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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #66 - 4 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Who will condemn crimes at Fallujah? Will you? (
   2. Heads Up... from Michael Moore (Mark Parkinson)
   3. SCR-986: From Supervision To Collaboration - Commentary, 16 April
       2004 (Alexander Sternberg)


Message: 1
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 07:56:58 EDT
Subject: Who will condemn crimes at Fallujah? Will you?

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ],2763,1193948,00.html

Who will speak out?

US troops have carried out a massacre in Falluja, but MPs are silent

Ronan Bennett
Saturday April 17, 2004
The Guardian

What does it take to get a New Labour politician to speak out on Iraq? I'm
not talking about the likes of Blair, Hoon and Straw - key players so deepl=
implicated in the cruel tragedy of conquest and occupation that they have n=
option but to stay the course, even as it spirals into slaughter and chaos.=
there are ministers and backbenchers with a history of commitment to human
rights. What does it take to shock them out of their baffling silence? Not =
the 600
or 700 Iraqis killed over the last fortnight in Falluja, it seems. Perhaps
they believe, like the prime minister, that those attacking coalition troop=
s are
Saddam loyalists, al-Qaida fighters or religious fanatics, and deserve
everything they get. Perhaps they have been reassured by General John Abiza=
id, head
of the US Army's central command, who spoke of the coalition's "judicious u=
of force". Maybe they accept the reassurance of the commander of the US mar=
besieging the city that his men are "trained to be precise in their
firepower", and that "95% of those killed were legitimate targets". Let's a=
ccept for
the moment that the commander is right and accept that the AC-130 gunships =
F16 fighter-bombers unleashed against the people of Falluja are precise, th=
the 500lb bombs falling on the city come under the definition of judicious.
Let's look at just a handful of the 5% of civilian casualties the Americans
concede they have inflicted. These include the mother of six-year-old Haide=
Abdel-Wahab, shot and killed while hanging out laundry; his father, shot in=
head; Haider himself, and his brothers, crushed but dug out alive after a U=
missile struck their house. They include children who died of head wounds. =
include an old woman with a bullet wound - still clutching a white flag whe=
n aid
workers found her. They include an elderly man lying face down at the gate =
his house - while inside terrified girls screamed "Baba! Baba!" They includ=
ambulance crews fired on by US troops - and four-year-old Ali Nasser Fadil,
wounded during an air strike. The New York Times reporter who found the inf=
ant in
a Baghdad hospital described him lying in bed, "his eyes wide and fixed on =
spot in the ceiling". His left leg had been crudely amputated. The same
reporter found 10-year-old Waed Joda by the bedside of his gravely wounded =
"American snipers shot at us as we were trying to flee Falluja," said Waed.
Every one of these incidents has been documented by journalists, aid worker=
s or
medical staff. And there are plenty more. Even allowing for casualties caus=
by the Iraqi resistance, the dread catalogue of American-inflicted sufferin=
and death is long and undeniable. At this point it's worth reminding oursel=
that 5% of 600 is 30. But the evidence of the bodies alone gives the lie to=
American account: at least 350 of the dead in Falluja have been women and
children. The Americans say they are engaged in a mission to bring to justi=
ce the
perpetrators of the four security contractors - or mercenaries - killed and
mutilated in the city on March 31. Locals see it differently. They describe
their occupation, initially by troops of the US 82nd Airborne, as oppressiv=
e from
the start. Almost as soon as they arrived, in April 2003, US soldiers kille=
18 protesters during a demonstration. After six months of occupation, the 8=
Airborne had killed at least 40 civilians and police in the city.

