October 20, 2004

Kofi Annan and Pre-emptive Exoneration

Claudia Rosett dices and slices Kofi Annan's lame argument that Saddam couldn't have bought the U.N. Security Council votes of France, Russia and China:

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, finds it "inconceivable" that Russia, France or China might have been influenced in Security Council debates by Saddam Hussein's Oil for Food business and bribes. "These are very serious and important governments," Mr. Annan told Britain's ITV News Sunday. "You are not dealing with banana republics."

This has been Mr. Annan's chief response so far to the extensive documentation cited in the recent Iraq Survey Group report, from the CIA's Charles Duelfer, that under cover of the U.N.'s Oil for Food relief program Saddam was trying to buy up pals on the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Duelfer tells us that under the leaky U.N. sanctions and corrupt Oil for Food program, Saddam had already built the networks and was amassing the resources to rearm himself with weapons of mass destruction as soon as U.N. sanctions were entirely gone.

With the aim of shedding sanctions, Saddam, according to his regime's own records, was throwing billions in business and millions in bribes to France, Russia and, to a lesser extent, China, all veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council. As it happened, sanctions were indeed eroding, and these three nations opposed the decision of the U.S. and Britain that Saddam either had to shape up or be shipped out.

But in Mr. Annan's view, Saddam's oil money had nothing to do with it. Nobody buys the officials of France, Russia and China. They are serious and important.

... maybe that's how the world would appear to anyone dulled for decades by U.N. diplo-speak--and Mr. Annan has toiled there for 42 years. But in the modern world, the notion that Russia and China in no way qualify as banana republics might be news to the state-muffled media of both countries...

... Mr. Annan did not actually deny that the Chinese, Russians and French had taken big payoffs from Saddam. Mr. Annan merely disputed that the Chinese, Russians and French would have delivered anything in return for the bribes. In other words, they may be corrupt, but at least they weren't honest about it.

The Bush administration had to know when they went back to the U.N. in January of 2003, that there was no possible way France or Russia would vote to enforce Resolution 1441 and authorize regime change in Iraq by the U.S. military, given how they were being bribed by Saddam. In 2001 Britain and the U.S. had tried to expose the corruption and get the U.N. to acknowledge the kickback schemes and graft apparent in the Oil-For-Food program, and Kofi Annan either couldn't or wouldn't.

For his part, Annan had a booming "aid program" going, the U.N.'s biggest ever with over 5000 U.N. employees in Iraq. Time will tell if he was being personally enriched in the process, along with top aides like Benon Sevan. It was into this den of thieves that George Bush was expected to venture, to get the approval of diplomats from countries that were getting hundreds of millions of dollars to oppose him. Bush was to convince them to end their own personal gravy trains if he was to put together a truly legitimate coalition. How could that not have worked out?

Worse, the bribes were coming from the billions skimmed by the dictator himself from the program that was set up to sanction him, and to do what he wouldn't...feed his own people. The money was quite literally stolen from the Iraqi people, as it had come directly from the sale of Iraqi oil, the revenues earmarked for food and medicine.

The unbelievably cynical game of France and Russia was to prevent the U.N. from enforcing their own resolution, one they had voted for, and continue to press for an end to sanctions, when the really big payoffs in oil lease contracts would have kicked in for them. I do so hope that the Volcker Report ends the career of Kofi Annan, though I suspect he'll just "retire". And the crooks from Europe that sold out the Iraqi people to get rich while keeping Saddam in power can all rot where they sit.

UPDATE 10/21: Nile Gardiner, writing at The Heritage Foundation site, recommends that Kofi Annan step down while the investigation into Oil-For-Food proceeds. (via Friends of Saddam)

Posted by dan at October 20, 2004 1:25 PM