May 23, 2005

Hayes on Oil-For-Food

If you can, take the time to read Stephen Hayes' summary of the U.N. Oil-For-Food program, based in part of the recent findings of our congressional investigations and interrogations of former officials of the Saddam regime. This is a few days old now, but important enough to post for the record.

I don't really expect any French heads to roll as a result of the emerging proof of Saddam's bribery. Their society truly expects and winks at official corruption; witness Chirac's survival. And the bribed Russian politicians, diplomats and officials don't answer to voters and probably won't be held to account. But one hopes that George Galloway's corrupt political career will be ended by the British public when the evidence of his involvement in the scandal sinks in. As for Kofi Annan, Hayes explicitly calls for his ouster:

The basic outline of the scandal is simple: Saddam Hussein used the Oil-for-Food program to circumvent U.N. sanctions imposed after the Gulf war and to enrich himself and his allies. He did this by bribing leading journalists and diplomats and demanding kickbacks from those who profited from selling Iraqi oil. That he was able to do so indicates at least that the U.N. badly mismanaged the program it set up in December 1996. None of this is particularly astonishing. No one is surprised to learn that Saddam Hussein cheats, that politicians take bribes, and that the competence level of the U.N. bureaucracy is, well, suboptimal.

Nevertheless, the details of the Oil-for-Food scandal--who participated, and what they apparently did--are jaw-dropping. Vladimir Putin's chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, appears to have accepted millions of dollars in oil-soaked bribes from Saddam Hussein. The same appears to be true of the former interior minister of France, Charles Pasqua, a close friend of President Jacques Chirac. And the same appears to be true of three high-ranking U.N. executives including Benon Sevan, handpicked
by Kofi Annan to administer the Oil-for-Food program. Oil-for-Food money even went to terrorist organizations supported by the Iraqi regime and, according to U.S. investigators, might be funding the insurgency today.

Through seven years' worth of deals that should never have been made, compromises that should never have been struck, and concessions that should never have been granted, Oil-for-Food strengthened Saddam Hussein. What we know about all of this now is a fraction of what will eventually be uncovered. But even this limited understanding should mean an end to Kofi Annan's term as secretary general.

Posted by dan at May 23, 2005 3:09 PM