In March, the 82nd Airborne were replaced by a Marine Expeditionary Force
and, shortly afterwards, an American soldier was killed. On March 27, marin=
undertook a "sweep" through the city, described as "revenge" by Mohammed Al=
president of the city council. At least six Iraqi civilians, including an
11-year-old boy, were killed. It was in this heightened atmosphere that the
mercenaries met their grisly deaths. No one can pretend that the assault on=
is anything other than retribution for the mercenaries - even members of th=
hand-picked Iraqi governing council accept it as such. On all of this - a
shameful and deafening silence. Politicians are not usually so tongue-tied.
Remember Peter Hain, leader of the House, after bands of landless black poo=
r invaded
white-owned farms in Zimbabwe? The number of white farmers killed was a
fraction of the toll of civilians who die every week in Iraq at the hands o=
coalition forces. Hain was swift to denounce Zimbabwe's government as "unci=
He spoke of his "horror" at the killings. Tyranny, he said, was "running ri=
in Zimbabwe" and "disfiguring the whole of the southern African
sub-continent". So far, Hain has been silent about the horror wreaked by US=
 firepower in
Falluja and the disfigurement of Iraq by what has by any reckoning been a
massacre. And what about Chris Mullin, a former Tribune editor and now juni=
minister at the Foreign Office? Best remembered for his campaign to free th=
Birmingham Six, Mullin is frequently described as a friend of the underdog,=
 with a
commitment to human rights. Sadly, these qualities have not been much in
evidence recently. Last summer Mullin defended to me the kangaroo courts he=
ld in
Belmarsh prison, at which anonymous witnesses testify against men imprisone=
d by
the home secretary without charge ("Better than sending them back to their
countries of origin where they would be killed," he said). And though he wa=
outraged by the denial of justice to the Birmingham Six, Guant=E1namo does =
not disturb
him ("September 11 changed everything"). The underdogs of Falluja have yet =
move Mullin. Then there's Hilary Benn, international development secretary,
who has spoken of Britain's responsibility to get Iraqi schools and hospita=
up and running, to ensure a future for Iraqi children. But it isn't easy to
square the rhetoric of international development with that of military
occupation: the promise of a good education doesn't mean much to parents do=
dging US
snipers to dig a hole in a sports field in order to bury their child. The l=
ist of
the shameful silent could go on: Angela Eagle, a longstanding leftwinger?
Silent. Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt, former stalwarts of the old Nat=
Council for Civil Liberties? Silent. Oona King, who in her maiden speech ci=
the 1880 Match Girls' strike, has spoken passionately about the 35,000
children who die every day from preventable diseases and denounced the "sla=
ughter and
oppression" of the Palestinians in Jenin. Silent. Joan Ruddock, former chai=
of CND. Silent. Ann Clwyd, defender of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs, who
wrote: "Some will continue to argue that internal repression is not a matte=
r of
legitimate concern for other countries. I disagree. There are basic human r=
that must be defended." Are we to take it, then, that external repression i=
acceptable? That the human rights of the inhabitants of Falluja are not wor=
defending? What has happened to these people? Many of them don't even have
ministerial jobs to protect. I have yet to hear any of them acknowledge tha=
t what
is going on in Falluja is wrong. That killing children is wrong, blasting
their houses is wrong, blowing up mosques is wrong, burying a family under =
a ton
of rubble is wrong. Today the siege of Falluja continues. US troops are
massing outside the holy city of Najaf. In the south, the situation has bee=
n further
inflamed by the British Army shooting 15 people dead in Amara on April 6
(silence there, too). In Baghdad's Sadr City, camouflaged Humvees tour the =
with loudspeakers warning people not to leave their homes. No one seriously
believes things are improving in Iraq under occupation. How long before our=
speak out? =B7 Ronan Bennett is a novelist and screenwriter. His novel Havo=
c in
its Third Year is published by Bloomsbury in September


Message: 2
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 00:22:55 +0100
Subject: Heads Up... from Michael Moore

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004


I have never seen a head so far up a Presidential ass (pardon my
Falluja) than the one I saw last night at the "news conference" given
by George W. Bush. He's still talking about finding "weapons of mass
destruction" -- this time on Saddam's "turkey farm." Turkey indeed.
Clearly the White House believes there are enough idiots in the 17
swing states who will buy this. I think they are in for a rude

I've been holed up for weeks in the editing room finishing my film
("Fahrenheit 911"). That's why you haven't heard from me lately. But
after last night's Lyndon Johnson impersonation from the East Room --
essentially promising to send even more troops into the Iraq sinkhole
-- I had to write you all a note.

First, can we stop the Orwellian language and start using the proper
names for things? Those are not =93contractors=94 in Iraq. They are not
there to fix a roof or to pour concrete in a driveway. They are
MERCENARIES and SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE. They are there for the money,
and the money is very good if you live long enough to spend it.

Halliburton is not a "company" doing business in Iraq. It is a WAR
PROFITEER, bilking millions from the pockets of average Americans. In
past wars they would have been arrested -- or worse.

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not
"insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION,
the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get
it, Mr. Bush? You closed down a friggin' weekly newspaper, you great
giver of freedom and democracy! Then all hell broke loose. The paper
only had 10,000 readers! Why are you smirking?

One year after we wiped the face of the Saddam statue with our
American flag before yanking him down, it is now too dangerous for a
single media person to go to that square in Baghdad and file a report
on the wonderful one-year anniversary celebration. Of course, there
is no celebration, and those brave blow-dried "embeds" can't even
leave the safety of the fort in downtown Baghdad. They never actually
SEE what is taking place across Iraq (most of the pictures we see on
TV are shot by Arab media and some Europeans). When you watch a
report "from Iraq" what you are getting is the press release handed
out by the U.S. occupation force and repeated to you as "news."

I currently have two cameramen/reporters doing work for me in Iraq
for my movie (unbeknownst to the Army). They are talking to soldiers
and gathering the true sentiment about what is really going on. They
Fed Ex the footage back to me each week. That's right, Fed Ex. Who
said we haven't brought freedom to Iraq! The funniest story my guys
tell me is how when they fly into Baghdad, they don't have to show a
passport or go through immigration. Why not? Because they have not
traveled from a foreign country -- they're coming from America TO
America, a place that is ours, a new American territory called Iraq.

There is a lot of talk amongst Bush's opponents that we should turn
this war over to the United Nations. Why should the other countries
of this world, countries who tried to talk us out of this folly, now
have to clean up our mess? I oppose the U.N. or anyone else risking
the lives of their citizens to extract us from our debacle. I'm
sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began
and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until
enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the
Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.

Until then, enjoy the "pacification" of Falluja, the "containment" of
Sadr City, and the next Tet Offensive =96 oops, I mean, "terrorist
attack by a small group of Baathist loyalists" (Hahaha! I love
writing those words, Baathist loyalists, it makes me sound so Peter
Jennings!) -- followed by a "news conference" where we will be told
that we must "stay the course" because we are "winning the hearts and
minds of the people."

I'll write again soon. Don't despair. Remember, the American people
are not that stupid. Sure, we can be frightened into a war, but we
always come around sooner or later -- and the one way this is NOT
like Vietnam is that it hasn't taken the public four long years to
figure out they were lied to.

