appeared to lend credibility to complaints by Iraqis of what they see as U.S. troops' cultural insensitivity and disregard for Iraqi lives. To many Iraqis, the soldiers are occupiers seeking to control the country's oil wealth.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports too many Iraqis have seen raids on their homes and too many security operations gone wrong — like the death earlier this week of a pregnant woman who was killed when the car rushing her to the maternity hospital accidentally drove up a road closed by U.S. forces.

The Americans, on the other hand, are under intense pressure, isolated from Iraqis by cultural and language barriers and battling insurgents who easily blend into the civilian population. Some of the troops are in Iraq on their third combat tour since the U.S. invasion three years ago.

The training, which will include slideshows, will cover all coalition soldiers in Iraq and last 30 days. Of the 150,000-strong multinational contingent in Iraq, 130,000 are Americans.

"As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies," Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 U.S. general in Iraq, said in a statement. "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many."

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for the Multinational Force-Iraq, told a Baghdad news briefing that the training was designed to reinforce what troops learned before coming to Iraq. It will focus on "values and looking at the legal, moral and ethical standards that every one of us in uniform here, as guests of the Iraqi government, need to adhere to," he said.

"The coalition does not and will not tolerate any unethical or criminal behavior. All allegations of such activity will be fully investigated," he said.

Palmer notes that "if the worst charges in this Haditha case are borne out by the investigation, it could have more damaging implications for U.S. presence in Iraq than even the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."

Chiarelli's announcement followed last week's visit to Iraq by U.S. Marine Commandant, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, who cautioned troops on the danger of becoming "indifferent to the loss of a human life."

The U.S. military is conducting at least two investigations into the killings of civilians, including women and children, in Haditha on Nov. 19.

The killings followed the death that day of a Marine in a bomb explosion that targeted a military convoy. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated war veteran who has been briefed by military officials, has said the Marines, angered by the loss of a comrade, shot and killed civilians in a taxi near the scene and went into nearby homes and shot others.