Monday, March 22, 2004

Oil For Nothing; Vetos for Free

Claudia Rosett has more on the U.N.'s corrupt Oil-for-anti-Americanism program. The U.N. operation was supposed to sell Iraqi oil to fund humanitarian aid for civilians hurt by trade sanctions--but probably enriched everyone except the Iraqi people.

It's increasingly likely the program's executive director--Benon Sevan--had his fingers in the till. He isn't a businessman, an oil exec or even an import/export firm. Sevan's a U.N. bureaucrat, yet he made millions (see tpfp post 3/10 9:31pm). Logically, Rosett asks:
What might Sevan have done in return, given his responsibilities for "overall management and coordination of all United Nations humanitarian activities in Iraq"?
Worse still, Saddam got cart-loads of kickbacks--which have since disappeared:
[T]he General Accounting Office estimates Saddam Hussein was able to salt away [$ 10.1 billion] in illegal revenues related to the Oil-for-Food program." By GAO estimates, recently revised upward, Saddam acquired $4.4 billion via kickbacks on relief contracts and illicit surcharges on oil contracts; plus $5.7 billion via oil smuggling. All this took place under cover of repeated Oil-for-Food "good housekeeping" seals of approval. The U.S. has so far located only a small portion of these assets. That leaves billions of Saddam's secret stash still out there. The danger is that Baathists, terrorists (with whom Saddam did indeed have connections), or some combination of the two, will get to these billions first, if they haven't already. It is worth asking if some mix of U.N. secrecy, incompetence, and corruption may have allowed the accumulation of money now backing terrorist attacks in Iraq, or elsewhere.
So U.N. cash earmarked for ordinary Iraqis is funding their murder--and the deaths of American and coalition soldiers.

Rosett's investigation shows why the U.N. rarely is right:
[T]he larger issue is the U.N. setup of secrecy and lack of accountability that fostered the Oil-for-Food fiasco in the first place. The damage at this point includes Iraqis deprived of billions of dollars worth of relief, and signs of massive corruption quite likely involving hundreds of U.N.-approved contractors in dozens of countries, as well as the U.N.'s own head of the program, Sevan. An inquiry should also look into the U.N. Secretariat's silent assent to Saddam's efforts to buy political influence in the Security Council. In this bribe-riddled program, Saddam tipped vast amounts of business to contractors in such veto-wielding Security Council member states as Russia, France, and to a lesser extent, China. In the heated debates over Iraq, leading up to the beginning of the war last March, Annan brought none of Saddam's influence-peddling to public attention, though he had access to specific information about the huge sums going from Saddam's regime to select nations, and the public did not.
My suggestion--check Swiss bank deposits in late 2002 by U.N. representatives from Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia and Guinea. At the time, these nations sat on the Security Council; none supported the Spain-U.K.-U.S. joint resolution authorizing the invasion.

Naturally the cover-up's already begun: the U.N. refuses to release either the Oil-for-Food bank statements, "held in the French bank, BNP Paribas" (I'm shocked, shocked the frogs are involved!), or the audit reports (both internal and external auditors). Yet liberals--still bitching Bush hasn't banished Enron's Board behind bars--remain deliberately indifferent to U.N.-sponsored theft. I guess fraud's OK, as long as it's multilateral fraud.

So what to think? Simple: contrary to Democrat naiveté, the U.N.'s neither a global parliament nor a source of adult supervision. It's a club dominated by the dictators and the dishonest, both of which delight in delaying individual rights and the rule of law. Established to advance trans-national enlightened self-interest, the organization downplays "enlightened" in favor of "self-interest." Rosett says "the U.N. setup of secrecy, warped incentives, and lack of accountability allowed it to supervise the transformation of Oil-for-Food into a program of theft-from-Iraqis, cash-for-Saddam, and grease-for-the-U.N." It's no coincidence the U.N. management's as corrupt as France or Russia.

The U.N.'s last significant contribution to global peace was in 1950--authorizing force to repel the NoKo invasion of South Korea. That resolution passed only because the Soviet Union boycotted the session. Alas, Russia immediately returned to deadlock the Security Council. France, unfortunately, hasn't threatened to leave.

For over 50 years, the U.N.'s been ineffective at best, an impediment at worst. It's never efficiently served the poor or the oppressed. So long as a majority of U.N. members aren't democracies, it never will.


More in Wednesday's NY Post:
U.N. bureaucrats are stonewalling requests from Iraq's new government for records from the scandal-plagued oil-for-food account set up in Saddam Hussein's handpicked French bank, officials said yesterday.
Claude Hankes-Drielsma, the British businessman advising Iraq's Governing Council, clearly is connecting the dots: "The key question in this investigation is, what was the relationship between the U.N. and this French bank?"

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