Now if Bush would just quit speaking in public and giving me more
free material for my movie, I can get back to work and get it done.
I've got four weeks left 'til completion.


Michael Moore

Mark Parkinson


Message: 3
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2004 21:04:09 +0200
From: (Alexander Sternberg)
Subject: SCR-986: From Supervision To Collaboration - Commentary, 16 April

This is an important article that broadens the view of the oil-for-food
program in terms of what it says about the effectiveness of an
international institution established to promote peace and security
throughout the world. More articles are expected.

Perhaps Iraq's contribution to the international community will be the
investigation of its (Iraq's) program that generates results leading to
radical UN reform. It's not about the principles on which the UN was
formed. It's about the UN's operational culture.


The Oil-for-Food Scam: What Did Kofi Annan Know, and When Did He Know It?

By Claudia Rosett

Commentary Magazine
April 16, 2004

For years, the United Nations Oil-for-Food program was just one more
blip on the multilateral landscape: a relief program for Iraq, a way to
feed hungry children in a far-off land until the world had settled its
quarrels with Saddam Hussein. Last May, after the fall of Saddam, the UN
Security Council voted to lift sanctions on Iraq, end Oil-for-Food later
in the year, and turn over any remaining business to the U.S.-led
authority in Baghdad. On November 20, with some ceremony, UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan lauded the program's many accomplishments,
praising in particular its long-serving executive director, Benon Sevan.
The next day, Oil-for-Food came to an end.

But it has not ended. Suddenly, Oil-for-Food is with us again, this time
splashed all over the news as the subject of scandal at the UN: bribes,
kickbacks, fraud, smuggling; stories of graft involving tens of billions
of dollars and countless barrels of oil, and implicating big business
and high officials in dozens of countries; allegations that the head of
the program himself was on the take. In February, having at first denied
any wrongdoing, Sevan stopped giving interviews and was then reported to
be on vacation, heading into retirement. By March, the U.S. Congress was
preparing to hold hearings into Oil-for-Food. Kofi Annan, having denied
any knowledge of misdeeds by UN staff, finally bowed to demands for an
independent inquiry into the UN program, saying, "I don't think we need
to have our reputation impugned."

The tale has been all very interesting, and all very complicated. For
those who look yearningly to the UN for answers to the world's problems,
it has provoked, perhaps, some introspection about the pardonable
corruption that threatens even the most selfless undertakings. For those
who believe the UN can do nothing right, Oil-for-Food, whatever it was
about, is a delicious vindication that everyone and everything at the
world organization is crooked, the institution a fiasco, and politicians
who support it fit for recall at the next electoral opportunity.

The excitement may be justified, but a number of important facts and
conclusions have gone missing. Oil-for-Food, run by the UN from 1996 to
2003, did, in fact, deliver some limited relief to Iraqis. It also
evolved into not only the biggest but the most extravagant,
hypocritical, and blatantly perverse relief program ever administered by
the UN. But Oil-for-Food is not simply a saga of one UN program gone
wrong. It is also the tale of a systematic failure on the part of what
is grandly called the international community.

Oil-for-Food tainted almost everything it touched. It was such a
kaleidoscope of corruption as to defy easy summary, let alone
concentration on the main issues. But let us try.

Oil-for-Food had its beginnings in the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq
following Saddam Hussein's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. These
prohibited UN member states from trading with Iraq until the regime had
satisfactorily disarmed. Saddam refused to comply, and in the aftermath
of the first Gulf war the sanctions remained in place. (Even under
sanctions, Iraqis were theoretically allowed to import essential foods
and medicines, but Saddam's repressive system prevented them from
earning the necessary foreign exchange.) Reports fed by Saddam's regime
soon began to surface that the sanctions were imposing severe suffering
on ordinary Iraqis. The UN, then led by Secretary-General Javier Perez
de Cuellar, broached the idea of allowing Iraq to sell oil in limited
quantities, strictly to buy relief supplies.

At first, Saddam resisted this, too. But in the mid-1990's, perhaps
because he was feeling the pinch, or quite likely because he had by then
seen ways and built up the leverage to turn such a plan to his
advantage, he finally agreed. On April 14, 1995, the UN (then under
Boutros Boutros-Ghali) passed Resolution 986, authorizing as a
"temporary measure" what become known as the Oil-for-Food program, and
then spent months working out with Saddam the details of implementation.

 From the start, the program was poorly designed. Saddam had blamed the
fate of starving Iraqi children on the sanctions regime and specifically
on the United States. Seeking to address these charges, the Clinton
administration went looking for a compromise; with the Secretariat in
the lead, the Security Council agreed to conditions on Oil-for-Food that
were, to say the least, amenable to manipulation. Saddam, the author of
the miseries of Iraq, was given the right to negotiate his own contracts
to sell Iraqi oil and to choose his own foreign customers. He was also
allowed to draw up the shopping lists of humanitarian supplies=E2=80=94the
"distribution plans"=E2=80=94and to strike his own deals for these goods,
picking his foreign suppliers. The UN also granted Saddam a say in the
choice of the bank that would mainly handle the funds and issue the
letters of credit to pay these suppliers; the designated institution was
a French bank now known as BNP Paribas.1

To be sure, the UN reserved for itself the authority to reject Saddam's
proposed contracts and his plans for distribution of goods inside Iraq;
to control the program's bank accounts; and to ensure that Saddam's
buying and selling were in compliance with the UN's humanitarian plan.
As spelled out in Resolution 986, oil was to be sold "at fair-market
value," and the proceeds were to pay solely for goods and services that
would be used "for equitable distribution of humanitarian relief to all
segments of the Iraqi population throughout the country."

