By David Morgan
Fri May 4, 3:33 PM ET
Reuters - Only 40 percent of Marines and 55 percent of U.S. Army soldiers deployed in Iraq say they would report a fellow serviceman for killing or injuring an innocent Iraqi, a Pentagon report released on Friday shows.
The Army survey, which showed increasing rates of mental health problems for troops on extended or multiple deployments, also said well over one-third of soldiers and Marines believe torture should be allowed to elicit information that could save the lives of American troops or gain knowledge about Iraqi insurgents.
Overall, about 10 percent of the 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines covered in the survey said they had mistreated civilians, either through physical violence or damage to their personal property. The survey was conducted by U.S. Army medical experts between August 28 and October 3, 2006.
"Soldiers with high levels of anger, who had experienced high levels of combat or who screened positive for mental health symptoms were nearly twice as likely to mistreat noncombatants," acting Army Surgeon General Gale Pollock told reporters.
The findings, which included the first survey of ethics among U.S. troops in combat, were released Friday in an 89-page report posted on the Web site www.armymedicine.army.mil. It was delivered to senior military officials in November.
Claims of U.S. mistreatment of Iraqi detainees and civilians have shadowed American forces in Iraq from revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 to reports of the November 19, 2005, killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by Marines in Haditha.
The survey data came out a month after Defense Secretary Robert Gates extended tours for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to up to 15 months instead of one year as U.S. forces increase their numbers in Iraq under a plan ordered by President George W. Bush.
The extended tours were widely seen as the latest sign of strain placed on the U.S. military by the two wars.
There are currently some 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 25,000 in Afghanistan. Bush's plan calls for boosting the U.S. deployment in Iraq by 28,000 combat and support troops.
The report, the fourth prepared by the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team since the war in Iraq began in 2003, showed that mental health problems such as acute stress, anxiety and depression rose among troops facing longer deployments or their second or third tour in Iraq.
Overall, about 20 percent of Army soldiers and 15 percent of Marines showed mental health symptoms of either anxiety, depression or acute stress. The rate was at 30 percent among troops with high combat experience.
Among Army soldiers, 27 percent of those with more than one tour of duty tested positive for a mental health problem, versus 17 percent for soldiers on their first deployment.
The rate of anxiety, depression and acute stress stood at 22 percent among soldiers deployed for more than six months and at 15 percent for troops in Iraq for less than six months.
Army experts recommended that the Pentagon extend the interval between deployments to 18 to 36 months so that troops could recover mentally.
Gates said last month that troops in the region covered by the U.S. Central Command -- from East Africa to Central Asia -- could expect to spend 12 months at home between deployments.