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One in Ten US Occupation Troops Admit Mistreating Civilians

By AFP

WASHINGTON (
AFP) - A survey of US combat troops deployed in Iraq has found that one in 10 said they mistreated civilians and more than a third condoned torture to save the life of a comrade, a report said Friday.

The study by an army mental health advisory team found continuing problems with morale and that acute mental health issues were more prevalent among troops with lengthening tours or on their second and third deployment to Iraq.

"They looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at," said Ward Casscells, the Pentagon's health affairs chief.

For the first time ever, a sampling of soldiers and marines in combat units were questioned on issues of character, and their answers suggested hardened attitudes toward civilians among front line troops:

-- About 10 percent of soldiers surveyed reported mistreating non-combatants or damaging their property when it was not necessary;

-- Less than half of the soldiers and marines would report a team member for unethical behavior;

-- More than a third of all soldiers and marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow soldier or marine.

Major General Gale Pollock, the army's acting surgeon general, sought to make a distinction between soldiers' thoughts about torture and their actions.

"These men and women have been seeing their friends injured and I think that having that thought is normal," she said at a

Pentagon press conference.

"But what it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they're not acting on those thoughts. They're not torturing the people," she said.

The team surveyed 1,320 soldiers and 447 marines between August and October 2006 in Iraq. Although the report was completed in November, it was only released Friday in censored form after its findings began to leak to the press.

The study found that morale among soldiers was worse than among marines, which it said was explained in part by the marines' shorter six month tours.

The team recommended that the army's yearlong tours in Iraq either be shortened, or that soldiers be given 18 to 36 months between deployment to recover.

Instead, the army is moving in the opposite direction, extending tours to 15 months to keep pace with a surge in forces. The army is struggling to allow units a year at home between deployments.

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