WASHINGTON, May 18, 2006 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Congressman John Murtha has accused US marines of killing innocent Iraqi civilians, including seven women and three children, in cold blood near the western town of Haditha last November.
"Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," Murtha said on Wednesday, May 17, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
A March report by Time magazine revealed that US forces killed an entire Iraqi family of 15 near Haditha last November.
The magazine said that the troops had gone on rampage after their patrol was attack, killing 15 unarmed Iraqis in their homes, including seven women and three children.
"There was no firefight that led to the shootings at close range," stressed the Pennsylvania congressman, contracting the official account of the killing.
"There were no (roadside bombs) that killed these innocent people," he said.
The US Democrat said military sources have told him the Pentagon investigation will show the troops overreacted because of the pressure on them.
At least three Marine officers are under official investigation, and no official report has been released, the Army Times newspaper said Wednesday.
Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, said that the death toll could be "twice as high".
"It's much worse than reported in Time magazine," said the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee.
He blamed inadequate planning, training and troop numbers for such incidents of killing innocent Iraqis.
"I feel that the tremendous pressure and the redeployment over and over again is a big part of this.
"These guys are under tremendous strain, more strain than I can conceive of. And this strain has caused them to crack in situations like this," said the congressman.
A recent US study revealed that troops returning from Iraq have the highest rate of mental health consultation and psychological problems compared to other troops returning from Afghanistan and other trouble spots.
One third of US troops returning from Iraq have needed at least one mental health consultation and one in five have been diagnosed with combat-induced psychological problems.
Accusations that trigger-happy US soldiers often kill civilians and that little disciplinary action has resulted in the few cases investigated continues to infuriate Iraqis.
In the first such case, a British soldier has quit the army in disgust of the "illegal and immoral" practices of the US-led forces in Iraq.
"As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were sub-human, untermenschen," Ben Griffin, a trooper in the Special Air Service's counter-terrorist team, told the Telegraph on Sunday, March 12, using the term used by the Nazis to describe Jews and Russians.
Murtha, who is a vocal critic of the Iraq war, had introduced a resolution in Congress six months ago to withdraw US troops from the Arab country.
"Since that time, we've lost 370 Americans, we're spending nine billion dollars a month, (attacks) have increased from 550 a week to 900 a week, and we lost 1,000 Iraqis in the last month," he said.
At least 2,445 US troops have been killed since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, according to a Pentagon count.
"Now, you can imagine the impact this is going to have on those troops for the rest of their life and for the United States in our war and our effort in trying to win the hearts and minds?"