During a Monday afternoon speech in Youngstown, Ohio, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump argued that the United States should have carried out what almost certainly would have amounted to a war crime.
Trump argued that during the U.S. war in Iraq, the United States should have taken the Middle Eastern nation’s abundant oil reserves and used the profits to pay the families of dead and wounded soldiers. “In the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils,” he shouted to applause.
P.R. nightmare aside, there’s a very good reason the Bush and Obama administrations did not just take Iraq’s oil: doing so would have violated several treaties ratified by the Unites States and constituted a war crime.
The U.S. may have kept the spoils of war “in the old days,” but not since 1907. The Hague Conventions banned the seizure of enemy property except when absolutely necessary. Article 23 (g) in particular states that it is “especially forbidden” to “destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.” Given the U.S. military’s extensive resources– and that Trump wanted to use the proceeds to pay widows– it’s hard to argue that seizing Iraqi oil would have been a military necessity.
U.S law defines a war crime in part as any conduct “prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907.” Trump’s proposal would have therefore been in violation not just of international law, but U.S. law as well.
It’s also possible Trump’s proposal would violate the Geneva Conventions. Article 33 of the 1949 convention, to which the United States is also a signatory, states simply that “pillage is prohibited.” Article 28 of the 1907 Hague Conventions likewise holds that, “The pillage of a town or place, even when taken by assault, is prohibited.”
[Image via screengrab]
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