The GOP front-runner said he'd like to pillage all of Iraq's oil for America. Unfortunately for him, that's illegal.
The long dead (but dearly missed) Spy magazine had a famous unwritten policy of referring to Donald Trump as a "short-fingered vulgarian" whenever they mentioned the controversial real estate mogul. Who knew they should have also called him a greedy, looting pirate as well?
In a wildly underreported interview with ABC's George Stephonopoulos, Trump, who has yet to say if he's actually going to run for president on the Republican ticket, outright told Stephonopoulos that he'd steal Iraq's oil if he were in charge:
Trump: George, let me explain something to you. We go into Iraq. We have spent thus far, $1.5 trillion. We could have rebuilt half of the United States. $1.5 trillion. And we’re going to then leave. So, in the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils. You go in. You win the war and you take it.
Stephanopoulos: It would take hundreds of thousands of troops to secure the oil fields.
Trump: Excuse me. No, it wouldn’t at all.
Stephanopoulos: So, we steal an oil field?
Trump: Excuse me. You’re not stealing. Excuse me. You’re not stealing anything. You’re taking--we’re reimbursing ourselves--at least, at a minimum, and I say more. We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves.\n
According to the 1907 Hague Convention, "pillaging," the stealing of valuable goods from a locality, especially during combat, is a war crime, regardless of what you feel you deserve. In the Hague's exact words: "The pillage of a town or place, even when taken by assault, is prohibited."
Now, to be fair, this statute was enacted during a different time in history, when it was common practice for world armies to take over cities and then supplement their combat pay by looting jewels, silverware, and other valuables. The law's main focus probably wasn't natural resources, and its intention was most likely to prevent common military pillages like that of 1992, when Thomas Goltz reported seeing "heisted televisions, radios, refrigerators, carpets, and chairs" in a war in the Caucasus. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a precedent for people stealing natural resources during wartime, and later being prosecuted for it.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone is currently in the midst of prosecuting a number of people for illegally selling diamonds in that country's civil war. And in October 2010, hundreds of experts met at the Hague to discuss the research paper Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting Pillage of Natural Resources. Though the paper's central target was corporations trafficking in illegally obtained resources, and thereby fueling violent militias, there's certainly a clear case to be made that entire nations could be guilty of raping the land of a defeated enemy. In fact, following WWII, a British claim over crude oil captured during conflict as "munitions-de-guerre"—a legal way to obtain resources in war—was quickly struck down (PDF):
In rejecting the British government’s claim that the crude oil they had recaptured constituted munitions-de-guerre, the court drew on a passage contained in the then British Manual of Military Law that rightly defined the term munitions-de-guerre as "such things as are susceptible of direct military use." On the strength of this definition, the court ruled that the need for sophisticated installations and considerable processing to extract and refine the oil meant that the crude oil failed to qualify as "arms or ammunition which could be used against the enemy in fighting."\n
As of April 15, 2011, Donald Trump was leading the rest of the potential GOP presidential candidates by nine points. If a reality TV star who intends to turn respectable U.S. soldiers into looting thugs is the best the GOP has, President Obama can probably go ahead and start writing his second inaugural address right now.