More than 40 per cent of US troops stationed in Iraq support the idea of torture while one in ten has personally abused Iraqi civilians, a report has found.
The Pentagon assessed the mental health of 1,320 soldiers and 447 marines in order to discover the problems affecting the thousands of US troops in the war-torn country.
The report found that combat trauma, caused by being constantly open to frontline conditions and having very few home visits, was prevalent among troops.
However many of the troops' attitudes towards Iraqi civilians is likely to shock.
"They looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at," said Ward Casscells, assistant US secretary of defence for health, of the findings.
Among the statistics from what is reported to be the Pentagon's first assessment of battlefield ethics are reports that just 47 per cent of US soldiers and 38 per cent of marines believe non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect while about 40 per cent of all troops think torture is allowed in order to save the life of a comrade.
Yet those in the military believe the lax attitude toward war ethics, including breaking international battle conventions, is a result of combat stress.
"Not all soldiers and marines deployed to Iraq are at equal risk for screening positive for a mental health symptom. The level of combat is the main determinant of a soldier or marine's mental health status," Major General Gale Pollock said.
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