Donald Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani on Sunday claimed that “anything’s legal” during war, including the theft of private property.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Giuliani said that the United States should have seized oil fields in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, to prevent the resource from falling into the hands of terrorists.
It is a position that Trump has argued for years, but it has only garnered serious attention since the former reality TV star became the Republican nominee for president.
Asked why such a move would not amount to theft, Giuliani scoffed. “Of course it’s legal,” he said. “It’s a war. Until the war is over, anything’s legal.”
This is patently false. The seizure of private property in war has been prohibited under international law for more than a century.
That Giuliani, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney, would dismiss decades of international law was unexpected, but it was in keeping with Giuliani’s recent adoption of many of Trump’s most unsubstantiated claims.
The tenor and tone of Giuliani’s media appearances on behalf of Trump have caused a number of his former colleagues to worry publicly that the former mayor of New York is throwing away his legacy.
Giuliani went on to claim that Trump never meant that the United States should have literally removed Iraq’s chief natural resource from the country, only that American troops should have remained in Iraq to ensure it was divided up evenly. “Leave a force back there and take [the oil] and make sure it’s distributed in a proper way,” he told Stephanopoulos.
“If that oil wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have the Islamic State,” Giuliani continued. “That oil is what makes the Islamic State so rich. Had we held that oil, made sure that it was equitably distributed within Iraq, we [could] have some say, some control over the distribution of it.”
For Trump, however, the notion of taking Iraq’s oil has always held an appeal as a sort of plunder. Speaking to Stephanopoulos in 2011, Trump explained: “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. ... You’re not stealing anything. ... We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves.”
On the presidential campaign trail, Trump has moderated his statements, leaving out the part about Iraq reimbursing the United States for the cost of our blundered invasion of their country.