Top U.S. officer decries hazing after troop suicides

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, December 22, 2011 21:47 EDT
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WASHINGTON — The US military’s top officer warned on Thursday over recent hazing incidents among American troops, saying such misconduct was cruel and would not be tolerated.

General Martin Dempsey issued the statement after charges were issued in connection with the death of an Army soldier who was allegedly abused in Afghanistan and following the suicide of a Marine earlier this year who also faced alleged hazing. Both young men were of Asian heritage.

“We are currently investigating several allegations of hazing within our ranks. These appear to be isolated instances of misconduct, but I want to be very clear — hazing is simply intolerable,” said Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“It undermines our values, tarnishes our profession, and erodes the trust that bonds us. This cruel form of misconduct requires an audience to achieve its intended effect of humiliation,” the general said.

Dempsey cautioned that every member of the military was obliged to safeguard fellow soldiers from abuse and to report any instance of hazing.

“Every service member should be aware that participating in hazing or even observing it without reporting it are both wrong. We are duty bound to protect one another from hazing in any form,” he said.

Eight US troops from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, were charged on Wednesday over the death of 19-year-old Private Danny Chen on October 3 in Kandahar. The soldiers face a raft of charges, with five of the eight accused of negligent homicide, when death results from an act or failure to act.

Other charges include involuntary manslaughter, assault, maltreatment, reckless endangerment and dereliction of duty.

Chen was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

Investigators reportedly told Chen’s parents three days after his death that they had not yet determined whether the shot to his head was self-inflicted or fired by someone else.

The Chens also said they were told that their son was subjected to physical abuse and ethnic slurs by superiors.

In April, Lance Corporal Harry Lew, 21, killed himself in Afghanistan after he was allegedly hazed that night by two fellow Marines, who were reportedly angered that he had fallen asleep at a guard post.

The two Marines reprimanded him for falling asleep, ordered him to do exercises in his body armor and later punched and kicked him, according to the Marine Corps Times.

A Chinese-American group, the Committee of 100, expressed “grave concern” over the incidents, and welcomed the military’s vow to prosecute possible abuse.

The group in a statement Thursday urged the army in its investigation to also try “to determine any pattern of racially-motivated violence against Asian-American servicemen and women.”

The Pentagon has portrayed the cases as isolated incidents and not part of a larger trend of racial discrimination.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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