Apropos my comments on Iraq’s debt, and specifically whether it couldn’t be repudiated simply on the basis that the tyranny that incurred them was out of power, I’ve apparently raised some eyebrows. While my PhD is in international relations, I’m by no means an expert in international law.

A bit of research reminds me that there is a longstanding doctrine called odious debt that may be applicable.

The short answer would seem to be that some of the debt is still enforceable against the successor government: that spent for their own good. So, if Saddam borrowed money to, say, build an electric generating plant for the good of the citizenry, the new regime would be responsible. If he spent it on palaces for himself, they likely wouldn’t.

Update (1529): Some folks at WSJ beat me to this one by a few months.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DANEgerus says:

    None who did business with Saddam did so with clean-hands. Money owed on these debts bought death and subjugation for the Iraqi people and that nation’s neighbors. Many of these transactions were made in spite of international law and UN agreements banning such trade. I say the Iraqi people should not owe Saddam’s bloodmoney and any who extended that butcher credit deserve to lose.