Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.
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.While the scandalous behavior of the Oil-for-Food administrators, the Secretary General's own son and the cover-up and stonewalling by the U.N. and Annan himself would be quite enough, Annan's complicity could go deeper. He was, after all, the very first negotiator with Iraq on Oil-for-Food sales, before he was Secretary General. [Annan's official UN bio] Regardless of Annan's possible self-enrichment, we all know it's not the crime, it's the coverup that makes for a real scandal.
Mr. Annan was at the helm of the U.N. for all but a few days of the Oil-for-Food program, and he must, therefore, be held accountable for the U.N.'s utter failure to detect or stop Saddam's abuses. The consequences of the U.N.'s ineptitude cannot be overstated: Saddam was empowered to withstand the sanctions regime, remain in power, and even rebuild his military. Needless to say, he made the Iraqi people suffer even more by importing substandard food and medicine under the Oil-for-Food program and pawning it off as first-rate humanitarian aid.
Since it was never likely that the U.N. Security Council, some of whose permanent members were awash in Saddam's favors, would ever call for Saddam's removal, the U.S. and its coalition partners were forced to put troops in harm's way to oust him by force. Today, money swindled from Oil-for-Food may be funding the insurgency against coalition troops in Iraq and other terrorist activities against U.S. interests. Simply put, the troops would probably not have been placed in such danger if the U.N. had done its job in administering sanctions and Oil-for-Food.
This systemic failure of the U.N. and Oil-for-Food is exacerbated by evidence that at least one senior U.N. official--Benon Sevan, Mr. Annan's hand-picked director of the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food oversight agency--reportedly received bribes from Saddam. According to documents from the Iraqi oil ministry that were obtained by us, Mr. Sevan received several allotments of oil under Oil-for-Food, each of which was worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
To make matters worse, the actions of Mr. Annan's own son have been called into question. Specifically, the U.N. recently admitted that Kojo Annan received more money than previously disclosed from a Swiss company named Cotecna, which was hired by the U.N. to monitor Iraq's imports under Oil-for-Food. Recently, there are growing, albeit unproven, allegations that Kofi Annan himself not only understands his son's role in this scandal--but that he has been less than forthcoming in what he knew, and when he knew it.
I was discussing this topic with a friend yesterday who commented that he was amazed at the relative lack of coverage this was getting in the news. It's true, compared to scandals such as BCCI (a favorite of John Kerry) and even the Savings and Loan scandal and the "Keating Five," this U.N. issue is both larger financially, as well as geopolitically. Of course, I believe the primary reason it doesn't get coverage is that recognizing the full extent of the situation would require the news media to completely adjust their narrative about the United States' brazen disregard for traditional allies like France and Germany (I am still trying to figure out when Germany became a "traditional ally," other than our maintenance of a 60 year military occupation of their country after they tried to take over the world).
If the media is forced to admit openly that the United Nations suffers from fundamental corruption and that the corruption may have resulted in the ability of it to being an effective foreign policy force and that the United States' loudest critics in our actions against Iraq were financial beneficiaries of the corruption, well, then Dan Rather's face would be redder than Aunt Mabel's rhubarb pie. And we certainly can't have that happen, can we?
Of course, another reason is that the story is too abstract to naturally attract the attention of most Americans. I mean, seriously, we've got the sentencing phase of the Scott Peterson trial going on, how do you expect people to care about some corruption in the United Nations?
For those who haven't followed the Oil-for-Food program abuses (as they have been woefully underreported in the press) I would suggest starting with my post: "How Can You Build Alliances If Your Enemy Is Buying Them?" and then seeing some of the updates "Limited Coverage On Iraq's Oil-for-Alliances" and "Iraqi Weapons and Oil-for-Alliances News."
Then, when the Duelfer report came out in mid-October, the press was too fixated on restating what we already knew (there were no WMD stockpile in Iraq) to report much on "Oil-for-Alliances List Highlights from Duelfer Report" although they did at least cover some of the denials "Oil-for-Alliances News Roundup: Denials and Ignorance" (LBJ knew from his very first senate campaign that the denial was assured of coverage, even if the attack itself wasn't.)
Most recently, I provided a couple of posts on the work of Senator Coleman and Levin's special committee on investigations. [Update 1] [Update 2]
e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink] | | Wednesday, December 01, 2004