BAGHDAD, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- One of the U.S. Army's best-known battlefield commanders contributed to the deaths of four unarmed Iraqis by giving unclear orders, The New York Times said.
Col. Michael Steele, whose heroism in Somalia was depicted in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," was reprimanded during the summer by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, unnamed officials told the Times. Although the reprimand was not made public, it ended Steele's chance of advancing in the military.
Two of the four soldiers charged with murder in the May 9 incident pleaded guilty to lesser charges recently. Prosecutors say the soldiers took the Iraqis prisoner and then faked an escape attempt by letting them loose and shooting them.
The soldiers were members of the Third Brigade Combat Team, which Steele commanded.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey said in June that Steele told the soldiers that distinguishing non-combatants was unnecessary during the mission.
"A person cannot be targeted on status simply by being present on an objective deemed hostile by an on-scene commander," Maffey wrote in a classified report to Chiarelli.