October 9, 2003


Odious activities (William F. Buckley, October 8, 2003, Townhall.com)

An odious debt was defined in 1927 by the Russian theorist of international obligations Alexander Sack as one incurred by a "regime," not "a nation." When Saddam Hussein went to France and Russia to borrow money, was that money turned to the use of the Iraqi people, or was it for self-aggrandizement?

The Democratic high command in Congress has joined forces with the White House in taking the position that the debts should be repaid. But that view of things hasn't been highly ventilated, and the political season is one that would certainly welcome a public debate on the question. Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Jim Leach of Iowa have introduced legislation, the Iraqi Freedom Debt Act, which encourages the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to set aside the $150 billion debt incurred during Saddam's years in power.

At the end of October, Madrid will host a conference at which the question of contributions toward the recovery of Iraq will be discussed. One can of course expect that France and Russia will be there insisting that their loans to Iraq must not be segregated as odious debts, not repayable by the new Iraq. As things now stand, the U.S. government will simultaneously argue (1) that the debts should be repaid, and (2) that other nations should contribute to the cost of restoring Iraq.

Consider the $150 billion to be their contribution to rebuilding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 9, 2003 12:15 AM

The U.S. has some interesting choices here. The proper thing for us to say is that its for the new Iraqi government to decide whether they are going to pay these debts or not (then back them to the hilt when they say no). But then we would only have more Russian and French intelligence agents running around Iraq causing trouble with the government/institution building process trying to make sure their guy is running Iraq in the end.

If we really wanted a U.N. resolution we should have played hardball with the debt issue.

Posted by: Vea Victis at October 9, 2003 1:33 AM

What Vea said. Again, a wonderful opportunity to put the squeeze on Europe, the UN, the human rights committe, etc., but will it be seized? If you advocate a foreign policy based upon a moral, not legal, foundation, it helps to talk about it.

Posted by: Peter B at October 9, 2003 6:41 AM