According to some reports, hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed in the U.S. military's siege of Fallujah, Iraq. But Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says U.S. troops are conducting a "humane operation" to the point of increasing their owns risks.
"The contrast between these anti-coalition forces and our troops just couldn't be greater," Myers said Friday night at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner.
"In Fallujah, for example, we've seen the enemy unload weapons from ambulances; they try to take them into Fallujah. They use mosques as operating bases. They deliberately put children, and in many cases women, in the line of fire as human shields.
"And they attack innocent civilians in the marketplace with mortars," he said.
"Our servicemen and women, on the other hand, are going to extraordinary lengths to conduct the most humane operation that they can. Bear in mind that this is war, and war is not science, and war is an awful thing, so people get hurt.
"That means at times that our troops, in fact, accept greater risks to avoid civilian casualties," he said.
"Make no mistake about it, our forces fight very viciously when they need to, and they're hitting the enemy very hard. But they are also tremendously compassionate," he said.
Hospital officials inside Fallujah have said that more than 600 civilians, many of them women, children, and the elderly, have been killed since the siege began. Marine officials have said that the overwhelming number of Iraqi casualties were military-age males killed in fighting.
Myers criticized some of the media reporting in Iraq, singling out Aljazeera, the Arab news network, of reporting "outright lies about events."
"It's almost impossible to overcome that," he said.