April 8, 2003


The Future of Iraq: Liberated Baghdad shouldn't have to pay Saddam's French debts. (The Wall Street Journal, 4/07/03)
What matters over the long run isn't the blessing of the Security Council but the success and stability of a post-Saddam Iraq. The country is simply too big and too complicated to even consider a significant U.N. administrative function. "Iraq is not East Timor, Kosovo and Afghanistan," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice noted Friday.

Equally important is keeping the U.N.'s hands off Iraqi oil. The oil-for-food program is now being administered by Secretary General Kofi Annan under a 45-day arrangement that expires May 12. But the French and Russians want to keep it going indefinitely. Their game is as transparent as it is cynical.

Many French and Russian companies benefit by participating in the program. More important, if Paris and Moscow can get the U.S. to concede the program's continuing legality, they will use their veto to blackmail the U.S. and a new Iraqi government into honoring the dirty oil contracts and loans they arranged with Saddam Hussein's regime.

This is a rhetorical battle the U.S. can win easily if it decides to fight. The oil, after all, belongs to the Iraqi people. As for Saddam's debts, what do Iraqis owe the creditors who helped an illegitimate regime oppress them? The continuation of oil-for-food would give France and Russia an effective veto over the purse strings and a tremendous and unjustifiable influence in post-Saddam Iraq. If France and Russia really want to help postwar Iraq, they could forgive Saddam's debts.

This is an issue of paramount importance if we are to deter nations and businesses from dealing with dictators. It would be reprehensible to ask the Iraqi people, Saddam's victims, to honor what are essentially his personal debts. No contract with a dictatorial regime should ever be enforceable against the people of said nation. If American bankers and the French and Russians want to do business with every tin pot dictator in the Third World, let them assume the risk that when freedom dawns the debts are gone. If Jacques Chirac wants what Saddam owes, let him follow the tyrant to Hell to collect. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 8, 2003 12:56 PM

Discontinue oil for food ASAP.

If Saddam's debts must be repaid then we can arrange equal monthly payments for all those with claims, the total monthly sum being determined by what the country can afford monthly during reconstruction. In other words France, Russia and Japan etc. will each get the same monthly payment until their individual debt is repaid. Otherwise I like the WSJ logic. No payments: Saddam has declared bankruptcy. Serves them right.

Posted by: Genecis at April 8, 2003 4:44 PM