Tuesday 18 January 2005

U.S. Military Resorting to Collective Punishment

Today's lesson is in WAR CRIMES, you know like the ones we are perpetrating in Iraq? Like the ones that our squaddies and the yanks have been hauled up for? Like the ones described below? Of course it's always the ones at the bottom of the chain taking the orders that get the blame while the suits who started it all get off without so much as a slapped wrist.

The U.S. military is resorting to collective punishment tactics in Iraq similar to those used by Israeli troops in the occupied territories of Palestine, residents say.

Military bulldozers have mown down palm groves in the rural al-Dora farming area on the outskirts of Baghdad, residents say. Electricity has been cut, the local fuel station destroyed and the access road blocked.

The U.S. action comes after resistance fighters attacked soldiers from this area several weeks back.

"The Americans were attacked from this field, then they returned and started cutting down all the trees," says Kareem, a local mechanic, pointing to a pile of burnt date palms in a bulldozed field. "None of us knows any fighters, we all know they are coming here from other areas to attack the Americans, but we are the people who suffer from this."

The military action follows a similar round of attacks and retaliation earlier this month.

U.S. Army Brigadier-General Mark Kimmit told reporters then that the military had launched 'Operation Iron Grip' in the area to send "a very clear message to anybody who thinks that they can run around Baghdad without worrying about the consequences of firing RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), firing mortars."

Gen. Kimmit said "there is a capability in the air that can quickly respond against anybody who would want to harm Iraqi citizens or coalition forces." Then as now, local people denied any knowledge of harbouring resistance fighters.

And now, as then, they say they have to pay the price.

"They destroyed our fences, and now there are wolves attacking our animals," said Mohammed, a schoolboy. "They destroyed much of our farming equipment, and the worst is they cut our electricity. They come by here every night and fire their weapons to frighten us."

People need electricity to run pumps to irrigate the farms, he said. "Now we are carrying water in buckets from the river, and this is very difficult for us," Mohammed said. "They say they are going to make things better for us, but they are worse."

Going into fields littered with unexploded mortar shells after the U.S. retaliation has become hazardous now. "We asked them the first time and they said okay, we'll come take care of it," said a farmer who called himself Sharkr. "But they never came."

Other residents say soldiers beat them up during random home raids. "I was beaten by the Americans," said Ihsan, a 17 year-old secondary school student. "They asked me who attacked them, but I do not know. My home was raided, our furniture destroyed, and one of my uncles was arrested."

Full story...