Skip to comments.The sordid truth about the oil-for-food scandal
Posted on 10/09/2004 4:31:37 PM PDT by MadIvan
So now we know the truth. Forget the row about Saddam's non-existent weapons stockpiles. That, after all, should never have been the justification for war in the first place. The proper casus belli for regime change in Baghdad was Saddam's non-compliance with 17 United Nations resolutions over a period of more than 12 years.
The real scandal contained in the long-awaited report of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) that was published last week concerns the fecklessness of the United Nations, not to mention the treacherous conduct of some of its security council members, in its dealings with Saddam's regime between the end of the 1991 Gulf war and last year's Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In the diplomatic build-up to last year's war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, the two most vociferous opponents of military action were Russia and France. Even though Presidents Putin and Chirac reluctantly signed up to UN Security Council resolution 1441 in November 2002 - which threatened Saddam with "serious consequences" if he did not fully comply - they were at the forefront of the international campaign to block military action.
At the time it was felt that their main motivation was to protect their lucrative trade ties with Baghdad. In late 2002, Saddam still owed the Russians some $10 billion, mainly for illegal arms deals. France came next in the trade rankings.
Even so, Moscow and Paris tried to claim that they were opposing the war as a matter of principle. That was certainly the impression Mr Chirac sought to give when he announced that he would veto any second UN resolution that authorised military action. Mr Putin also opposed the invasion of Iraq and, just as hostilities were about to commence, even dispatched Yevgeny Primakov, his trusty former KGB colleague, to Baghdad on a last-ditch mission to persuade Saddam to comply and avoid war.
Thanks to the efforts of the ISG team, we now know that there was another, even less palatable, explanation for their duplicity. Far from seeking to protect their lucrative trade ties, the real explanation for the opposition of France and Russia to the war was that both countries' political establishments were deeply implicated in a lucrative scam to divert the profits of the UN's oil-for-food programme into their own private coffers.
From the moment the oil-for-food programme was introduced in 1996, Saddam concentrated all his energies on attempting to subvert it. The complex oil-for-food programme was introduced so that the profits from UN-supervised Iraqi oil sales would pay for essential healthcare supplies. The programme was conceived, it should be remembered, to counter the mounting effectiveness of the propaganda campaign of hard-Left activists such as George Galloway, the former Labour MP, who argued that the wide-ranging UN sanctions introduced following the Gulf war were responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi children.
But as the ISG report clearly demonstrates, Saddam skilfully worked the system so that the profits were diverted to fund his regime rather than feed his people. An important element of this fraud was that a significant percentage of the funds was diverted to set up a voucher system that could be used to bribe a wide network of international politicians who could be counted upon to do Saddam's bidding.
Between them, France and Russia received 45 per cent of the vouchers, with China coming third. In late 2002 and early 2003, France, Russia and China led the anti-war movement at the UN. In France, the vouchers were given to a number of politicians with close links to Mr Chirac, while in Russia they were paid directly to Mr Putin's private office, providing him with his own ready-made slush fund.
Saddam's clever manipulation of the voucher system was a brilliant success: it not only caused a deep split within the security council, it helped him to make irrelevant the much-vaunted policy of containment that was supposed to prevent him from re-emerging as a dominant force the the Middle East. It also enabled him to fund illicit imports of weapons and the technology needed to resume production of weapons of mass destruction, which was his declared aim once the sanctions had been lifted.
By November 2001 - just two months after the 9/11 attacks - Saddam was so confident of breaking the UN's sanctions stranglehold that Baghdad hosted a trade fair that attracted hundreds of foreign companies in the expectation that they would soon be able to establish lucrative trade links with Saddam's regime. As Charles Duelfer, the author of the ISG report commented, by 2001 Saddam's "long struggle to outlast the containment policy seemed tantalisingly close".
The 9/11 attacks ended his hopes of survival as the West, or rather Washington and London, finally found the will to force the Iraqi leader to comply with the ceasefire obligations that he committed himself to at the end of the first Gulf war.
While the ISG report provides embarrassing reading for all those who actively participated in Saddam's scam, the real victim is the UN itself, whose claim to the moral high ground when confronting rogue regimes and dictators now lies in tatters.
Indeed, the failure of the UN to confront the error of its ways - Kofi Annan, the secretary-general, still refuses to make public the findings of his oil-for-food inquiry - poses a serious problem for those countries that remain committed to prosecuting the war on terror.