To all this, the UN added another twist. Unlike most of its relief
programs, in which both the cost of the relief itself and UN overhead
were paid for by contributions from member states, Oil-for-Food would in
every respect be funded entirely out of Saddam's oil revenues. The UN
Secretariat would collect a 2.2-percent commission on every barrel of
Iraqi oil sold, plus 0.8 percent to pay for UN weapons inspections in Iraq.

If the aim of this provision was to make Saddam bear the cost of his own
obstinacy, the effect was to create a situation in which the UN
Secretariat was paid handsomely, on commission, by Saddam=E2=80=94to superv=
Saddam. And the bigger Oil-for-Food got, the bigger the fees collected
by Annan's office. Over the seven years of the program, oil sales
ultimately totaled some $65 billion. On the spending side, the UN says
$46 billion went for aid to Iraq, and $18.2 billion was paid out as
compensation to victims of Saddam's 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait. As for
commissions to the Secretariat, these ran to about $1.9 billion, of
which $1.4 billion was earmarked for administrative overhead for the
humanitarian program (the UN says it turned over $300 million of this to
help pay for relief, but no public accounting has ever been given) and
another $500 million or so for weapons inspections in Iraq.
Discrepancies in these numbers can be chalked up to interest paid on
some of the funds, exchange-rate fluctuations, or simply the murk in
which most of the Oil-for-Food transactions remain shrouded to this day.

Whether Saddam should have enjoyed the right to dispose of all Iraqi oil
was never questioned. In Iraq, oil was the province of a state monopoly,
which Saddam in effect claimed for his own, and on that basis was the UN
deal struck. The arrangement actually helped strengthen Saddam's
chokehold at home. With sanctions effectively forbidding all other
foreign commerce, Iraq's only legitimate trade was whatever flowed
through Saddam's ministries under the supervision of the UN program.
Thus the UN gave to Saddam the entire import-export franchise for Iraq,
taking upon itself the responsibility for ensuring that he would use
this arrangement to help Iraq's 26 million people. The success of the
program depended wholly on the UN's integrity, competence, and
willingness to prevent Saddam from subverting the setup to his own benefit.

This was perhaps an impossible brief. But the Secretariat eagerly
shouldered the burden, accepting along with it the commissions that
flowed straight from Iraq's oil spigots. Introduced as an ad-hoc deal,
Oil-for-Food soon took on the marks of a more permanent arrangement. It
was a project in which Annan had a direct hand from the beginning. As
Under-Secretary General, he had led the first UN team to negotiate with
Saddam over the terms of the sales under Oil-for-Food. The first
shipment went out in December 1996; the following month, Annan succeeded
Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General.

Nine months later, in October 1997, Annan tapped Benon Sevan, an
Armenian Cypriot and longtime UN official, to consolidate and run the
various aspects of the Iraq relief operation under a newly established
agency called the Office of the Iraq Program (but usually referred to
simply as Oil-for-Food). Sevan served as executive director for the
duration, reporting directly to Annan. The program was divided into
roughly six-month phases; at the start of each phase, Sevan would report
and Annan would recommend the program's continuation to the Security
Council, signing off directly on Saddam's "distribution plans."

An issue that would later become important was how, precisely, the
responsibilities for executing the program were parceled out between the
Security Council=E2=80=94a committee of fifteen member states=E2=80=94and t=
Secretariat, run by Annan. All of Saddam's proposed contracts flowed
through the Security Council, which doubled as the Iraq "sanctions
committee." But in practice, the fifteen member governments were mostly
on the watch for so-called dual-use items: goods that might be used to
make weapons.

As it turned out, only two of the five permanent, veto-wielding members
appear to have done any overseeing at all. These were the UK and the
U.S., both of which had almost no direct business with Saddam's Iraq.
The UN representatives of the other three=E2=80=94France, Russia, and
China=E2=80=94devoted their energies chiefly to urging expansion of the
program and forwarding the paperwork submitted by the many contractors
in their respective nations whom Saddam had selected as his buyers and
suppliers. As for the ten rotating members of the Security Council,
some=E2=80=94like Syria=E2=80=94were among Saddam's favored trading partner=
s, while
most of the others lacked the resources to keep track of the huge volume
of business the program soon generated.

If final responsibility lay anywhere at all, it lay with the
Secretariat. It was this body that fielded a substantial presence in
Iraq (the U.S., apart from weapons inspectors ejected early on, had
none), employing at the height of the program some 3,600 Iraqis plus 893
international staff working in Iraq for the nine UN agencies coordinated
by the Oil-for-Food office; another 100 or so were employed back in New
York. The Secretariat was the keeper of the contract records and the
books, and controller of the bank accounts, with sole power to authorize
the release of Saddam's earnings to pay for imports to Iraq. The
Secretariat arranged for audits of the program, was the chief
interlocutor with Saddam, got paid well for its pains, and disseminated
to the public extremely long reports in which most of the critical
details of the transactions were not included.

