Haditha Investigation Doesn't Reflect Majority of Troops, General Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 2, 2006 Alleged incidents of misconduct, such as those surrounding the Nov. 19 deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, do not reflect the honorable service of the overwhelming majority of coalition forces in Iraq, a U.S. general in Iraq said today.
"Almost without exception, the dedicated men and women who serve as part of Multinational Corps Iraq perform their duties in an exemplary manner every day," Army Brig. Gen. Donald Campbell, chief of staff of Multinational Corps Iraq, said via satellite in a Pentagon news briefing. "In the face of difficult and often dangerous circumstances, they demonstrate the discipline, sound judgment and high moral standards that are hallmarks of the military profession."
While 99.9 percent of servicemembers in Iraq perform honorably, a small percentage takes the wrong path due to combat stresses, fear, isolation or other factors, Campbell said. Leaders understand the stresses that servicemembers in Iraq face, but they will not accept behavior that is legally, morally or ethically questionable, he said.
"The behavior of our forces is a key component in the overall success of our mission," he said. "The credibility of our coalition forces is too valuable a commodity to squander needlessly."
To reinforce the values training all servicemembers receive before deployment, leaders of Multinational Corps Iraq will conduct core values training in the next 30 days, Campbell said. This training was developed over the past few weeks and is focused on legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield, he said.
"This training really is a continuation of many of the initiatives that were currently occurring," Campbell said. "Our forces receive this type of training prior to deployment, yet many of us have been here for five to nine months, and we felt it was prudent to conduct reinforcement training at this time."
The training is a slide presentation that will take two to four hours to complete, Campbell said. The training opens with an introduction about the importance of military service, then goes on to sections on values, legal and ethical standards, interactive discussion questions, and possible battlefield scenarios.
The training package includes five possible scenarios, including encountering a roadside bomb and being engaged by enemy fire from a mosque or school, Campbell said. Servicemembers will discuss the ethical and legal issues in each scenario, and the proper reaction, he said.
"You can't obviously script and train for every incident that would occur on the battlefield, but we do our best to prepare our soldiers with the packages that we've given them," he said.
Commanders will have freedom within the training to adjust or add scenarios. The slides will serve as a guide for leaders to sculpt the training to best suit their unit's needs, Campbell said.
"This is not 'checking-the-box' training," he said. "This is serious business, and we're going to focus on doing the right thing."
All forces assigned to Multinational Corps Iraq, including the corps staff, will receive the training, Campbell said. The training will not overly sensitize servicemembers, because it will still emphasize every servicemember's right to self-defense, he said.
Any loss of civilian life is unfortunate, and the coalition does everything it can to prevent harm to Iraqis, Campbell said.
"It's very, very tragic that on occasion, Iraqi civilians are injured or killed, and we take that very seriously," he said. "We don't like it, but we shouldn't rush to judgment on every incident that we see.
"Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are facing a hostile and terrorist threat that refuses to abide by established rules of decency and laws of armed conflict," he continued. "Their mission is difficult, and they daily place their lives at risk to protect the people of Iraq. We should take great pride in the hundreds of thousands of servicemembers who honor us daily with their courage, their competence and their sacrifice."