With attacks mounting against the United States in Iraq, American soldiers are fighting back … against Iraqi farmers.
The Independent reports that American soldiers have been bulldozing ancient groves of date palms, orange trees, and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new American policy that collectively punishes farmers for not sharing information about attacks on U.S. soldiers.
Iraqi farmers are shocked and devastated by this new policy. Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri brought a petition signed by 32 farmers to a U.S. base where American officers told him that the bulldozing was “a punishment of a local people because ‘you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us.'” The petition, which states that “tens of poor families depend completely on earning their life on these orchards and now they became very poor and have nothing and waiting for hunger and death,” shows the desperation of the farmers.
A few local children protested by lying in front of the bulldozers but were quickly dragged away. Eyewitnesses said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation.
American troops even added insult to injury by carrying out the destruction of farmland to the accompaniment of jazz music played over a loudspeaker.
The Independent cites that farmers who inform on the identity of the attackers may be subject to reprisals due to the close-knit nature of the villages, where most people are closely related and everyone knows one another.
This new policy of collective punishment is reminiscent of Green Berets burning villages near Danang, Vietnam. United States policy-makers need to understand that such brutal, heavy-handed policies will only further exacerbate U.S.–Iraqi relations, especially when they are the same tactics used by their former leader.
Lt. Col. Springman, a U.S. commander in the region, said, “We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn’t tell us.” Stop the attacks or tell who is responsible? How can one ask this of rural farmers when the U.S. Army itself is unable to accomplish this task?