Petraeus 'Concerned' by Ethics Report

The Associated Press
Monday, May 7, 2007; 5:36 PM

NEW YORK -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday he was concerned by a recent survey that concluded many combat troops would not report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

Speaking to the annual meeting of The Associated Press, Gen. David Petraeus called for a "redoubling of our education efforts" to identify potential for abuses among soldiers in Iraq and anticipate problems related to combat stress during extended missions that can last up to 15 months.

"We can never sink to the level of the enemy," Petraeus said by video link from Baghdad. "We have done that at times in theater and it has cost us enormously," he said, referring specifically to the torture and humiliation of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib facility west of Baghdad.

Petraeus said he was drafting a memo that would examine issues of battlefield ethics more closely. Referring to a Pentagon report last week by a special team assessing forces in Iraq, he said: "I was very concerned by the results because they indicated willingness on a fair proportion of soldiers and Marines to not report the illegal actions, if you will, of buddies."

Troops should recall their shared higher values that "put us above the enemy," he said, such as "observing the law of land warfare and the norms that civilized nations have adopted governing the conduct of land warfare."

"So the first step is that we've got to ... make sure that folks remember that that's a foundation for our moral compass ... anything we do that violates that is done at considerable peril," he said.

The Pentagon report included a range of findings that pointed to potential violations of military codes and standards. Among the figures: Only 40 percent of Marines and 55 percent of Army soldiers interviewed said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

The survey also found that 47 percent of U.S. soldiers and 38 percent of Marines interviewed said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect; and 44 percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.

Petraeus noted some successes in adapting to the tactics of Iraqi militants, such as better U.S. abilities to detect roadside bombs _ the chief killer of U.S. forces _ and plans to modify military Humvees for greater protections such as V-shaped hulls that can better deflect blasts.

"We're obviously working very hard to try to ensure adequate force protection ... There is very active lessons learned process," he told executives representing AP member newspapers and broadcast companies.

He also reiterated his belief that Iraq's long-term stability cannot be achieved through military means alone and requires political reconciliation from its main groups: the majority Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. But he noted that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains burdened by "narrow agendas" standing the way of unity and crucial U.S.-backed legislation, such as a proposed law to share Iraq's oil wealth.

He said he plans to deliver a report to President Bush in the first two weeks of September on the future direction of Iraq, including the U.S.-led effort to try to reclaim Baghdad from extremist factions.

The battles will "likely to get harder before it gets easier," Petraeus said just hours after two suicide car bombers attacked a market and a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramadi west of the capital _ an area where Petraeus noted some success in marshaling Sunni tribes to help fight al-Qaida insurgents. At least 13 people were killed in the attacks.

On Sunday, roadside bombs killed eight American soldiers, including six who died in a single blast in Diyala province _ a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency after many militants fled the Baghdad security crackdown.

The same day, the commander of U.S. troops south of Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, predicted "increased American casualties" over the coming 90 days because of more aggressive patrols in Baghdad and ongoing efforts to shift troops into smaller outposts around the country.

Petraeus, too, noted the possible costs of the current U.S. strategies.

"We are putting our soldiers at greater risk to some degree by having them live in the neighborhoods they are securing," he said. "Frankly, it's the only way to accomplish the mission."

(This version CORRECTS AMs. corrects quote to "very concerned" sted "greatly concerned;" provides full quote.)

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