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October 18, 2003
Forgive the Iraqi Debt

Some facts about the massive amount of debt facing the Iraqi people underscore the despicable nature of the Senate decision to convert reconstruction funds to further debt:

Iraq's overall financial burden, according to the CSIS figures, is $383 billion.

Based on these figures, Iraq's financial obligations are 14 times its estimated annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $27 billion--a staggering $16,000 per person. Measured by the debt-to-GDP ratio, Iraq's financial burden is over 25 times greater than Brazil's or Argentina's, making Iraq the developing world's most indebted nation.

Bear in mind that all of this debt was accumulated under the auspices of Saddam Hussein, a great deal of it was accumulated during the sanctions, and a lot of it is owed to Arab nations. These governments, who have protested the war by loudly proclaiming brotherhood with the Iraqis, have been curiously silent on debt forgiveness for their brethren. (Also, as a side note, Islam forbids the charging of interest on loans, especially within Islam; I don't know if Arab governments are charging interest on the debt, but it would be very, very interesting to find out.) Arab governments aren't likely to forgive debt until the West sets an example, but that seems very unlikely now:

While Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged that Europe's leaders need to consider debt forgiveness, his French and German counterparts have steadfastly opposed it.

The estimated debt owed to European governments, while much smaller than that owed to Arab countries, is also of huge symbolic importance. The Europeans, among the world's richest and most powerful nations, have an historic opportunity to lead by example and help pave the way for debt forgiveness by the Arab world.

The article dates back to April 2003, and the likelihood of Europe forgiving its share of Iraqi debt after yesterday's terrible Senate action roughly equates to Jacques Chirac conducting a ticker-tape parade for George Bush through the Arc de Triomphe. Read the entire article -- there's plenty of allusions to the Versailles Treaty (which you think the French and Germans would recognize, for crying out loud), and good advice on how the West should proceed. (via QandO)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 18, 2003 3:30 PM

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