St. Mary's Law Journal


Oil, modern history’s most “powerful” natural economic resource stood at the epicenter of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and became the latest unconventional weapon of warfare. The objective of this Article is to assess the legal implications of this recent environmental warfare involving the “oil weapon,” the first of its kind in recorded history. The experiences from national and international wars demonstrate one sure victim of wars, even barring human losses, is the environment. The delicacy of mankind’s planetary ecosystem necessitates urgency addressed to protecting the environment in the international struggle for arms control and disarmament agreement. This Article indicates Kuwait, the worst victim of the Persian Gulf environmental warfare, may sustain a claim against Iraq for damage resulting from Iraq’s act of environmental warfare. The reality is none of the existing treaties relating to this matter are satisfactory for dealing with the ramifications of the legal problems generated by this environmental warfare. In conclusion, it is strongly suggested the United Nations General Assembly, without further delay, adopt a resolution expressly condemning this Iraqi act of environmental warfare. It should condemn it as a war of aggression, an international crime, and a contravention of the principles and objectives of the U.N. Charter, international treaties, and customary international law. Certainly, it does not make for a good precedent for the United Nations to remain silent on this direct issue of environmental warfare. The United Nations should not treat it as an incidental matter if Iraq and other nations are to be deterred from committing similar crimes against the environment and the interest of mankind in the future.


St. Mary's University School of Law