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US army destroys ancient trees in Iraq

Feb 2004

Iraq used to have the largest concentration of Date Palms on the planet. In the 1960s and ’70s, about 30 million trees produced at least 578,000 tons of high-quality dates annually, the countries second largest export after oil.

But the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s (one incident alone destroyed the five million trees of the southern Ras al-Bisha grove), and the destructive agricultural policies of Saddam Hussein’s regime reduced the Date population of Iraq to about 13 million (43% of the original number).

The US authorities claim to be working on the problem. A February-2004 agreement states that the USAID’s Agricultural Development Program aims to buy 40,000 Palms (0.0013%) for orchards and nurseries, while the Iraq Agricultural Ministry will provide land, personnel, logistics and maintenance for the orchards.

However, the US and British series of air strikes in March 2003 coincided with the pollination period of Date palms and brought all hopes of an abundant harvest that year to an end. As for 2004, as journalist Patrick Cockburn reported in 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 guerillas attacking US troops.”
What if someone really doesn’t know anything?

source: TreeNews Autumn/Winter 2004

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