Two-star general: Accusations shouldn’t taint all U.S. troops
Military spokesman says most serving with honor
Stars and Stripes
BAGHDAD — Recent accusations of rape and murder leveled against current and former U.S. servicemembers in Iraq should not taint the reputation of the hundreds of thousands of coalition forces who have served here in the last three years, a top military spokesman told reporters on Wednesday.
With four separate investigations being conducted into alleged criminal behavior on the part of U.S. soldiers and Marines, coalition forces are now finding their core values of honor, duty and courage being challenged, said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV.
“These investigations strike at the very heart of who we are and the character of the coalition forces,” he said during a weekly press briefing on military operations.
However, Caldwell said the accused servicemembers represented “.0001 percent” of the overall number of personnel serving in Iraq and that their alleged behavior in no way represented the majority.
“The actions of a few should not outweigh the deeds of the many,” Caldwell told reporters. “The four cases being investigated now are not indicative of the great men and women serving in the coalition forces.”
The general’s statements come as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called for a review of the immunity coalition forces have been granted against prosecution in Iraqi courts. Maliki, who has also called for an Iraqi investigation into the alleged crimes, said he believed their legal immunity had emboldened them to commit crimes.
Caldwell told reporters that the U.S. military would discuss the issue with Iraqi leaders if they wanted to and said that coalition forces were aggressively investigating the accusations in a manner that was transparent and in keeping with the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“We will hold ourselves accountable for our actions. There’s no immunity over here,” he said.
The military’s handling of the cases stood in stark contrast to crimes committed by military personnel and government officials under Saddam Hussein. In those days, the regime did not hold wrongdoers accountable for their deeds, the spokesman said.
Also during the news conference, Caldwell said that the military anticipated a slight increase in the use of car bombs by insurgents in the coming days. The reason for this, he said, was that al-Qaida in Iraq’s new leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, is an Egyptian who had been specially trained in explosives and the construction of car bombs.
Al-Masri has replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the leader of the terrorist organization after al-Zarqawi was killed by American bombs early last month. Caldwell characterized al-Zarqawi’s death as one of the year’s greatest accomplishments.
“That was a huge uplifting event,” he said.