Donald Trump, Pirate-in-Chief
By Robin Wright
By Robin Wright
Donald Trump has had a fixation on Iraq’s oil—and America’s right to seize it—for at least six years. In 2011, he told a Fox News producer that the U.S. should “take the oil.” It was a common theme on the campaign trail last year. “We go in, we spent three trillion dollars. We lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then look what happens is we get nothing. You know, it used to be the victor belong the spoils,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today Show,” in September. “There was no victor there, believe me. There was no victory. But I always said, ‘Take the oil.’ “
During his first week in office, Trump has twice repeated the claim—and alluded to a new opportunity to do just that. “Maybe you’ll have another chance,” he said, in unscripted remarks at the C.I.A., on his first full day in office. Four days later, ABC’s David Muir pressed him on what he meant. “We’re gonna see what happens,” the President said. “You know, I told you, and I told everybody else that wants to talk when it comes to the military, I don’t wanna discuss things.” The Administration is now reviewing options to be more aggressive, in both Iraq and Syria, against the Islamic State.
The reaction, from Washington to Baghdad, has been outrage—and bewilderment. “What he’s talking about is theft, pure and simple,” Robert Goldman, a professor at American University who has taught the laws of war for four decades, told me. “We have no right, and never had a right, even as an occupier, to take their oil. So what he is talking about is patently illegal under the laws of war, under which we are bound.”