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Citing military documents, the New York Times reported Sunday that Army investigators say that Col. Michael D. Steele, a decorated combat veteran and brigade commander in Iraq, issued improper orders to his soldiers that contributed to the deaths of four unarmed Iraqi men.

No charges have been filed against Steele in the Army’s continuing investigation, the Times reported. But the paper wrote that two Defense Department officials said last week that Steele was formally reprimanded in the summer by Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the former commander in Iraq, for not reporting the deaths and other details of the raid.

The reprimand and the controversy surrounding the raid have effectively ended the career of Steele, who was portrayed in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down” as a fearless fighter during special operations missions in Somalia in 1993, according to the Times.

According to the Times’ report, the four Iraqi men were killed May 9 near Baghdad on by members of the division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which Steele commanded. Four soldiers were later charged with murder by military prosecutors. Over the past two weeks, two of the soldiers have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, the Times wrote.

The paper reported that according to a classified report in June by Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey, a deputy commander tapped by Chiarelli to investigate Steele, the colonel improperly led his soldiers to believe that distinguishing combatants from noncombatants — a main tenet of the military’s standing rules of engagement — was not necessary during the mission.


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