February 3, 2005


All Players Gained From 'Oil-for-Food'
: On the U.N. Security Council, competing national interests and economic stakes in Iraq chilled willingness to scrutinize the program. (Maggie Farley, February 3, 2005, LA Times)

The 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, including the United States, were at best complacent and at times complicit in Hussein's exploitation of the program, diplomats and U.N. officials say. Competing national interests and economic stakes in one of the world's biggest oil producers chilled the council's willingness to scrutinize the program, which allowed Iraq to sell oil in exchange for cash intended to be used only to buy food, medicine and other essentials.

Systemic corruption on Hussein's part, inaction of world governments and mismanagement by the United Nations combined to allow one of the greatest frauds in U.N. history.

In the seven years of the program, which took effect in 1996, Security Council members had many opportunities to plug the holes that allowed money to continue flowing into Hussein's coffers. But they often chose to look the other way, or even actively block reforms, say diplomats who were on the program's sanctions committee. The members made a Faustian bargain: Hussein's side deals were the price to pay for keeping him from rebuilding his weapons program.

Instead, Hussein used the program to amass billions of dollars and consolidate his control. Although the program helped feed the Iraqi population and blocked Hussein from massive re-arming, the skimmed windfall helped pay for the very weapons it was designed to block: missile components, surveillance equipment and tank barrels.

Hussein "was playing the international community like a violin," Condoleezza Rice said last month during her confirmation hearings for secretary of State. "And we can't let that happen again."

All five permanent members of the Security Council diminished the sanctions. Even the United States, Iraq's most implacable adversary, made a crucial compromise when the original sanctions were put in place. For 12 years, citing national interests, Washington exempted Turkey's and Jordan's substantial illegal trade from a law that would have blocked U.S. aid to countries that violated the sanctions on Iraq.

The U.S. and Britain also looked the other way when their citizens and businesses traded favors for oil and brought it into the country in ways that skirted legality, say U.N. officials who oversaw oil contracts.

And folks wonder why the Iraqis weren't overjoyed to see us arrive in '03?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 3, 2005 7:50 AM

Aha! I see we are now into the fallback defensive position. From "How dare you cowboys criticize our beloved, sin-free UN!", we've moved onto "Yeah, everybody was on the take. Everybody is equally responsible, and I mean EVERYBODY. There is no UN--just greedy, corrupt member states."

This is a little like the anti-war rants in 2003 about how the US had armed Saddam. They sort of fell off the radar screen when a Swedish Peace Institute (!) proved the US has sold Saddam 1% of his arsenal in twenty years while France, China and Russia were in for 87%.

Did you see this great quote from the French guy towards the bottom of the article?

"Why should those countries get special consideration?" the official said. "We said we wanted to deal with the smuggling comprehensively. Then we went back to square one."

You can always count on the keeness of France, Canada and assorted Euros to tackle a problem "comprehensively". It's bit-by-bit that scares the heck out of them.

Posted by: Peter B at February 3, 2005 9:42 AM

And Turkey screws US again.

Posted by: Sandy P at February 3, 2005 10:30 AM

The panel appointed by Annan, headed by international sleazeball Paul Volcker, is even a bigger farce than the scandal itself. What the scandal has done though, and this is all to the good, is eliminate pretty much any goodwill the UN has in America. You never see UNICEF boxes at Halloween anymore. Even SNL makes fun of it. Nobody with a big pocketbook waited for the UN before dealing with Tsunami relief.

As for Turkey screwing us again, they seem to be to foreign policy what the British Tory Party is to politics, i.e. the gold standard of pure stupidity.

Posted by: Bart at February 3, 2005 10:48 AM

Saddam Hussein: they really need to hang the b**tard--maybe the Nips would like his ashes for their Shrine of the Martyrs..

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 3, 2005 12:40 PM

I went to see Hotel Rwanda last weekend. If you get a chance. Go. It is an excellent movie. If, by the end of the movie, you are not ready to write your congressman and demand withdrawl from the UN, you are heartless and you did not get it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 3, 2005 5:18 PM

I went to see Hotel Rwanda last weekend. If you get a chance. Go. It is an excellent movie. If, by the end of the movie, you are not ready to write your congressman and demand withdrawl from the UN, you are heartless and you did not get it.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 3, 2005 5:19 PM


It was a good film although it had a little too much of 'Blame the Honky' for my taste. There was a throwaway line early in the film about Belgium artificially creating the hostility between Hutsis and Tutus. There is no question that Belgium did that in a cheesy attempt to apply the 'divide and conquer' policy that Perfidious Albion applied in its colonies from Ireland to India. However, there was pre-existing hostility between the two tribes and they are not related linguisticly or ethnically. The hostility between Hutus and Tutsis predated the Belgies even though the Belgies certainly exacerbated it.

If Africans want to be treated like adults, they need to start behaving like adults.

Posted by: Bart at February 4, 2005 8:21 PM