All U.S. troops in Iraq will get a two-to-four hour refresher course in battlefield ethics over the next 30 days. The training was ordered following allegations that soldiers or Marines killed unarmed civilians.
Speaking from Iraq, Brigadier General Donald Campbell, deputy commanding general of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, said Friday, every soldier in Iraq will receive training in what the military calls core warrior values within the next 30 days.
"I would say it's about a two-to-four hour bloc of training," he said. "It depends on how the commander in the field tailors it. But he has 30 days to get this done throughout his command, from division level all the way down to every soldier in the theater [of operations]."
General Campbell emphasized that all soldiers receive training in battlefield ethics before they are sent to Iraq, and that this is just a refresher course.
He said that, in the training, instructors will use slides to present U.S. soldiers and Marines with several scenarios and how to react to them.
"There are five scenarios that we work through in the training package, and they range from anything from encountering an IED [improvised explosive device] on the road to being engaged from a mosque or a school, and what the reaction would be," he explained. "And it basically focuses on the values piece of it, and making sure that our soldiers react in the proper manner."
Military investigators have launched at least three probes into allegations that U.S. troops killed civilians, including a report that Marines killed up to 24 unarmed people in the town of Haditha last year. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called it a crime, and says he wants files of U.S. investigations for the Iraqi government to carry out its own probe.
On Friday, British television aired video of bodies in Ishaqi. The report quotes local police as alleging that 11 unarmed civilians were killed by American troops there. The U.S. military had no comment on the report.
President Bush has said he is troubled by the allegations, and pledged thorough investigations into them.
General Campbell says there is no excuse for such actions, but adds that soldiers undergo great stress.
"Soldiers become stressed," he noted. "They become fearful. It's very difficult to determine, in some cases on this battlefield, who is a combatant and who is a civilian. It doesn't excuse the acts that have occurred, and we're going to look into them. What I would say is, it's stress, fear, isolation, and, in some cases, they're just upset. They see their buddies being blown up on occasion, and they could snap."
In a related development, a U.S. military court sentenced an Army dog-handler to 90 days hard labor and a reduction in rank for using his guard dog to intimidate a prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison. However, Sergeant Santos Cardona will not spend any time in prison. He is the 11th soldier convicted in the abuse of prisoners at the Baghdad detention facility in 2003 and 2004.