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US Iraq war vets: abuse of Iraqi civilians common, unreported, and unpunished

[JURIST] A series of interviews with US veterans of the Iraq war shows a pattern of systematic human rights abuses, according to a new report [text] in The Nation [media website]. The magazine calls the investigation, which yielded thousands of pages of typed testimony, "the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military" have openly corroborated assertions that civilian deaths at the hands of US soldiers are far more common than the US military has acknowledged. One veteran spoke of situations where members of the military planted weapons on unarmed civilians who were accidentally shot, to justify the shooting. Several talked about a dehumanization of Iraqis, stemming from a general belief that insurgents hide amongst the civilian. The Nation said that many interviewed emphasized that indiscriminate killings of Iraqi civilians, including children, are perpetrated by a minority, but such acts are common, "often go unreported - and almost always go unpunished."

Several others studies of civilian deaths caused by US forces and the views of US troops towards Iraqis have been conducted since the beginning of the war. A 2003 Human Rights Watch report [text] included case studies discussing questionable civilian deaths. In May the Pentagon released results of a military survey [text] of the mental health of deployed troops, showing that only a minority believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect [JURIST report], 10 percent "reported mistreating noncombatants and damaging property when it was not necessary" and less than half of troops said "they would report a team member for unethical behavior." The Independent has more.

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