December 1, 2004

Sen. Coleman's Statement

December kicks off with Senator Norm Coleman's WSJ article on his committee's investigation of the U.N. Oil-For-Food program. The Chairman of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations uses the forum of the Wall Street Journal to call for the resignation of Kofi Annan. Fitting that, because it has been the Journal, mostly in the person of Claudia Rosett, that has led the reporting on the scandal for the past ten months.

And when Coleman is finished, there's not a lot more to say. Read it all , but here's the meat:

Our Investigative Subcommittee has gathered overwhelming evidence that Saddam turned this program on its head. Rather than erode his grip on power, the program was manipulated by Saddam to line his own pockets and actually strengthen his position at the expense of the Iraqi people. At our hearing on Nov. 15, we presented evidence that Saddam accumulated more than $21 billion through abuses of the Oil-for-Food program and U.N. sanctions. We continue to amass evidence that he used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials, companies and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the program to his advantage. We have obtained evidence that indicates that Saddam doled out lucrative oil allotments to foreign officials, sympathetic journalists and even one senior U.N. official, in order to undermine international support for sanctions. In addition, we are gathering evidence that Saddam gave hundreds of thousands -- maybe even millions -- of Oil-for-Food dollars to terrorists and terrorist organizations. All of this occurred under the supposedly vigilant eye of the U.N.

While many questions concerning Oil-for-Food remain unanswered, one conclusion has become abundantly clear: Kofi Annan should resign. The decision to call for his resignation does not come easily, but I have arrived at this conclusion because the most extensive fraud in the history of the U.N. occurred on his watch. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, as long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes, kickbacks and under-the-table payments that took place under the U.N.'s collective nose.

And on the U.N.'s own investigation headed by Paul Volcker, Coleman notes:

Mr. Annan has named the esteemed Paul Volcker to investigate Oil-for-Food-related allegations, but the latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from anyone outside the U.N. Nor does it possess the power to punish those who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. It must rely entirely on the goodwill of the very people and entities it is investigating. We must also recognize that Mr. Volcker's effort is wholly funded by the U.N., at Mr. Annan's control. Moreover, Mr. Volcker must issue his final report directly to the secretary general, who will then decide what, if anything, is released to the public.

Therefore, while I have faith in Mr. Volcker's integrity and abilities, it is clear the U.N. simply cannot root out its own corruption while Mr. Annan is in charge: To get to the bottom of the murk, it's clear that there needs to be a change at the top. In addition, a scandal of this magnitude requires a truly independent examination to ensure complete transparency, and to restore the credibility of the U.N. To that end, I reiterate our request for access to internal U.N. documents, and for access to U.N. personnel who were involved in the Oil-for-Food program.

All of this adds up to one conclusion: It's time for Kofi Annan to step down. The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace. Why is the U.N. different?

Wretchard follows up with the statement from Annan's spokesperson that amounts to...if I have this right...the U.N. is not empowered to empower Volcker with the powers he needs to investigate our abuse of power, or some such nonsense. Annan continues to stonewall and sit on the evidence, demonstrating the real problem with the U.N. That he and the organization are accountable to no one.

And by the way, where are the voices of the principled Left on the Oil-For-Food scandal, and on Kofi Annan's continued viability as the General Secretary of the United Nations? I'm not saying they're not out there. I just haven't heard much from them. I'm sure France and Russia will erupt in indignation at having been singled out by Coleman for their roles in the selling of Security Council influence. They should be squirming. The evidence against them is piling up.

It's about time some prominent U.S. political leader made this case this clearly and candidly (Mr. Bush has been walking on eggshells on this whole rotten business). I'm proud of Senator Coleman for his courage and leadership. He's a rising star.

Posted by dan at December 1, 2004 12:38 AM