By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, July 6, 2006 – The top U.S. general in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq issued a statement today expressing "heartfelt condolences" to the families of four Iraqi civilians killed March 12 in Iraq. "We understand this is painful, confusing and disturbing, not only to the family who lost a loved one, but to the Iraqi people as a whole," Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, said in their joint statement. "The loss of a family member can never be undone."
The statement was issued in response to the deaths of four Iraqi civilians -- a man, two women and a young girl -- and the rape of one of the female murder victims in their home near Mahmudiyha. Steven D. Green, 21, a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, was arrested June 30 in connection with the incident, according to a July 3 announcement by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Kentucky.
Green was deployed from September 2005 to April 2006 and was discharged from the Army May 16. Army officials declined to disclose the circumstances of his discharge, citing privacy protections under the Health Information Privacy Protection Act. Meanwhile, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is continuing its investigation. Federal prosecutors alleged in their July 3 statement that three other individuals may have been involved in the incident.
"We will fully pursue all the facts in a vigorous and open process as we investigate this situation," Casey and Khalilzad said in their statement. They called the alleged events surrounding the civilians' deaths "absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable behavior" and vowed to get to the bottom of what happened.
"Coalition forces came to Iraq to protect the rights and freedoms of the Iraqi people, to defend democratic values and to uphold human dignity," they said. "As such, we will face every situation honestly and openly, and we will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of the facts." Casey and Khalilzad promised to work openly with Iraqi leaders and to ensure justice is served.
"We will hold our service members accountable if they are found guilty of misconduct in a court of law," they wrote. "We will work closely with the government of Iraq to ensure transparency as we complete the investigatory and legal processes." Green was charged with murder and rape in federal court in Charlotte, N.C., July 3, federal prosecutors announced that day. He is subject to civilian prosecution under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows crimes committed in foreign countries by members of the military to be prosecuted as if they had been committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, officials said.
If convicted of murder, Green could face the death penalty.
Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said during a Baghdad briefing yesterday that the allegations "strike at the very heart of who we are and our character as coalition forces." "Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do their utmost each day for the sake of freedom both at home and here abroad," he said. "While we must not rush to judgment, we must remember the acts of a few should not outweigh the deeds of the many."