The commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq has ordered all troops under his command to undergo renewed training on the “legal, moral and ethical” conduct of war, officials said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli ordered the training to be conducted by all units in Iraq within the next 30 days.
The move comes in the aftermath of allegations that U.S. Marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last fall in retaliation for a roadside bombing. Results of two investigations into the incidents are expected to be released in the coming days, with some Marines reportedly facing murder charges.
“Of the nearly 150,000 coalition forces presently in Iraq, 99.9 percent of them perform their jobs magnificently every day,” Chiarelli was quoted as saying in a news release. “They do their duty with honor under difficult circumstances. They exhibit sound judgment, honesty and integrity. They display patience, professionalism and restraint in the face of a treacherous enemy … Unfortunately, there are a few individuals who sometimes choose the wrong path.”
Unit leaders will be given a “slide presentation with training vignettes” from which to develop their training programs, officials said.
“As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies. The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many,” Chiarelli was quoted as saying.
The training is intended to focus on military values, combat discipline, Iraqi cultural expectations and the “second and third order effects” of lapses in any of those areas.
It is precisely those “second and third” order effects that the U.S. military is dealing with now in the Haditha case and another investigation that opened last week into the alleged killing of an Iraqi civilian near Fallujah.
The Haditha investigations have been described by some of those who were briefed on their findings as potentially the most worrisome incidents of the three-year-long Iraq war.
According to several published reports, some of the killings were committed “execution-style” by Marines enraged by the death of one of their own earlier on Nov. 19.
At a Pentagon news briefing on Wednesday, Army. Brig. Gen. Carter Ham — the Joint Chiefs of Staff deputy director for regional operations — acknowledged the allegations have an effect on the U.S. mission in Iraq.
“Just simply the allegation that the U.S. military personnel may have acted improperly, it does have an effect,” he said. “There’s no question about it ... Allegations such as this, regardless of how they are borne out by the facts, can have an effect on the ability of U.S. forces to continue to operate. So it is one we take quite seriously.”
The allegations also could prove a setback to the U.S. and Iraqi forces’ ability to work with civilians.
“We do rely very heavily — and more importantly, the Iraqi security forces rely heavily — on the support from the Iraqi people,” Ham said. “And anything that tends to diminish that obviously is not helpful to what we’re trying to do.”