BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -The Iraqi government announced Thursday its own investigation into reports that U.S. Marines killed unarmed civilians last year, and the No. 2 general in Iraq ordered American commanders to hold ethical training on battlefield conduct.
The decision to begin an Iraqi inquiry into the killings was made at a Cabinet meeting, Adnan al-Kazimi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told The Associated Press.
The investigation will be carried out by a special committee made up of the Justice and Human Rights ministries along with security officials, al-Kazimi said.
The U.S. military already is conducting at least two investigations into the Nov. 19 killings of 24 people in Haditha, including women and children, following a bomb attack on a military convoy in which a Marine died.
Military investigators have evidence that points toward unprovoked murders by Marines in Haditha, a senior defense official said last week.
A U.S. military investigation will conclude that some officers gave false testimony to their superiors, who then failed to scrutinize the reports adequately, The Washington Post reported.
The probe, which is separate from an investigation into possible criminal actions by the Marines, also will call for changes in how troops are trained for duty in Iraq, the Post reported.
“We do want to express our deepest condolences to the families who lost a loved one in Haditha,” Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, said in a Baghdad news conference. “The coalition does not and will not tolerate any unethical or criminal behavior. All allegations of such activity will be fully investigated.”
Al-Maliki said he asked a ministerial committee to hold talks with the U.S. military to set ground rules for raids and detentions.
When asked about Iraqi complaints that U.S. forces show no regard for their lives during raids and detentions, al-Maliki said he objected to such practices.
“We cannot forgive violations of the dignity of the Iraqi people,” he said at a news conference. He also said the Cabinet had agreed to issue a statement denouncing such practices.
Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said the ethical training would emphasize “professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat,” as well as Iraqi cultural expectations.
“As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies,” he said. “The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many.”
The training will be conducted in units in the next 30 days and was aimed at reinforcing training service members received prior to their deployment, according to his statement.
“Of the nearly 150,000 Coalition Forces presently in Iraq, 99.9 percent of them perform their jobs magnificently every day,” Chiarelli said. Of those troops, about 130,000 are from the United States.
“They do their duty with honor under difficult circumstances. They exhibit sound judgment, honesty and integrity. They display patience, professionalism and restraint in the face of a treacherous enemy. And they do the right thing even when no one is watching,” Chiarelli said.
He added, however, that “unfortunately, there are a few individuals who sometimes choose the wrong path.”
The U.S. Marine Commandant, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, traveled to Iraq last week and cautioned troops on the danger of becoming “indifferent to the loss of a human life.”