LONDON: Senior British army doctors have sounded an alarm over collapsing allied morale in Iraq, and say troops are suffering levels of battle stress not seen since World War II.
They had warned that soldiers feared they would end up in court if they shot an insurgent, The Times newspaper reported on its website.
It quoted two senior Royal Army Medical Corps officers who said young soldiers in Basra feared a military police investigation as much as they did the enemy.
The revelations follow the collapse last week of the court martial of seven paratroopers accused of murdering an Iraqi who died near Al-Amarah.
One of the paratroopers yesterday turned on the army for "hanging him out to dry". Corporal Scott Evans, 32, told the Daily Mail he felt betrayed by the regiment he had regarded as his family, and now planned to leave the forces.
The case collapsed in farce last Thursday, with the judge advocate accusing the main Iraqi witnesses of being liars.
Corporal Evans, a married father of two, said he was angry at being used by Iraqis trying to win "blood money" compensation. But his real bitterness was over the way he was treated by the military.
"We've been badly hung out to dry," he told the Daily Mail. "The Army is your family, isn't it? You expect your family to look after you through thick and thin, but they betrayed us."
The Times report said the unpopularity of the war at home and a belief that firing their rifles in virtually any circumstances was likely to see them end up in court were sapping morale.
One corporal said that troops arriving in Basra were confronted by warnings from the Royal Military Police which made it clear any and every incident would be investigated.
The doctors quoted by the paper described morale in some units as very low with soldiers cynically suggesting they needed a solicitor with them before they shot back at any Iraqi who attacked them.
The reports surfaced as American soldiers launched a major new offensive of about 2500 Marines, soldiers and sailors near Iraq's border with Syria.
Operation Steel Curtain was aimed at destroying a regional Al-Qaeda network, the US command said.