Monday, February 09, 2004

French Follies

Today's WSJ suggests further reasons for Chirac's refusal--under any circumstances--to join the war on Iraq. The story also explains Russia, Syria, the Palestinians, the entire U.N. and nut-case British MP George Galloway. In a subscriber-only article, Therese Raphael reacts to a memo, recently discovered in Iraq, listing friends of Saddam along with oil shipments (in barrels). Headlined "Saddam's Global Payroll," the article says those named were all on the take via the U.N.'s supposed "Oil for Food Program:"
It's clear where [Saddam's] 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.
This makes sense. In France, principle has never trumped money, certainty not regarding oil.

The issue is not petty corruption. The amounts in question total tens of billions of dollars. Moreover, this sort of bribery "leakage" is routine in international bureaucracies, but particularly here:
The system was ripe for abuse, in part because a divided Security Council gave Saddam far too much flexibility within the program. Oil-for-Food not only gave Iraq the power to decide with whom to deal, but also freedom to determine the official price of Iraqi oil, revenues from which went legally into the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food account. U.N. rules did not allow it to order Iraq to deal directly with end-users and bypass all those lucky middlemen who got deals from Saddam. Nor was the U.N. allowed to view contracts other than those between the oil ministry and the first purchaser, so it had no way of verifying that surcharges were being imposed by the middlemen on end-users. That enabled him to add surcharges to finance his own schemes while still making the final price competitive.
It is not merely that the interests of the U.N., France, etc. diverge from those of the United States. It's that of the 191 U.N. nations, around 160 are brutal, thuggish dictatorships, more interested in personal Swiss accounts than their citizens' health or welfare. No amount of phony "uniteralitism" will change that behavior.

I'm not suggesting we withdraw from the United Nations. Only that we ignore 'um. France too.

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