Fight by the rules, U.S. forces are told

From the Associated Press

The top U.S. commander in Iraq reminded troops Thursday that they must fight by the rules, after a Pentagon survey released last week showed many of them support torture in certain cases and would not report a comrade for killing or wounding civilians.

In a letter to U.S. service members, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said that adhering to high moral values “distinguishes us from our enemy” and is essential to winning support among the Iraqi population -- the cornerstone of the new U.S. counterinsurgency strategy.

By contrast, Petraeus said, Al Qaeda’s “indiscriminate attacks” had finally begun “to turn a substantial proportion of the Iraqi population against it.”


“This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we -- not our enemies -- occupy the moral high ground,” he said in the letter addressed to “soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen” serving in Iraq.

The survey found that fewer than half of Marines and a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

More than 40% supported the idea of torture in some cases, and 10% reported personally abusing civilians, the Pentagon said last week in releasing its first ethics study of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the letter, Petraeus said he understood that watching a fellow trooper killed by “a barbaric enemy” can “spark frustration, anger and a desire for immediate revenge.”

“Hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us -- or our comrades in arms -- to commit hasty, illegal actions,” he said. “In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.”

The general also reminded troops that torture is not only illegal but often produces information “of questionable value.”


“We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly and we must be violent at times,” Petraeus said. “What sets us apart from our enemies in the fight, however, is how we behave.”