The U.N. Oil for Food scandal

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by MtnBiker, Mar 23, 2004.

  1. MtnBiker
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    MtnBiker Senior Member

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    The U.N. Oil for Food scandal

    First of two parts.

    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry complains that President Bush pursued a unilateralist foreign policy that gave short shrift to the concerns of the United Nations and our allies when it came to taking military action against Saddam Hussein. But the mounting evidence of scandal that has been uncovered in the U.N. Oil For Food program suggests that there was never a serious possibility of getting Security Council support for military action because influential people in Russia and France were getting paid off by Saddam. After the fall of Baghdad last spring, France and Russia tried to delay the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and continue the Oil for Food program. That's because France and Russia profited from it: The Times of London calculated that French and Russian companies received $11 billion worth of business from Oil for Food between 1996 and 2003.
    Most disturbing are Iraqi records that suggest Benon Sevan, the executive director of the Oil for Food office, received a voucher for 11.5 million barrels of oil from Saddam's manipulation of the program — enough to yield a profit of between $575,000 and $3.5 million.
    In a series of articles published earlier this year, the Iraqi independent newspaper al Mada reported on a list of several hundred individuals, corporations and political parties that benefited from Saddam's oil vouchers and explained how the system worked. The intent of the program was to sell Iraqi oil to pay for food and medicine for the Iraqi people, who were suffering due to sanctions. Instead, vouchers were doled out as gifts or as payment for goods imported into the country in violation of U.N. sanctions. The recipient would then turn the voucher over to one of a number of firms operating in the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for commissions ranging anywhere from 5 cents to 30 cents per barrel, depending on market conditions. (This translates into a profit of $50,000 on the low end and $300,000 on the high end for every 1 million barrels worth of oil vouchers.)
    The beneficiary list (found in the archives of the Iraqi Oil Ministry and translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute) should be deeply embarrassing to many prominent people. In the United States, those listed include Iraqi American businessman Shaker Al-Khaffaji, who put up $400,000 to produce a film by ex-U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, which aimed to discredit weapons inspections in Iraq. Also, British Labor MP George Galloway, a strident foe of taking action against Saddam, is listed as a recipient or co-recipient of 19.5 million barrels.
    Other recipients include: former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua (12 million barrels); Patrick Maugein, CEO of the oil company Soco International and financial backer of French President Jacques Chirac (25 million); former French Ambassador to the United Nations Jean-Bernard Merimee (11 million); Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri (10 million); and Syrian businessman Farras Mustafa Tlass, the son of longtime Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass (6 million). Leith Shbeilat, chairman of the anti-corruption committee of the Jordanian Parliament, received 15.5 million.
    Right now, Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a British investigator, is auditing the program on behalf of the Iraqi government. His findings, and the records reported on in the Iraqi press, deserve serious scrutiny. If it turns out that prominent politicians and businessmen profiteered while Iraqis were deprived of basic necessities that the Oil for Food program was supposed to pay for, there should be serious consequences, up to and including criminal prosecution.
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  2. MtnBiker
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    The U.N. Oil for Food scandal


    Second of two parts.
    Yesterday, we noted the growing scandal in the U.N. Oil for Food program and the fact that billions of dollars that were supposed to provide food and medical care to the Iraqi people were used by Saddam Hussein to bribe powerful people around the world into opposing sanctions against his regime. Today, we focus on the one positive result of the scandal: It has begun to cause some in the Arab world to take a more introspective look at the behavior of Arabs who took money from Saddam — and specifically, to examine whether the money caused them to remain silent while the dictator killed and brutalized millions of their fellow Arabs.
    While the Arab media have generally ignored the subject thus far, that has begun to change, according to materials recently translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). For example, Abd Al-Ghani Mahmoud, head of the International Law Department at Al-Azhar University in Egypt (a leading institution in the training of Islamic legal scholars), was blistering in his condemnation of those in the Arab world who profited from Saddam's largesse. "Those who have the instruments to influence their peoples — intellectuals, politicians, political parties or institutions — have become in some of these countries propaganda mouthpieces for a corrupt dictatorial regime which has dragged the whole region into oblivion," Mr. Mahmoud said in an interview published last month. He also said that "those who collected money from this regime, which destroyed its people with chemical weapons while enjoying a life of luxury in palaces during their sanctions, are partners in wronging the [Iraqi] people through their silence about the corruption. They must be punished morally by publishing their names and what they have received, so they will serve as an example for others."
    In the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassa, columnist Shaker Al-Nabulsi expressed his astonishment that Leith Shbeilat, an Islamist militant and member of the Jordanian parliament, was taking money from Saddam — a secularist who despised Muslim clerics and tortured and killed many of them. In an op-ed that ran in the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Salama Na'mat denounced Arab television and other media organs for showing little interest in the Oil for Food scandal: "The reality is that some Arab governments perhaps do not object that politicians and media people benefit from Saddam's bribes either because they are also involved or see no harm because it is a normal practice by the Arab regimes."
    Not everyone in the Arab media, however, has been in an introspective mood. Some have been downright defensive about the news that many in the Arab world were complicit in Saddam's abuses of the Oil for Food program. For example, in January, Faisal al Qassim, host of a program on Qatari-based Al-Jazeera television, suggested that abuse of the humanitarian program was qualitatively no different from the fact that opponents of Saddam were helped by the CIA. Then, last month, Al-Hayat published documents linking Mr. al Qassim to Saddam's intelligence operation.
    The silver lining in all this is the reality that abuses in the Oil for Food program are serving to discredit some of those who were complicit in tyranny in the Arab world.

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  3. Said1
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    Said1 VIP Member

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    i'm surprised this isn't getting more attention. I think the UN and the EU are two of the most corrupt organizations around, profitting from the suffering of others. I guess that's just me - oh, and you :D
     
  4. kcmcdonald
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    This probally will amount to nothing in the states and even less in Europe. This is rather unfortunate, because all those "the UN didn't want to go to war so why should have we?" people would be taken agasp by this revelation. The UN is suppossed to be this shinning example of the Future. It's the same old people doing the same old thing. Now there(UN) main goal is to stand in the way of the US, and fucking western Europe is helping them. What the hell happened in this world?
     
  5. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    I think this could be a scandal that eliminates or reforms the UN, I hope for the former. Like the League of Nations, it isn't the right forum in times of real conflict.

    There really is no way to 'use diplomacy' with facists.
     
  6. Said1
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    Said1 VIP Member

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    I agree, and I hope your right. I think the UN does a lot of good impelmenting other programs around the world, there are just too many ties to Euorpe in Iraq.
     
  7. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    I hope we're both right. Too many ties not only to Europe, but also Asia, the rest of Mid-East terror network, and Africa. No doubt, Saddam had to go.

    UN is very good at monitoring elections, at least letting the world know if they were fair or not. They are good at distributing humanitarian need. They cannot be trusted with $ however. They seem impotent in the face of violence, which is not an option with regimes like Saddam, North Korea, or even Bosnia.
     

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