Skip to comments.The UN confronts its biggest scandal
Posted on 11/26/2004 3:11:27 PM PST by naturalman1975
Saddam Hussein's regime poisoned everything it touched - including the United Nations, writes Tony Parkinson.
The United Nations oil-for-food program was supposed to be a humanitarian exercise to cushion the long-suffering Iraqi people from the effects of sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime. There is now compelling evidence that it became something very different - something very sinister.
Two US congressional investigations have begun to fill in the gaps on how Saddam co-opted for his own purposes a program designed to prevent Iraqi children being denied basic food and medicines. Through a lack of UN oversight, oil-for-food became a filthy swamp of corruption and sleaze. The US Senate Governmental Affairs Committee reports that Saddam embezzled at least $27 billion from the program and used this gigantic slush fund not only to build new palaces, but to smuggle banned goods into Iraq, and to bribe willing accomplices to support his efforts to undermine the UN-imposed sanctions regime.
A Syrian journalist was paid almost $2 million in illicit oil profits to serve as a mouthpiece in the public campaign in the Arab world to rail against sanctions as a genocide of the Iraqi people. A Scottish engineering firm agreed to pay more than $10 million in kickbacks to a front company - while overcharging the UN - after Saddam's regime threatened to scrap its supply contracts.
These are but two examples of Saddam's "reward and punish" strategy. But as Republican senator Norm Coleman asks pointedly: "How high up does the corruption go?"
Oil-for-food has become the biggest financial scandal in the UN's history. Senior officials are under intense scrutiny. The UN has been known for decades to play host to pockets of patronage and cronyism, but never before has it been linked to fraud on this scale.
Benon Sevan, the director of the oil-for-food program, continues to deny he profited from oil vouchers allocated in his name. He, like others, will be awaiting anxiously an interim report, expected by January, from a UN-appointed inquiry.
It's bad enough for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that somebody he appointed to a position of trust may be implicated. But what has most besmirched the UN's reputation is the accusation it was linked organically to a multibillion-dollar scam set up to sustain the Iraqi dictator in power.
The question is where this sordid money trail might lead - not just at the UN, but in the government and business elites of leading powers on the Security Council.
Individuals named so far as recipients of "oil vouchers" - enabling them to take up options on discounted Iraqi oil, which could then be on-sold at world market prices - include former French interior minister Charles Pasqua, ultra-nationalist Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, anti-war British MP George Galloway, and former Indonesian president Megawati Soekarnoputri.
The campaign to expose the oil-for-food scandal is being driven by Republicans in Washington, surly and resentful at what they see as a grudging and half-hearted commitment by the UN to help in the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.
But rather just than pinning the tail on the UN donkey, what must also be recognised is that the US itself was among the states assigned responsibility for overseeing the scheme. So the question to be asked is not just who was to blame, but who can claim to be blameless.
One explanation for the lack of rigour is that even if officials knew Saddam was rorting the system, it was always going to be problematic and time-consuming to pore over the fine print of thousands of contracts, unpacking tonnes of imports to establish that the contents matched precisely the bill of goods. Remember, the publicly stated priority was to get food and medicine to Iraqi families.
But maybe it was all about oil, after all, although in nothing like the way some critics of the war in Iraq would care to imagine. According to the former chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, Baghdad had an explicit strategy from 1998 on of creating divisions on the Security Council by pressuring Russia, France and China (along with non-permanent members such as Ukraine and Syria) to bring about the end to sanctions.
The regime targeted naked self-interest, and the equation was as crude as this: if you do not want the profits from cut-price oil concessions, or lucrative supply contracts, there will always be others ready to co-operate. In his testimony, Duelfer put it tersely but tidily: "Saddam's regime depended not on bringing out the best in people, rather in promoting the worst. It poisoned everything it touched."
Tony Parkinson is international editor of The Age.
The instant this is proved, I want to see people in prison. Not cushy white-collar prisons, but real prisons, with real criminals. The people involved in these crimes are criminals of the lowest sort, and should be treated as such.
It is interesting to note;
Satan works with the same technique. Coincidence?
Kofi "Holier Than Thou" Annan and son: wait till the likes of Mandela, Jackson, and Glover shield this father and son criminal act with counter-charges of racism.
Does anyone know the procedure for calling for the resignation of Kofi Anan?
Strange, I've never considered sweeping something under the rug as confronting it.
Main Entry: con·front
Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Middle French confronter to border on, confront, from Medieval Latin confrontare to bound, from Latin com- + front-, frons forehead, front
Date: circa 1568
1 : to face especially in challenge : OPPOSE
2 a : to cause to meet : bring face-to-face
b : to meet face-to-face : ENCOUNTER
a canuck says that it must now be clear to even the vacuous one, dan rather and... .oh heck....even elephant butt moore that some high profile un heavy weights were stonewalling,prevaricating,stalling,misleading...it goes on and on like a bubba clinton resume... and that this was a deliberate and last ditch attempt to suppress evidence of this outrageous fraud by european and third world thugs and crooks...i agree..some serious butt kicking needs to happen...but don't hold your breath...bc boy
I recall reading the other day that the perment UN staff has called for him to step down.
Take away his parking place and his limo, that's a good start.LOL
"Through a lack of UN oversight oil-for-food became a filthy
swamp of corruption and sleaze."
How about "BECAUSE of UN oversight........"?
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