The destruction of the fruit trees took place in the second half of last month but, like much which happens in rural Iraq, word of what occurred has only slowly filtered out. The destruction of crops took place along a kilometre-long stretch of road just after it passes over a bridge.
Farmers say that 50 families lost their livelihoods, but a petition addressed to the coalition forces in Dhuluaya pleading in erratic English for compensation, lists only 32 people. The petition says: '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.'
The children of one woman who owned some fruit trees lay down in front of a bulldozer but were dragged away, according to eyewitnesses who did not want to give their names. They said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation. When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it. The same paper quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: 'We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us.'
Collective punishment is unlawful under Article 4(2)(b) of the Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Fourth Geneva Convention. It's also extremely ineffective.