One of the first changes introduced by Sevan was greater secrecy.
According to John Fawcett, the co-author of a 70-page report on Saddam's
finances released in 2002 by the Washington-based Coalition for
International Justice, the UN had been fairly open about the specifics
of Saddam's contracts during the first year of the program. From about
1998 on, however, it categorized the most germane details as
"proprietary"=E2=80=94carefully guarding Saddam's privacy in his business
deals. Thus, there was no disclosure of such basic information as the
names of individual contractors or the price, quality, or quantity of
goods involved in any given deal=E2=80=94all vital to judging the integrity=

Instead, the Office of the Iraq Program released long lists representing
billions of dollars in business but noting only the date, country of
origin, whether or not the contract had been approved for release of
funding, and highly generic descriptions of goods. Typical of the level
of detail were notations like "electric motor" from France, "adult milk"
from Saudi Arabia, "detergent" from Russia, "cable" from China. Who in
particular might be profiting, or at what price, was kept confidential.
Nor did the UN disclose interest paid on the Oil-for-Food accounts at
BNP Paribas or (possibly) other banks, which toward the end of the
program held balances of more than $12 billion. Nor did it ever share
with the public the details of how the $1.9 billion in commissions
flowing from Saddam for aid and arms inspections (the latter were
discontinued from late 1998 to late 2002) were spent by the UN Secretariat.

The year 1998, the first full year of the program under Sevan's
directorship, is of special interest in this connection. For starters,
if evidence cited in the Wall Street Journal turns out to be correct,
this was the year in which Saddam's government may have begun covertly
sending gifts of oil to Sevan himself by way of a Panamanian firm. It
was also the year in which the UN terminated a contract with a UK-based
firm, Lloyd's Register, for the crucial job of inspecting all
Oil-for-Food shipments into Iraq, and replaced it with a Swiss-based
firm, Cotecna Inspections, with ties to Kofi Annan's son Kojo. At the
time, neither Cotecna nor the UN declared these ties as a possible
conflict of interest, which they were.2

Also in 1998, at Sevan's urging, the UN expanded Oil-for-Food to allow
Saddam to import not just food and medicine but oil-industry equipment,
and at Annan's urging more than doubled the amount of oil Iraq was
allowed to sell, raising the cap from roughly $4 billion to more than
$10 billion per year. That same year, after much hindering and
dickering, Saddam threw out the UN weapons inspectors=E2=80=94forbidding th=
return until the U.S. and Britain finally forced the issue four years later=

This brings us to 1999-2000, when, following Sevan's urging, the program
expanded yet further; with more funds devoted to the oil sector, and
with the weapons inspectors gone, the UN now removed the limits on
sales. In 2000, Saddam enjoyed a blockbuster year. By this time he was
not only selling vastly more oil but had institutionalized a system for
pocketing cash on the side.

It worked like this. Saddam would sell at below-market prices to his
hand-picked customers=E2=80=94the Russians and the French were special
favorites=E2=80=94and they could then sell the oil to third parties at a fa=
profit. Part of this profit they would keep, part they would kick back
to Saddam as a "surcharge," paid into bank accounts outside the UN
program, in violation of UN sanctions.

By means of this scam, Saddam's regime ultimately skimmed off for itself
billions of dollars in proceeds that were supposed to have been spent on
relief for the Iraqi people. When the scheme was reported in the
international press=E2=80=94in November 2000, for example, Reuters carried =
long dispatch about Saddam's demands for a 50-cent premium over official
UN prices on every barrel of Iraqi oil=E2=80=94the UN haggled with Saddam b=
did not stop it.

Beyond that, Saddam had also begun smuggling out oil through Turkey,
Jordan, and Syria. This was in flagrant defiance of UN sanctions and
made a complete mockery of Oil-for-Food, whose whole point was to
channel all of Saddam's trade. The smuggling, too, was widely reported
in the press=E2=80=94and shrugged off by the UN. In the same period, Saddam
imposed his own version of sanctions on the U.S., demanding that
Oil-for-Food funds be switched from dollars into euros. The UN complied,
thereby making it even harder for observers to keep track of its largely
secretive and confusing bookkeeping.

As Oil-for-Food grew in size and scope, the U.S. mission to the UN began
putting a significant number of its relief contracts on hold for closer
scrutiny. Both Sevan and Annan complained publicly and often about these
delays, describing them as injurious to the people of Iraq and urging
the Security Council to push the contracts through faster. What Sevan
did not convey was that, by 2000, complaints had begun reaching him
about Iraqi government demands for kickbacks from suppliers on the
relief side. These (according to a recent report in the Financial Times)
Sevan simply buried, telling complainants to submit formal documents to
the Security Council through their countries' UN missions (something
they had no incentive to do since Saddam would most likely have
responded by scrapping the deals altogether).

By 2002, the sixth year of the program, it was no longer credible that
the UN Secretariat could be clueless about Saddam's systematic
violations and exploitation of the humanitarian purpose of Oil-for-Food.
On May 2, in a front-page story by Alix M. Freedman and Steve Stecklow,
the Wall Street Journal documented in detail Saddam's illicit kickbacks
on underpriced oil contracts, noting that "at least until recently, the
UN has given Iraq surprising influence over the official price of its
oil." In fact, against the resistance of Russia, France, China, and the
UN Secretariat, the U.S. and Britain had been trying to put a halt to
the kickbacks through an elaborate system to enforce fairer
pricing=E2=80=94but with only limited success. Sevan, clearly aware of the
scam, was quoted in the Journal article as saying he had "no mandate" to
stop it.

