Reparations That Are Now an Absurdity ; LEADING ARTICLE ++ IRAQ

Article excerpt

In the topsy-turvy world of international politics, Iraq, a nation in political and economic turmoil, has just paid more than $21.4bn ([pound]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 Nestle, Pepsi, Philip Morris, Sheraton, American Express, Kentucky Fried Chicken and even Toys R Us - not because Sad-dam 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. …