The US says it did not "turn a blind eye" to torture in Iraq, in response to allegations raised in files published by whistleblower website Wikileaks.
Gen George Casey, who was in charge of US forces in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, said all soldiers were instructed to report any allegations of abuse.
Wikileaks released thousands of war logs which suggested US forces had ignored torture by Iraqi forces.
But US officials have insisted that the documents revealed nothing new.
The Pentagon has repeatedly asked Wikileaks to hand back the files, saying the disclosure has put the lives of soldiers and civilians at risk.
On Friday, the website published almost 400,000 US military logs, mainly written by soldiers on the ground.
They included accounts of alleged atrocities carried out by Iraqi forces on their own people such as summary executions, attacks with acid and electric drills, beatings and mutilations.
The documents reveal that coalition forces handed Iraqi prisoners back to local forces for interrogation even when they showed signs of having been tortured and abused.
But Gen Casey told reporters on Monday that the policy during the administration of President George W Bush was to report abuse.
"Our policy all along was if American soldiers encountered prisoner abuse, to stop it and report it immediately up the US chain of command and up the Iraqi chain of command," he said.
State department spokesman PJ Crowley echoed the general's comments, saying: "We did not turn a blind eye.
"If there needs to be an accounting, first and foremost there needs to be an accounting by the Iraqi government itself, and how it has treated its own citizens."
The latest controversy comes as the US military prepares to withdraw all 50,000 remaining troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.