April 30, 2004


U.N. Oil Papers vanish (Niles Lathem, N.Y. Post, 29/04/04)

The vast majority of the United Nations' oil-for-food contracts in Iraq have mysteriously vanished, crippling investigators trying to uncover fraud in the program, a government report charged yesterday.

The General Accounting Office report, presented at a congressional hearing into the scandal-plagued program, determined that 80 percent of U.N. records had not been turned over.

The world body claims it transferred all information it had - including 3,059 contracts worth about $6.2 billion for delivery of food and other civilian goods to the post-Saddam governing body, the Coalition Provisional Authority.

But the GAO report also found that a database the U.N. transferred to the authority was "unreliable because it contained mathematical and currency errors in calculation of contract costs," the report found.

The GAO findings, which were aired at a hearing of the House International Relations Committee, raise new questions about corruption and mismanagement in the biggest-ever U.N. aid program - and what has been called the biggest financial scandal in history. An earlier GAO report said Saddam ripped off over $10 billion.

Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said the report raised serious concerns - and could have "a potential impact on the reputation and credibility of the United Nations."

"If these charges prove true, some of the obvious victims are those Iraqis who failed to receive needed assistance," Hyde (R-Ill.) said. [...]

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan fired back.

"If you read the reports, it looks as if the Saddam regime had nothing to do with it. They did nothing wrong - it was all the U.N.," Annan said.

With all due respect to Congressman Hyde, the looming issue is not whether long-suffering Iraqis were victimized yet again by being deprived of food, but whether the UN itself, several European countries and numerous politicians and luminaries were bankrolled by Saddam to oppose the U.S. and Britain and led him to believe he was untouchable. If even half true, that would make hundreds of dead American and British soldiers and thousands of dead Iraqis the victims.

Expect the Left to go to herculean lengths to ignore, bury and obfuscate, accuse conservatives of bad faith and perhaps throw up a UN bureaucrat or two as sacrificial lambs to keep this story under wraps. Expect many "realists" on the Right to enable them. Like the truth about communism, this story has the potential to be too earth-shaking in its implications and too threatening to too many people to be digested fully in this generation.

Posted by Peter Burnet at April 30, 2004 8:51 AM

Agree. The oil for food scandal, if properly investigated and digested, would show the UN is a farce and needs to be replaced. This would be a huge change to the international order and therefore many would not want to undertake such a mission. However, a recent poll showed 44% of the US thought poorly of the UN - this number could go much higher. In addition to transforming the Middle East and (hopefully) reforming social security, Bush could add reforming the international community to his list of accomplishments.

Posted by: AWW at April 30, 2004 9:05 AM

The president's message to the UN was pretty clear: enforce your resolutions, or become irrelevant. Good thing he never means what he says . . .

Posted by: David Cohen at April 30, 2004 9:30 AM

David. True but there is still a significant number of people (like Kerry and the Dems) who still believe the UN is the answer to all problems. The question is whether Bush (or his successor) will kick the UN to the curb or allow it to continue to fester.

Posted by: AWW at April 30, 2004 10:08 AM

The UN, as an institution, is one issue, but the wider, longer term story could be institutional corruption in the entire multilateral world, which generally enjoys priveleged access, huge budgets, little accountability, diplomatic immunities and a reflexive, unquestionning admiration from international movers and shakers.

Rumpole fans may recall that, in the second to last book, Rumpole gets himself to the European Court of Justice on a human rights case on behalf of an Arab student in humourous circumstances. He hobnobs with leftist MEP's and respected human rights lawyers. At the end, he discovers to his chagrin that he has fallen into a bribery/corruption network that leads back to Hussein.

I remember thinking at the time (1997) that Mortimer was getting a little fanciful with his plots. But Mortimer spent a lifetime in British leftist legal/artistic circles and knew them well. I doubt that was just the fevered imagination of an old man in his dotage.

My goodness, I'm going to be searching the sky for black helicopters next.

Posted by: Peter B at April 30, 2004 11:36 AM

The League of Nations didn't dissolve itself until 1946, if I remember correctly.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 30, 2004 11:44 AM

Orrin: RIGHT ON.


Posted by: at April 30, 2004 4:58 PM

Let's start witholding payments again until the wash comes clean.

Posted by: genecis at April 30, 2004 5:33 PM

Now, if only Jesse Helms were still in the Senate....

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 30, 2004 10:04 PM