Us Destroying Orchards Of Uncooperative

US Destroying Orchards of the Uncooperative

Patrick Cockburn of the Guardian says that US troops are tearing up orchards belonging to clans that they believe are being uncooperative in the hunt for the Baath remnants. He calls this a form of collective punishment. (Collective punishment is strictly forbidden to Occupying Powers under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949).

To be fair, it is possible that the US military is clearing the orchards for tactical reasons. Use of local flora for cover is common in low-grade guerrilla wars of the sort going on in Iraq. The radical Sunnis of Egypt hide in the sugar cane fields of Upper Egypt. The Egyptian government has used helicopter gunships to flush them out. If that is really the issue, then the helicopter gunships would be a better option in Iraq, too (though it is possible that the US is afraid they are vulnerable to rocket propelled grenades or shoulder-held missile launchers).

In any case, a lot of families depend on the orchards for their livelihood; and the US eventually needs to find ways to get these people on its side. Destroying their livelihood is likely to produce permanent resentments. And, if it is in fact being done as a form of collective punishment, then it is illegal.


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