The sanctions regime against Saddam may have been a failure, but the threat of sanctions nevertheless remains an important first step in trying to persuade rogue states to reform. If Iran, for example, continues to defy the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear programme, the logical response would be for the UN to impose sanctions against Teheran. But after the UN's Iraq debacle, it is highly unlikely that anyone - least of all Iran - could take such a threat seriously.
The bad thing about it is that the President can't say anything about it for diplomatic reasons. And Kerry puts
their priorities before he would defend our country.
France has been taking shots at America since WWII and they
want to go back to Napoleonic Times when they were important.
thanks, ivan. Maybe I'll just subscribe to the Sunday Tel
We should also send the UN physically out of the US. I'm beyond pissed that they're planning to build this corrupt colossus an brand new grander headquarters in NYC. We should give the occupants of the current building 72 hours to evacuate, and then topple the thing into the East River.
Since they're moving HQ anyway, why not move to Syria or Iran (or better yet, Gaza)? After all, the old cliche is 'Go where your customers are.'
Great article MadIvan. How is this story playing in Britain? Pres. Bush is in a tricky situation here because the U.N. is supposed to help with Iraqi elections (they would never be trusted if we were in control of them) and so he is not mentioning this scandal.
The media should be reporting this story, but mum is the word around here because it undercuts so many of Kerry's arguments. The day the report came out in Congress this week the msm literally reported one sentence--no weapons of mass distruction!! This was followed with the line "more bad news for Bush".
Our media is not even trying to fake professionalism during this election period and has gotten caught at NBC with the fake documents smearing Bush and now the ABC document saying basically Kerry distorts, but Bush is worse so don't be evenhanded when criticizing. That translates to me that they are scared that even with the media in Kerry's pocket and lots of cheating lined up to add extra Kerry votes, Bush could still win. They are literally coming unhinged that their power over public opinion has eroded so much. I really would like to hear how P.M.Blair is faring with the public. Thanks.
As much as it frustrates our left wing media, Blair is secure in power; there simply is no credible alternative to his leadership.
I'm seeing a slow, but inevitable shift in our media to the reality of a Bush victory.
The old media still rules over the minds and the votes of MOST voters in this country. There is trouble ahead!
The real truth of the sordid oil-for-food scandal is not known by (estimate) 95% of American voters.
There is trouble ahead!
If George does not make this scandal clear in the next debate .......... he just may lose this election!
The old, ruthless, evil/socialist/Dem/commie/anti-American media will not tell the truth! George MUST do it. Will he?
Online Telegraph encompasses both the Daily and Sunday editions. They were one of the first major 'papers to publish an online edition and best of all it's still free.
They used to have (may still have) a Weekly Telegraph printed edition for overseas subscribers.
The Times/Sunday Times was great until it became subscription only for IP addresses they decided originated outside the UK. Luckily MadIvan has returned & posts the good stuff for us :)
Drudge has most of the UK newspaper links.
I am in agreement with you about what the diplomatic delays cost us in finding out the truth about the weapons. Our soldiers were on hold off shore while France threatened Turkey if they helped us they would never enter the EU, equipment on the ships was being damaged and officers were saying you cannot leave the troops in limbo for long because it effects battle readiness, and it was costing the U.S. millions while the delays dragged on.
My theory is Iraq and its allies at the U.N. had a pretty smart plan to make sure Blix never found anything and that their kickbacks would keep coming from the oil for food program. All they needed was time to move things into Syria and the Saddam apologists did an admirable job of throwing up time consuming roadblocks and signing a resolution they never intended to enforce.
Why wouldn't Saddam just let inspectors in and be totally open if he really didn't have any stockpiles left? He would have kept his country, sanctions would have been lifted, and the thugs that admired him would just think he was super smart to fool everyone. The caravan that went into Syria prior to the war has never been explained that I know of and I for one do not feel confident that biological and/or chemical weapons aren't being hidden in Syria or elsewhere until they can be used against the U.S. or its allies. It wouldn't need to be large stockpiles--'a little dab will do ya' when it comes to many of the weapons like that.
It would have been in keeping with Saddam's character to dispose of every man that took the weapons out of the country once they were hidden safely. I just don't buy every intelligence agency we know of felt there were some weapons there--even Middle Eastern ones which would have had much better access than we did, but they were all mistaken. Maybe I will change my mind later, but for now that's how I see it.
That is great news! I have so much respect for Tony Blair. I could care less that he would be considered a democrat in this country, he is a good leader and has stood firm in this war on terror. I think he and Pres.Bush have a close friendship after all the responsibility on their shoulders and the difficult decisions they have had to make plus I just think they have a deep respect for each other.
Kerry-Kennedy-Kofi: Axis of Geopolitical Evil