Apparently, however, there was a near-boundless mandate for the
Secretariat to expand the scope of the spending. A mere fortnight later,
on May 14, 2002, the Security Council passed a resolution cutting itself
out of the loop entirely on all Oil-for-Food contracts deemed
humanitarian, and giving direct power of approval to the
Secretary-General. Henceforth, the Security Council would confine its
oversight to items of potential dual use, such as chemical spraying
equipment, or forbidden goods like highly enriched uranium,
nuclear-reactor components, and the like. Unimpeded responsibility for
the "humanitarian" aspect of the program fell to Annan.

The next month, "humanitarian" became a broad category indeed. On June
2, Annan approved a newly expanded shopping list by Saddam that the
Secretariat dubbed "Oil-for-Food Plus." This added ten new sectors to be
funded by the program, including "labor and social affairs,"
"information," "justice," and "sports." Either the Secretary-General had
failed to notice or he did not care that none of these had anything to
do with the equitable distribution of relief. By contrast, they had
everything to do with the running of Saddam's totalitarian state.
"Labor," "information," and "justice" were the realms of Baathist party
patronage, propaganda, censorship, secret police, rape rooms, and mass
graves. As for sports, that was the favorite arena of Saddam's sadistic
son Uday, already infamous for torturing Iraqi athletes.

Then came the autumn of 2002, when President Bush delivered his warning
to Saddam to comply with sixteen previous UN resolutions to disarm, and
the U.S. persuaded the Security Council to pass a seventeenth. Though
there was by this time no dearth of damning information in the public
domain, Oil-for-Food rolled on. On September 18, the Coalition for
International Justice released its heavily researched report, Sources of
Revenue for Saddam & Sons, documenting rampant corruption and smuggling
under UN sanctions and Oil-for-Food, warning of an Iraqi shift from
"informal, on-the-sly deals" to increasingly "brazen and formal
government-to-government arrangements," and asking how, "given . . . the
world's largest humanitarian program ever, can there remain shortages of
basic medicines and foodstuffs" in Iraq? Four months later, with Saddam
still defiant and war looking likely, Annan signed a letter to the
Security Council in which, among other things, he approved the use of
$20 million in Oil-for-Food funds to pay for an "Olympic sport city" and
$50 million to equip Saddam's propaganda arm, the Ministry of Information.3

By then, of course, debate over Iraq was raging in the Security Council,
and the U.S. and Britain were bitterly at odds with France and Russia.
Annan weighed in publicly on the side of the latter, urging yet more
time and tolerance. He did not mention his own interest as the boss of a
massive relief program funded by Saddam. Neither did he mention that
Saddam's commercial deals heavily favored French and Russian companies,
though he had access to actual numbers about those deals that, thanks to
UN secretiveness, the public did not.

On March 17, with the U.S.-led coalition poised to invade, Annan pulled
his international staff out of Iraq. Three days later, as coalition
forces rolled into Iraq, he expressed regret that war had come "despite
the best efforts of the international community and the United Nations."
Describing the UN as the keeper of international "legitimacy," he
assured the Iraqi people that, as soon as possible, the UN would be back
to do "whatever it can to bring them assistance and support."

Following the fall of Saddam's regime, the U.S.-led coalition decided
that Iraq had experienced enough of UN-style "assistance and support,"
at least as far as Oil-for-Food was concerned. With Russia and France
suddenly willing to go along, perhaps to avoid scrutiny of
Oil-for-Russia and Oil-for-France, the Security Council voted
unanimously on May 22 that the program should be wound down. No more oil
revenues were to flow in, but the UN Secretariat was to continue
administering the remaining relief contracts until November, when any
unfinished business would be turned over to the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) in Baghdad.

At that stage, Oil-for-Food had close to $13 billion in BNP Paribas's
Iraq accounts, most of it set aside to pay for contracts already
approved. During the summer and early fall, the New York office began
tidying up loose ends, renegotiating, "prioritizing," and basically
removing the graft elements from the remaining contracts before handover
to the CPA. In these efforts, the UN got some prompting from the U.S.
Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA)=E2=80=94the agency that has been
auditing Halliburton's recent activities in Iraq.

 From the thousands of remaining contracts, the DCMA (together with the
Defense Contract Audit Agency) culled a batch of 759 of the largest
deals, valued altogether at $6.9 billion. The reviewers estimated that
among these contracts, almost half were overpriced by about 21 percent,
for a total of $656 million that Saddam's regime had overpaid. This was
in all likelihood the kickback component, part of which the suppliers
were meant to share illicitly with the regime. Dryly, the DCMA's report
adds that, in the course of its researches, "Some items of questionable
utility for the Iraqi people (e.g., Mercedes Benz touring sedans) were

By the time the Oil-for-Food office was finished renegotiating its
contracts, it had scrapped more than a quarter of them. Some of the
reasons, listed in UN public documents, are intriguing. There was, for
example, the Syrian supplier of "spare parts for rotating equipment"
whom it was "not possible to contact"; the Lebanese vendor of "welding
machines" who was "unwilling to accept the 10-percent deduction"=E2=80=94i.=
a price minus the bribe-plus-kickback; and the Jordanian seller of
school furniture whose contract had to be dropped because "company does
not exist and the person in charge moved to Egypt."

Then came the formal ceremonies to which I have already alluded. On
November 19, Sevan's office put out a press release praising
Oil-for-Food as "one of the most efficient of UN programs." On November
20, Annan chimed in with his own praise for Oil-for-Food, paying tribute
to the staff and "particularly to its executive director, Benon Sevan."
On November 21, almost seven years after setting up shop as a temporary
and limited measure to bring food and medicine to hungry people in Iraq,
the program shut down, handing the CPA a royal mess.

