February 10, 2004

Oil-For-Food

At long last the light of day is starting to shine on the corruption of the U.N. Oil-For-Food program in Iraq. What has long smelled rotten now looks to have indeed been rotten, as Therese Raphael reports in Monday's Opinion Journal article. Ms. Raphael is editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, and her report is a follow-up to the disclosures within the last two weeks of lists of individuals and organizations that were bribed by the Saddam regime with vouchers for the sale of oil, all run neatly through the U.N. program.

And it's not surprising that it turns out the countries opposing regime change last year, and those doing the most business with Saddam, were the ones most prominently represented on the list of Saddam's payees. Here's an excerpt from the Raphael article:

The list reads like an official registry of Friends of Saddam across some 50 countries. It's clear where his best, best friends were. There are 11 entries under France (totaling 150.8 million barrels of crude), 14 names under Syria (totaling 116.9 million barrels) and four pages detailing Russian recipients, with voucher allocations of over one billion barrels. Many of the names, transliterated phonetically from Arabic, are not well-known or are difficult to identify from the information given. Others stand out. There's George Galloway, the Saddam-supporting British MP recently expelled from the Labour Party, who has always denied receiving any form of payment from Saddam. Other notables include Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri (also listed separately as the "daughter of President Sukarno"), the PLO, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Russian Orthodox Church, the "director of the Russian President's office" and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua.

Wasn't there oversight of the program by U.N. officials? You betcha there was:

One of the most eye-catching names on the list is easy to miss as it's the sole entry under a country one would not normally associate with Iraq--Panama. The entry says: "Mr. Sevan." That's the same name as that of the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Benon V. Sevan, a Cyprus-born, New York-educated career U.N. officer who was tapped by Kofi Annan in October 1997 to run the oil-for-food program.

Neat. Clean. And people wonder why Americans don't trust the U.N.

A few bloggers have been persistent in calling for information and investigation of Oil-For-Food, Roger Simon notable among them. In his post on the subject yesterday, he wonders where all of the "Robert Woodwards" are on this story that begs for investigative reporting. Good question.

As he was on the Saddam-Al Qaeda connections, Stephen Hayes has been the exception to the rule in professional journalism on the story of Saddam's Cash. Hayes documents Saddam's long history of influence-buying, which has included politicians (Galloway), journalists, and diplomats, as well as foreign corporations and political organizations.

So where is the media on this story? Sorry. This information butts heads with the "Bush acted unilaterally in the invasion of Iraq" theme. If his principal foreign opposition is proven to have been utterly corrupt, taking cash directly from Saddam, and the ranking U.N. official overseeing Oil-For-Food is shown to have had his hand in the till as well, that might reflect favorably on President Bush and the action that he took in Iraq. 'Nuff said?

Posted by dan at February 10, 2004 8:51 PM