Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 August 2011
It is clear from the discussion in the preface that there is support in the basic notions of international law (e.g., ex injuria, postliminium, and the laws of war), and in that portion of national law regarding international transactions that become mixed up with military hostilities and occupation, generally preferring the claims of creditors to those of debtor states. As might be imagined regarding Iraqi debt, various theories and defenses can be advanced to blunt the attempts to work those notions so as to recover from Iraqi oil and gas – and revenues from their sale – what is owed to legal claimants. Almost immediately after the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, a particular defensive theory designed to insulate Iraq from creditors was voiced repeatedly: “odious debt.” Given that the theory extends only to debts incurred by a previous regime for unsavory purposes, relative to Iraq, it was limited in its applicability to Saddam-era debts. In raising “odious debt,” the idea was to shift the discussion dynamics and situate the claims for relief against Iraq in a legal milieu outside that which normally would expect creditors to have their claims fully satisfied.
The motivations associated with voicing the theory may be debated, but a number of different factors apparently contributed to that fact.