Sevan had assured the Security Council that, along with control of the
more than $8 billion in funds and contracts still to be administered,
the CPA would get "the entire Oil-for-Food database." In fact, the
transfer was incomplete. Plenty of contract information was missing. So
Byzantine were the BNP Paribas accounts that, rather than risk
interrupting relief deliveries, the CPA simply left them under the
management of the UN treasurer, who until almost a year after the fall
of Saddam never got around to sending any current bank statements, let
alone prior records.4

Meanwhile, however, the Iraqi Governing Council had itself begun to pore
over records of the Saddam regime from various ministries, and former
Baath officials were also starting to talk. On December 5, a British
adviser to the Council, Claude Hankes-Drielsma, wrote from Baghdad to
Annan, urging the UN to "take the moral high ground" and appoint an
independent commission to investigate profiteering under Oil-for-Food.

Not a moment too soon: now the revelations were beginning to flow
rapidly. On January 25 of this year, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada
published a list, reportedly recovered from the Iraqi oil ministry, of
some 270 individuals and entities in some 50 countries who were alleged
to have received vouchers good for oil from Saddam Hussein. The list was
an eye-opener. It included the former French Interior Minister Charles
Pasqua, British MP George Galloway, Indonesian President Megawati
Sukarnoputri, the Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a large
number of Russian oil companies, the Russian state, and the Russian
Orthodox Church. It also included the family name of the head of the UN
Oil-for-Food program: Sevan.

Those named in Al-Mada's list ignored, denied, or dismissed it on
grounds that they had legitimately bought oil from Saddam. As for Sevan,
he categorically repudiated the notion that he had ever received oil or
oil money from the Iraqi regime, while Annan, in a statement more
artfully hedged, said: "As far as I know, nobody in the Secretariat has
committed any wrongdoing." A spokesman for the UN Secretariat repeated
the by-now usual line that Oil-for-Food had been the most audited
program at the UN=E2=80=94"audited to death" was the exact phrase=E2=80=94a=
nd in
late February the Oil-for-Food office released a seven-page statement
clearly aimed at deflecting blame for any graft involved with the program.

According to this official account, the Secretariat had no
responsibility for confirming that contract-pricing was fair, or that
suppliers were legitimate (that was the job of Saddam and the UN country
missions); no responsibility for implementing the program (that too was
the job of Saddam); no responsibility for either spotting or stopping
corruption by Saddam via Oil-for-Food contracts (that was the job of the
Security Council); and no awareness of unauthorized oil exports (though
the office confirmed its knowledge of "media reports on alleged
violations"). By the light of this clarification, indeed, it was hard to
tell what the Oil-for-Food program was, in fact, responsible for, beyond
controlling the opaque bank accounts, checking that the
contracts=E2=80=94honest or not=E2=80=94were properly punctuated, watching =
Saddam do
whatever he chose, and collecting a 2.2-percent commission on his oil.

And so we arrive at the denouement=E2=80=94at least so far. On February 29,
the New York Times published a long news article based on "a trove of
internal Iraqi government documents and financial records" unearthed by
the Iraqi Governing Council. The article described oil traders lugging
suitcases full of illicit cash to the ministries and cited stacks of
evidence showing that, through Oil-for-Food, Saddam's regime had
squirreled away billions for itself while ordinary Iraqis received
expired medicines and substandard rations.

Still the UN hung tough. On March 3, Hankes-Drielsma notified Annan that
Iraqi authorities had asked an auditing firm, KPMG International, and a
law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, to prepare an independent
report. In his letter, Hankes-Drielsma explained his reasoning:

Based on the facts as I know them at the present time, the UN failed in
its responsibility to the Iraqi people and the international community
at large. The UN should not be surprised that the Iraqi people question
the UN's credibility at this time and any future role for the UN in
Iraq. It will not come as a surprise if the Oil-for-Food program turns
out to be one of the world's most disgraceful scams and an example of
inadequate control, responsibility, and transparency, providing an
opportune vehicle for Saddam Hussein to operate under the UN aegis to
continue his reign of terror and oppression.

On March 10 came confirmation that Annan's son Kojo had held a
consultancy with Cotecna right around the time the company won the UN
job to inspect goods coming into Iraq. On March 11 came an article in
the Wall Street Journal detailing further links between Saddam's oil
largesse and Sevan. The following week came word that Congress would
hold hearings on Oil-for-Food. And on March 19, having ignored,
stonewalled, and denied, Annan finally conceded that "it is highly
possible there has been quite a lot of wrongdoing," and called for an
independent inquiry.

As the various audits, investigations, and hearings gear up to delve
into the saga of UN involvement in Saddam's Iraq, we may learn even more
about his worldwide net of corruption. With skill, we may locate some of
the billions he is believed to have salted away under UN oversight. With
luck, we may get to this money ahead of the terrorists with whom he
consorted=E2=80=94if they have not gotten to it already. Already known, for
example, is that two firms doing business with Saddam through
Oil-for-Food were linked to financier Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, now on the
UN's own watchlist of individuals "belonging to or associated with" al

But let us retain our focus. That Saddam Hussein was a monster and a
corrupt monster is not news. That he would exploit, for massive personal
gain, a humanitarian program meant to relieve the miseries of his
countrymen is horrifying but hardly astonishing. Nevertheless, any
investigation that confines itself to detailing the abundantly evident
corruption of Saddam Hussein will have missed the point.

