Skip to comments.Commander to troops: Fight by the rules (high moral values "distinguishes us from our enemy")
Posted on 05/10/2007 2:05:05 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
BAGHDAD - The top U.S. commander in Iraq reminded troops Thursday they must fight by the rules after a Pentagon survey found 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, Gen. David 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-Qaida'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 Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, which was dated Thursday.
Petraeus' message followed a Pentagon survey which 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 percent support the idea of torture in some cases, and 10 percent reported personally abusing civilians, the Pentagon said last week in releasing its first ethics study of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The survey found that 44 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.
Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines surveyed said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect. About a third of them said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.
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."
Petraeus acknowledged that troops suffer from stress because of long deployments and brutal combat. But he said stress was not a sign of weakness and encouraged troops to turn to their commanders, chaplains and medical experts.
On Monday, Petraeus told the annual meeting of The Associated Press that he was concerned about the survey's findings and called for a "redoubling of our education efforts" to identify potential for abuses among soldiers.
"We have done that at times in theater and it has cost us enormously," he said by video link from Baghdad, referring specifically to the torture and humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.
The Iraq war has seen other high-profile incidents of alleged abuse, including the killings of 24 civilians by Marines in Haditha and the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the slaying of her family south of Baghdad.
Pentagon officials said they were studying the results of the survey and were revising training programs to focus more on values, suicide prevention, rules of warfare and behavioral health awareness.
Folks, I’m of mixed opinion on this one,, taking the moral high ground has a tendency of making one an easy target in the long run.
Better that we had never committed our troops on the ground there and let ‘them’ slaughter each other indiscriminately as they had become so used to doing or that we had not cowered out at the end of Desert Storm 1 and got the job done then.
History is a harsh taskmaster.. we are still learning lessons we ought not to be revisiting today.
What would Patton do?
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t last very long if he was even allowed to lead a task force in the field. Just a hunch.
He’s no George S. Patton. That’s for sure. Too bad.
With the current Rules of Engagement, Gen. David Petraeus would do well to advise the troops to BYOL*.
*Bring Your Own Lawyer
Patton had honor, and if he slapped and berated a Private for cowardice, I daresay he’d line up anyone that raped a 14 year old girl(then shot and killed her entire family, then burned them all) and have an impromptu firing squad. And probably anyone who witnessed it and didn’t stop it.
I cannot imagine a good reason for the Pentagon to release this data.
I think your right. Patton would not last long today. In fact, he would probably get drummed out of the service for talking too tough. However, I am willing to give Petraeus time.
Today men have been puzzified by political correctness. It is more important not to offend the Nazi Muslims than to kill them before they kill you. No war has ever been won like that. Either you control your enemy or he will control you.
People like Arthur Travers Harris held a certain high ground view. We live, they die. We win the war. It worked.
I would prefer that not being dead or maimed distinguish us from the enemy.
I would prefer that not being dead or maimed distinguish us from the enemy.
This PC crap also allows us to have our asses handed to us.
It’s killing our troops needlessly. Look at the casualty rates. They speak for themselves. Troops that agressively defend themselves, such as the “Hadiths Marines” are now prosecuted.
We could have never beat the Japs and the Germans with these self defeating rules. As it was, even with our much superior numbers and our air superiority, the Germans inflicted a higher casualty rate on us then we did on them. Patton knew how to handle them, however. Kill them until they quit fighting. The last man standing won.
If you’re going to fight, fight to win or don’t fight at all.
We did not cower. The job was done, Kuwait was liberated. In the final hours our pilots viewed further attack on the retreating Iraqis as not legitimate war, but murder. There was never any intent on the part of the US or the coalition allies, which include Arab ground troops to conquer Iraq. The libs subsequently said we should have “finished the job.” Well we did in 2003, and now they want to impeach our President.
I am willing to give Petraeus time.
and the troops to get it done.
Your point is well taken, but it also speaks to the short sightedness of leaders on the side of Western civilzation and its preservation, imo.
I would also ask,, How many have subsequently died as a result of just completing the mission of liberating Kuwait, employing the no fly zones and playing the UN inspector game strategy... and not just died there but here on our shores and our embassies abroad?
btw , I knew the word ‘cowered’ would get a response in that vein, Thanks!
When in Maryland, some of Lee’s troops were looting and pillaging. Lee was most unhappy about this. Lee got his troops together and said words to the affect, “We shall be Christians in the land of the enemy, just as we are Christians at home.
Of course, there are some on FR who do not want to be reminded of the fact that we had very strong Christian influence in our national founding and historical leadership . . . before the ACLU anyway.
And someone will say, “That wasn’t our national leadership, that was the Confederacy.” The same man, though, was a U.S. Army General before he took the Confederate States army. Lee was a genuine Christian gentleman, who endorsed Christian revival meetings in the camps of his soldiers. I do pray for a Christian morality to prevail in the US armed services. This in no way means that we shouldn't use the most effective means of interrogation in time of war. But, for example, our females should not be involved in the interrogation of men. Of course, I believe the females should not be assigned in a combat or potential combat zone to begin with (or away from any children they might have)
I do pray for a Christian morality to prevail in the US armed services. This in no way means that we shouldn’t use the most effective means of interrogation in time of war.
I would think most here at FR would agree with your sentiments.
The lessons of history and man’s inhumanities that are inflicted on his foes are oft times forgot and overlooked in the heat of combat.