Collective punishment refers to the practice of punishing a group or community as a whole for the actions of individuals or subgroups.

Collective punishment appears to be all the rage for occupying powers among Arab peoples. I speak of Israel in Palestine and the United States in Iraq. Being unable to root out resistance forces through normal investigative measures, both governments have turned to destroying the property of people in areas suspected to be havens for guerillas, freedom fighters, terrorists, militias, or whatever your favorite term may be. The actions of the Israelis is well known in this area, bulldozing homes, confiscating water and food, and a litany of things too numerous to mention. The soldiers in the Red, White, and Blue have learned swiftly, and are adding another technique to their own bag of tricks. According to the Independent:

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood.

Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, 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."

According to the article, over 50 families lost their livelihoods, though only 32 individuals are being compensated for their losses. It appears as though the U.S. government is on the fast track to fascism and few dare oppose it.

This action, to put it simply is a perfect example of state sponsored terrorism, and is in fact, a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions. Of course, the US, like basically every other nation, only uses such rules to its advantage, and feels free to ignore them whenever it suits them. It is a perfect example of the rulers of America learning well the lessons from tyrants of the past. To wit:

Donald Rumsfeld explained to reporters that one of the ways the U.S. military intended to go after terrorist networks was “to drain the swamp they live in.”

The phrase has roots in Mao’s description of guerilla fighters as fish swimming in the sea of the people. U.S. counterinsurgency experts after World War II took up the phrase in their strategies of “draining the sea” to counter guerilla warfare.

Drain the sea: Deprive a fighting force of cover. Drain the civilian population.

For those unlucky civilians who make up the sea, to be “drained” mean one of two things. Either they are forcibly driven out of their villages and towns, often with their homes, property, and crops destroyed, or they simply are killed.

The above is quoted from How better to "defend freedom" than to emulate despots?

Some have already pointed out to me that the same thing occurs on the other side, and I don't dispute that. But the other side doesn't proclaim liberty, individual rights, or such things as an agenda. Why should America use despotic governments for its example, unless it actually wants to be a despotic government itself?

Addendum January 1, 2004: enwhysea has pointed out that "confiscating" is not the correct term above, as the olive groves were destroyed rather than used, but I think it does hold when describing the cutting off of water rights from Palestinians, as the Israelis do use the water they cut off. The nub of the matter is unchanged, however. I consider these things unjust no matter how the resources are used. enwhysea, who told me he was a member of the IDF, said that the Israeli actions, unlike the US actions are meant to be security measures. I think the US would claim the same thing, honestly, and punishing the innocent, whatever the reason, is never moral in my opinion.

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