New revelations in Haditha atrocity

One of the seven US marines facing charges related to the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha has admitted to lying about the deaths of five of them. Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz said he saw squad leader Sgt. Frank Wuterich shoot dead five men while they had their hands up to surrender. Cruz, granted immunity from prosecution, also admitted to urinating on one of the dead bodies and pumping bullets into all five of them after a squad member was killed in a roadside bombing. Wuterich, who reprotedly told Sela Cruz to blame the Iraqi army for the atrocity, is facing multiple murder charges. Cruz was testifying in a preliminary hearing on charges against Cpt. Randy Stone, accused of failing in his duty to investigate and report the 24 deaths. (AlJazeera, May 10)

The revelations come on the heels of a US survey of battlefield ethics among troops in Iraq that found widespread tolerance for torture. The survey, by an army mental health advisory team, sampled more than 1,700 soldiers and marines between August and October 2006, finding that less than half the troops thought Iraqi civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. More than a third believed that torture was acceptable if it helped save the life of a fellow soldier or if it helped get information about the insurgents. About 10% of those surveyed said they had actually mistreated Iraqi civilians by hitting or kicking them, or had damaged their property when it was not necessary to do so. (BBC, May 4)

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