To the Editor:
In “U.S. stakes in Iraq break internat’l law” (4/8), Benita Singh argues that the illegality of the United States’ privatization of Iraqi banks, mines and factories is a “shocking and overlooked” argument against our country’s continued occupation and its policies of “economic colonization.” The reason that this argument is “overlooked” is that it is simply absurd. Singh’s column betrays a blatant ignorance of the Hague Convention, and furthermore, if her misunderstanding of this century-old document can be excused, her advocacy of leaving the laws of Saddam’s Hussein regime intact cannot.
The Hague Convention permits that occupying forces can “take possession of cash, funds and realizable securities which are strictly the property of the State.” Singh has failed to realize that, under the grip of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was a socialist country in which its oil resources and nearly all companies that provided public services to the Iraqi people — banks, utilities and some industries — were owned and managed by the Iraqi government. So naturally, the “200 Iraqi state companies” that were previously the property of Saddam Hussein came under the control of American authority upon the fall of Baghdad one year ago. Regardless of one’s opinion on the virtues or evils of privatization, if we are to follow Singh’s own legal rubric, this action is not “in direct violation of international law” as she would have us believe, but rather, entirely within the bounds of the Hague Convention.
Far more egregious than her misinterpretation of the normative ethics of war is Singh’s advocacy of an occupation policy that seeks to maintain the laws of Iraq previously enacted by Saddam’s government. According to Singh, because the Iraqi constitution of 1990 forbids the privatization of government-owned resources and stipulates that foreign countries cannot own Iraqi businesses, the United States should not break these immutable laws of the nation. Perhaps then she would also advocate the continued legality of laws that prohibited the prosecution of those who murdered female family members suspected of fornication or adultery in “honor killings” or laws that prevented women to travel abroad without male escorts — both of which were part of the venerable Iraqi code of law.
Using this twisted logic, no country could legally rescind a former regime’s laws, no matter how corrupt, genocidal or repressive they may be. I fear Singh’s Iraq would be little different than that which the United States toppled.
Keith Urbahn ’06
April 8, 2004