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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
US Iraq troops 'condone torture'
By Humphrey Hawksley
BBC News, Baghdad

US troops on patrol in Baghdad
The survey recommended tours of duty should be shortened
A US survey of battlefield ethics among troops in Iraq has found widespread tolerance for torture in certain circumstances and problems with morale.

The survey, by an army mental health advisory team, sampled more than 1,700 soldiers and marines between August and October 2006.

It examined their views towards torture and the Iraqi civilian population.

A Pentagon official said the survey had looked under every rock and what was found was not always easy to look at.

The Pentagon survey found that less than half the troops in Iraq 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.

Troops suffering from anxiety, depression or stress were more likely to engage in unethical behaviour, together with those who had had a colleague wounded or killed in their unit.

Shorten deployments

A key recommendation to emerge was to shorten the tours of duty.

Those deployed longer than six months, or who had been to Iraq several times, were more likely to suffer from mental health problems.

But presently thousands of extra troops are being sent to Iraq as part of an offensive to try to curb the insurgency by October.

Tours are being extended, and units that do go home are being allowed less time to recover before being sent back.

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