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Iraq Transition

Civilian deaths prompt 'values' refresher

One general said: 'We're going to focus on doing the right thing'

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Gen. Peter Chiarelli in 2005

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Don't leave wounded enemies to die. Don't desecrate the dead. Don't cause unnecessary suffering. Don't steal things while searching private homes. And don't photograph detainees, especially when they're hooded.

These mandates may seem like common sense, or at least common courtesy, but reports of U.S. troops killing civilians in Iraq have prompted the military to offer all Iraqi-based troops a refresher course on "the importance of professional military values."

Along with the aforementioned values, the 38-slide presentation includes other tidbits, such as ones reminding troops that theft, war crimes and prisoner abuse are considered "acts inconsistent with common values."

Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who oversees all U.S. forces in Iraq, ordered the presentation Thursday in the wake of four separate allegations of troops killing civilians, including accusations that Marines killed 24 civilians in Haditha last year. Troops will take the two- to four-hour course over the next 30 days. (Watch how troops won't face criminal charges for one of the incidents -- 1:14)

"It takes leadership to make these type of incidents go away," said Brig. Gen. Donald Campbell, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via satellite. "This is serious business. We're going to focus on doing the right thing."

Campbell is deputy commanding general of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Though the overwhelming majority of troops in Iraq behave ethically, Campbell said, exceptions can arise when a soldier encounters "stress, fear, isolation, and in some cases they're just upset. They see their buddies getting blown up on occasion, and they could snap."

The values training is intended to show troops how Iraqi cultural values often coincide with American ones.

Two exceptions are religion, which the training says is "central to all things" in Iraq, and government, the purpose of which "is to protect religion, enforce Allah's will and outlaw sin."

The presentation emphasizes troops should behave no differently in Iraq from the way they would in the United States.

"Military personnel are professionals, and professionals do not change their value systems simply because they are in a foreign country," it states.

Another slide says: "The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. If he violates this sacred trust, he profanes his entire culture."

The presentation cites the Geneva Convention governing the rules of war as the basis for the military's system of values.

Drawing on the requirements set down by the convention, the training slide show says troops should remember:

  • to treat prisoners of war humanely
  • to "engage only combatants with deadly force"
  • to respect and protect noncombatants
  • to allow the enemy to surrender
  • to collect and care for the wounded
  • to refrain from desecrating bodies
  • to avoid causing unnecessary suffering.
  • Training vignettes are offered, posing various scenarios in which a soldier must consider the ethical implications of his or her actions.

    One discussion question asks what a soldier should do if he or she is given an order that could be illegal.

    First, the training states, the order should be clarified, and "if after clarification the order still appears illegal, the service member is not obligated to obey" and the incident should be reported.

    One of the training vignettes offers a more specific scenario, first placing the soldier in a hypothetical "cordon-and-search operation" at a private residence.

    "On the way out you see items in the household that appear to be valuable, in particular, an expensive watch. No one is looking. What do you do?"

    The next slide provides the answer to the dilemma.

    "Leave the watch. The law of war and the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] make it a crime to steal. Military professionals respect private property and possessions."

    The training package will include five scenarios in which soldiers must determine the proper course of action.

    Though they range from encountering a roadside bomb to finding insurgents at a mosque or school, individual commanders can alter the scenarios to reflect situations the soldier would be more likely to face, Campbell said.

    This is not "check-in-the-box training," the general said.

    CNN's Emily Schulz contributed to this report.

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