BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces in Iraq on Thursday were ordered to participate in ethics training amid investigations into whether Marines on Nov. 19 intentionally killed dozens of unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq.
"As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies," Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said in a statement. "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many."
Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, issued an order to American commanders to conduct core values training on moral and ethical standards on the battlefield.
The 24 civilian deaths, which included women and children, followed a bomb attack on a military convoy that killed a Marine.
"We do want to express our deepest condolences to the families who lost a loved one in Haditha," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, said in a Baghdad news conference. "The coalition does not and will not tolerate any unethical or criminal behavior. All allegations of such activity will be fully investigated."
He added that the U.S. military constantly strives to avoid civilian casualties and has promised the deaths in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, will be fully investigated.
The ethics training order came as the U.S. military launched at least two investigations into the allegations, a senior defense official said last week.
Military investigators have evidence that points toward unprovoked murders by Marines in Haditha, a senior defense official said last week. The Iraqi government on Thursday also announced its own probe into the incident, according to Adnan al-Kazimi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
A U.S. military investigation will show that some officers gave false testimony to their superiors, who in turn failed to properly scrutinize the reports, The Washington Post reported.
Al-Maliki said he asked a ministerial committee to hold talks with the U.S. military to set ground rules for raids and detentions.
When asked about Iraqi complaints that U.S. forces show no regard for their lives during raids and detentions, al-Maliki said he objected to such practices.
"We cannot forgive violations of the dignity of the Iraqi people," he said at a news conference. He also said the Cabinet had agreed to issue a statement denouncing such practices.
The training would emphasize "professional military values and the importance of disciplined, professional conduct in combat" as well as Iraqi cultural expectations, Chiarelli said.
The training is expected to be conducted in units over the next 30 days and strives to bolster the training that military personnel underwent before their deployment, according to the statement.
"Of the nearly 150,000 Coalition Forces presently in Iraq, 99.9 percent of them perform their jobs magnificently every day," Chiarelli said. Of those troops, about 130,000 are from the United States.
"They do their duty with honor under difficult circumstances. They exhibit sound judgment, honesty and integrity. They display patience, professionalism and restraint in the face of a treacherous enemy. And they do the right thing even when no one is watching," Chiarelli said.
He added, however, that "unfortunately, there are a few individuals who sometimes choose the wrong path."
The U.S. Marine Commandant, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, traveled to Iraq last week and cautioned troops on the danger of becoming "indifferent to the loss of a human life."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.