Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by NewGuy, Apr 23, 2004.
Interesting... but not surprising.
It's about time that the European media start reporting on this story. Finally the mainstream media here too is investigating and reporting.
This is the same UN that John Kerry wants to apologize to.
The UN's Oil-for-Fraud Programme
By Mark Steyn
The Daily Telegraph | April 26, 2004
'War without the UN is unthinkable," huffed The Guardian's Polly Toynbee a year ago, just before it happened. For a certain type of person, any action on the international scene without the UN is unthinkable. And, conversely, anything that happens under the UN imprimatur is mostly for the unthinking.
No matter how corrupt and depraved it is in practice, the organisation's sunny utopian image endures. Say the initials "UN" to your average member of Ms Toynbee's legions of the unthinking and they conjure up not UN participation in the sex-slave trade in Bosnia, nor the UN refugee extortion racket in Kenya, nor the UN cover-up of the sex-for-food scandal in West Africa, nor UN complicity in massacres, but some misty Unesco cultural event compered by the late Sir Peter Ustinov featuring photogenic children.
So the question now is whether the UN Oil-for-Food programme is just another of those things that slip down the memory hole, and we all go back to parroting the lullaby that "only the UN can bring legitimacy to Iraq/Afghanistan/Your Basket Case Here". Legitimacy seems to be the one thing the UN doesn't bring, and I'm not just talking about the love-children of UN-enriched Balkan hookers in Kosovo.
The scale of the UN Oil-for-Fraud programme is way beyond any of the corporate scandals that so excite the progressive mind. Oil-for-Food was designed to let the Iraqi government sell a limited amount of oil in return for food and other necessities for its people. Between 1996 and 2003, Saddam did more than $100 billion of business, all of it approved by Kofi Annan's Secretariat.
In return, by their own official figures, $15 billion of food and health supplies was sent to Iraq. What proportion of this reached the sick and malnourished Iraqi children is anybody's guess. Coalition troops discovered stockpiles of UN food far from starving moppets. But let us assume there is an innocent explanation. Even so, by the UN's own account, Oil-for-Food seemed to involve an awful lot of oil for not much food.
Where did all the other billions go? According to Kofi Annan himself, some $31 billion went on other "humanitarian" spending for Iraq. Such as? Well, in 2002, the Secretary-General expanded the programme to cover other "humanitarian" categories such as "sport", "information", "justice" and "labour and social affairs".
In Iraq, "sport" meant Uday's rape rooms, and "justice" meant a mass grave out in the desert, but that is not to say there weren't attendant expenses involved. So Kofi himself directly approved such "humanitarian" items as $20 million for an "Olympic sport city" (state-of-the-art rape rooms) and $50 million for Iraq's Ministry of Information.
As the US Defence Contract Management Agency's report put it after the liberation, "Some items of questionable utility for the Iraqi people (eg, Mercedes-Benz touring sedans) were identified". The Jordanian supplier of school furniture had to be let go on the grounds that he didn't exist.
At the UN they were taken aback by this impertinent auditing by US government agencies. At Enron, you have to run the books past Arthur Andersen. But at UNron you don't need to hire even a ledger clerk. That total of $46 billion - 15 for food, 31 for Ba'ath Party interior decorating - is Kofi's best guess, and he expects us to take his word for it.
True, he approved some scrutiny. All Oil-for-Food shipments into Iraq had to be inspected - initially by Lloyd's Register of London, but in 1998 they were let go and replaced by a Swiss company, who had on the payroll a consultant by the name of Kojo Annan, son of Kofi. Hmm.
So far all this is just UN business as usual - venal and wasteful, albeit on a larger scale than ever before. But even by their own revolting standards the UN crossed a line.
A programme created to allow the world to constrain Saddam appears to have become instead the means by which Saddam constrained the world. Oil-for-Food gave him a free hand to reward well-connected French and Russian suppliers. He ran the programme by selling cut-price vouchers for Iraqi oil to politicians and bureaucrats, which they could then offload on the world markets at the going rate.
Among the alleged beneficiaries were senior French politicians and Russia's "office of the President". According to documentation found in the Oil Ministry in Baghdad, recipients of Saddam's generosity included the man Annan picked to run Oil-for-Food, the UN under-secretary-general Benon Sevan, who got enough oil to make himself a nice illegal profit of $3.5 million.
In other words, Oil-for-Fraud is everything the Left said the war was: it was all about oil - for Benon Sevan, the UN, France, Russia and the others who had every incentive to maintain Saddam in power. Every Halliburton invoice to the Pentagon is audited to the last penny, but Saddam can use Kofi Annan's office as a front for a multi-billion dollar global kickback scheme and, until it was brought to public attention by the tireless Claudia Rosett of The Wall Street Journal and a few other persistent types, the Secretary-General apparently never noticed.
Mr Sevan has now returned to New York from Australia. The lethargic Aussie press had made little effort to run him to ground because the notion that lifelong UN bureaucrats could be at the centre of a web of massive fraud at the expense of starving Iraqi urchins is just too, too "unthinkable" for much of the media.
So the conventional wisdom stays conventional - that we need to get the UN back into Iraq. No we don't. Iraq deserves better than an organisation which spent the last six years as Saddam's collaborator. As Claudia Rosett put it, "We are left to contemplate a UN system that has engendered a Secretary-General either so dishonest that he should be dismissed or so incompetent that he is truly dangerous and should be dismissed."
He should be, but he almost certainly won't be. After all, it is hardly his fault. When he set up the show, who would have thought that one day there would be US auditors in Baghdad? Why, it was, as Polly Toynbee would say, "unthinkable".
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