“Mental health” (sic)
Iraqis take part in a funeral procession for victims of a helicopter rocket attack, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, May 5, 2007. Residents and police in a Shiite area in eastern Baghdad said U.S. helicopters early Saturday fired on three houses, killing six men and wounding a woman and five children. The U.S. military, which says it does its best to avoid civilian casualties, said it was looking into the report. (AP Photo/Ali al-Khazali)
On Friday, the Pentagon released the findings of their fourth study of the mental health of US Troops in Iraq. According to the New York Times the report was submitted in November but
Pentagon officials have not explained why the public release of the report was delayed, a move that kept the data out of the public debate as the Bush administration developed its plan to build up troops in Iraq and extend combat tours. Rear Adm. Richard R. Jeffries, a medical officer, told reporters on Friday that the timing was decided by civilian Pentagon officials.
Editor and Publisher summarizes the findings:
• Sixty-two percent of soldiers and 66 percent of Marines said that they knew someone seriously injured or killed, or that a member of their team had become a casualty.
• The 2006 adjusted rate of suicides per 100,000 soldiers was 17.3 soldiers, lower than the 19.9 rate reported in 2005.
• Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.
• About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.
• About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.
• Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.
• Thirty-nine percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents.
One of the key findings of the report is that these ethics problems are more pronounced the longer tours are extended and the more tours soldiers serve. And the Guardian notes:
There are about 150,000 US troops in Iraq. Many have been complaining in emails and blogs about President George Bush's decision this year to extend deployment from one year to 15 months as part of an attempt to pacify Baghdad and Anbar province.
The Pentagon this week imposed restrictions on internet postings from war zones, and claimed it was because of the risk of providing sensitive information to insurgents.
Reacting to the ban, soldiers said that the real reason for the curb was their negative comments about the war, including scepticism about Mr Bush's claims about progress.
Most of the reports on this new study focus on how the extended tours are leading to "stress" among American troops and I am sure the stress is horrific – but that is missing the point. We spend so much time talking about the toll on "our troops" and these articles are prime examples. Where is the mention of what this complete break with honorable behavior means for the people of Iraq? It's not surprising that BushCo's rhetoric and criminal behavior leads to a military where honor and discipline give way to torture and abuse.
Yet nothing justifies the immorality of the way our soldiers are acting in Iraq.
Look closely at what we did just today:
Iraqis inspect remains of their home in Sadr City Shiite district of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, May 6, 2007. U.S. and Iraqi forces raided Sadr City, bombing four houses and wounding six civilians, Iraqi police said. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali) Note that Reuters reports that one civilian was killed, 8 were wounded in this US air strike.
Or read this from today's issue of the Guardian, by Karzan Sherabayani, a British journalist. Karzan reports on the murder of his 75 year old uncle by American troops in Kirkuk and describes the reaction of his cousin Sabah:
Kakarash Ali Khalid was a family man. He had recently retired after working all his life as a lorry driver, a job which took him all over Iraq. Like most Kurds, he suffered under Saddam, with many relatives – myself included – imprisoned and tortured. He had eight children and was still helping to provide for the family by doing odd driving jobs. Sabah remembers him telling the young ones to be careful at checkpoints – although he was not hostile to the US presence.
'He was happy they took Saddam away from power, and was saying we will finally have a good life,' Sabah told me. 'Before, I too was very happy about seeing the Americans here, but not any more. Anyone submitted to this injustice will dislike them. Have they come here to save us from Saddam or to kill us?'