I would’ve liked to have been a fly on the wall at the United Nations building last month…

As a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana these many years, I deal every day with asking the court to discharge debts. The way the Indiana bankruptcy court functions, in addition to supervising the repayment of debts and overseeing the process of selling a debtor’s assets to pay creditors, the court can rule that certain debts are forgiven, or “discharged”. During the process, there is an “automatic stay” in effect that prevents creditors from making any collection efforts or even contacting the debtor. Well, last month, Iraq appealed to the United Nations to have nearly one hundred billion dollars worth of its debt “discharged”. This appeal was made before nearly 500 delegates to the U.N..

Unlike the kinds of business and personal debts I deal with every day in my work as a bankruptcy lawyer in Indiana, the debt owed by Iraq is owed to countries (mostly to Arab nations), rather than to individuals or companies or to the IRS. Most of Iraq’s debt was incurred during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Two thirds of this money is owed to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, with the remaining third of the debt owed to Kuwait because of Iraq’s 1990 invasion of that country. Well, the creditor countries aren’t buying into this “discharging” of debt” idea. While many Western nations have forgiven Iraqi debts, Iraq’s Arab neighbors are apparently fearful of the Iraqi government, and don’t want to make things any easier for that feared regime.

Needless to say, in this situation there’s no Indiana bankruptcy court judge with the power to help Iraq out of its dilemma, and the appeal to the U.N. member countries apparently fell totally flat. Without appearing in any way to boast, I can’t resist noting that my appeals on behalf of my Indiana bankruptcy clients are typically more successful in the Indiana bankruptcy court system than Nouri–al-Maliki’s were at the United Nations!