Leading article: Reparations that are now an absurdity

Share

In the topsy-turvy world of international politics, Iraq, a nation in political and economic turmoil, has just paid more than $21.4bn (£11.3bn) in "war reparations" to some of the richest countries and corporations in the world. The payment is the latest tranche in a staggering $41.3bn so far paid out by the struggling Iraqi government in recompense for the first Iraq war in which Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

And so it should, many might say. The damage done to Kuwait in that period needs to be made good. Those who lost relatives, limbs and property should be compensated. Yet most of the payments to those who suffered personal injuries or losses have now been made, and in fairly small sums.

Much larger amounts have gone - and continue to go - to big corporations. The chief beneficiaries are oil companies and contractors such as Halliburton, Bechtel, Mobil and Shell. But compensation has also gone to Nestlé, Pepsi, Philip Morris, Sheraton, American Express, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even Toys R Us - not because Saddam damaged their property in Kuwait, but because, they claim, they "lost profits" or experienced a "decline in business" because of the war. The payments announced yesterday also went to governments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.

Saddam Hussein is long gone from power and yet the down-trodden people of Iraq are still being forced to pay for the crimes of their former dictator. The amount they are paying is more than Iraq's annual health and education budgets combined. Payments are running well behind schedule, and will take years to complete. The country is being forced to borrow from the IMF, with all the additional constraints that brings.

The new Iraqi government has requested a change. There is no reason why it should not come. In 1991 Iraq was paying 30 per cent of its oil revenue in compensations. In 2000 this was reduced to 25 per cent. After the fall of Saddam it was cut to 5 per cent. Surely it is now time that it should end entirely.

The lesson of history, as with Germany post-1918, is that while war reparations do salve the past, they also store up trouble for the future. Things are bad enough in Iraq without this added burden. Every dollar sent as "reparations" is a dollar not spent on humanitarian aid and reconstruction.

The vanquished have always paid the victor. But for the occupied to pay the occupiers - much of the "reparations" go to the United States and Britain - is little short of an obscenity. At a time when the battle for hearts and minds is being daily lost, it is patently a political absurdity too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor