How many times have we recently heard and read that the U.S.
military focus in Iraq has shifted to rebuilding and ensuring
"security" for the people recently freed from an oppressive
dictator? How many of us sat with mouths agape when we learned
that the unjust war in Iraq has damaged the country so badly that
U.S. taxpayers are being charged billions of dollars to "rebuild"
that which most of us didn't want destroyed in the first place?
And now news has broken that the U.S. troops aren't rebuilding
Iraq, but ruining the livelihoods, property, food sources, and
independence for Iraqi farmers and, indeed, being oppressive
At the end of September 2003, U.S. soldiers driving bulldozers
uprooted ancient groves of date palms, orange and lemon trees
in the small central Iraq town of Dhuluaya, 50 miles north of
Baghdad. These groves provided income for 50 poor farming families
of the Khazraji tribe, and were destroyed as collective punishment
of farmers for not providing information about guerillas attacking
U.S. troops in Dhuluaya and surrounding areas. U.S. troops told
the farmers, over a loudspeaker in Arabic, that the fruit groves
were being destroyed to punish the farmers for not informing on
the resistance, which is very active in this Sunni Muslim district.
Lt. Col. Springman, a U.S. commander in the region, justified
the bulldozing: "We asked the farmers several times to stop
the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers
didn't tell us."
U.S. military officers told a delegation that went to a nearby
U.S. base asking for compensation for the lost farms that the
bulldozing was a punishment of Iraqis because "you know who
is in the resistance and do not tell us." This delegation
brought a petition addressed to the coalition forces in Dhuluaya,
signed by 32 of the farmers, pleading for compensation, and reading
in part: "Tens of poor families depend completely on earning
their life on these orchards and now they became very poor and
have nothing and [are] waiting for hunger and death." One
of the farmers who watched his livelihood ground into the dusty
soil said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide
in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything.
They didn't find any weapons."
Witnesses saw the children of one woman farmer lie down in front
of a bulldozer headed for their fruit trees, but the children
were dragged away. A U.S. soldier grabbed and tried to smash the
camera of an Iraq Today reporter who attempted to take a photograph
of the bulldozers at work. Conversely, witnesses also saw one
U.S. soldier break down and cry during the operation. Reporters
asked one farmer how much his lost orchard was worth, and he answered
in a distraught voice: "It is as if someone cut off my hands
and you asked me how much my hands were worth."
In addition to the obvious tone of terrorism this event exudes,
it seems that no thought was given to the fact that the farmers
may not know who is ambushing the occupying forces. Further, if
they do know, it was also not taken into consideration that informing
on guerillas is very dangerous in such a small village where everyone
knows each other and the guerillas are not afraid to use violence.
And most frightening is the fact that these soldiers actually
found a way to justify these barbaric actions of ruining privately
owned farms, income and food sources, and the way of life for
very poor families. All this occurs, hypocritically, in the midst
of the Western media frenzy about the U.S. rebuilding Iraq.
Information source: Independent Digital (UK) Ltd.,
October 12, 2003.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)