What lies at the core of this story is the United Nations, and how it
came to pass that an institution charged with bringing peace and probity
to the world should have offered itself up=E2=80=94willingly, even
eagerly=E2=80=94as the vehicle for a festival of abuse and fraud.

To begin with, Oil-for-Food was an enormous venture in central planning,
the biggest project of its kind launched in many a decade and one that
utterly ignored the lessons about such systems learned at agonizing cost
over the past century. The UN Secretariat, in its well-paid arrogance,
set out to administer virtually the entire economy of Iraq. Under its
eye, all legitimate trading privileges became the franchise of a tyrant
who laid first claim to every barrel of oil and every dollar (or euro)
of proceeds. How could Oil-for-Food not help consolidate Saddam's grip
on power? Nevertheless, it was with this grand thief of Baghdad that the
UN cut its humanitarian deal, chalking in a fat commission for the

Nor did anyone in the UN system so much as lift an eyebrow, even after
questions began to be raised. Last November, before the Security Council
of the United Nations, the organization's Secretary-General proclaimed
it a splendid achievement that the UN had legitimized a scheme by which
60 percent of Iraq's population depended entirely on the rationing cards
of a totalitarian state. This was an event that should have seized the
vaunted international community with horror. Instead, from out of the
mouth of the Angolan ambassador who that month was chairing the UN
Security Council there issued only unctuous praise for "the
exceptionally important role of the program in providing humanitarian
assistance to the people of Iraq."

But all that is only prelude. The scope of UN dereliction is much
broader, encompassing factors institutional, personal, and, finally,

It is true that Oil-for-Food managed to deliver to Iraqis some portion
of what it promised. On sales totaling $65 billion, some $46 billion (by
Annan's uncheckable reckoning) went for "humanitarian" spending. Of this
amount, an official total of $15 billion worth of food and health
supplies=E2=80=94the original rationale for the program=E2=80=94had been re=
ceived by
the time Saddam fell. The actual figure was no doubt considerably less
if you factor in the kickbacks and spoiled goods; from the remainder
came the equipment for Saddam's oil monopoly, the construction
materials, the TV studio systems, the carpets and air conditioners for
the ministries, and all the rest.

But at what cost? Are we supposed to conclude that, in order to deliver
this amount of aid, the UN had to approve Saddam's more than $100
billion worth of largely crooked business, had to look the other way
while he skimmed money, bought influence, built palaces, and stashed
away billions on the side, at least some of which may now be funding
terror in Iraq or beyond?

No, something was at work here other than passive acquiescence. At
precisely what moment during the years of Oil-for-Food did the UN
Secretariat cross the line from "supervising" Saddam to collaborating
with him? With precisely what deed did it enter into collusion? Even
setting aside such obvious questions as whether individual UN officials
took bribes, did the complicity begin in 1998, when Saddam flexed his
muscles by throwing out the weapons inspectors and when Oil-for-Food,
instead of leaving along with them, raised the cap on his oil sales? Did
it come in 1999, when, even as Saddam's theft was becoming apparent, the
UN scrapped the oil-sales limits altogether? Or in 2000 and 2001, when
Sevan dismissed complaints and reports about blatant kickbacks? Did it
start in 2002, when Annan, empowered by Oil-for-Food Plus, signed his
name to projects for furnishing Saddam with luxury cars, stadiums, and
office equipment for his dictatorship? Or did the defining moment arrive
in 2003, when Annan, ignoring the immense conflict posed by the fact
that his own institution was officially on Saddam's payroll, lobbied
alongside two of Saddam's other top clients, Russia and France, to
preserve his regime? Certainly by the time Annan and Sevan, neck-deep in
revelatory press reports and standing indignantly athwart their own
secret records, continued to offer to the world their evasions and
denials, the balance had definitively tipped.

Annan's studied bewilderment is itself an indictment not only of his
person but of the system he heads. If anyone is going to take the fall
for the Oil-for-Food scandal, Sevan seems the likeliest candidate. But
it was the UN Secretary-General who compliantly condoned Saddam's
ever-escalating schemes and conditions, and who lobbied to the last to
preserve Saddam's totalitarian regime while the UN Secretariat was
swimming in his cash.

Annan has been with the UN for 32 years. He moved up through its ranks;
he knows it well. He was there at the creation of Oil-for-Food, he chose
the director, he signed the distribution plans, he visited Saddam, he
knew plenty about Iraq, and one might assume he read the newspapers. We
are left to contemplate a UN system that has engendered a
Secretary-General either so dishonest that he should be dismissed or so
incompetent that he is truly dangerous=E2=80=94and should be dismissed.

The final perfidy, though, is not personal but political. The UN, in the
name of its own lofty principles, and to its rich emolument, actively
helped sustain and protect a tyrant whose brutality and repression were
the cause of Iraqi deprivation in the first place. What can this mean?
The answer may be simply that, along with its secrecy, its massed cadres
of bureaucrats beholden to the favor of the man at the top, its almost
complete lack of accountability, external oversight, or the most
elementary checks and balances, the UN suffers from an endemic affinity
with anti-Western despots, and will turn a blind eye to the devil
himself in order to keep them in power. Certainly there is much in its
history and its behavior to support this view.

Perhaps, then, the complicity was there all along, built in, and was
merely reinforced year after year as the UN collected the commissions
and processed the funds that transformed Oil-for-Food into the sleaziest
program ever to fly the UN flag and the single largest item on every
budget of all nine UN agencies involved, plus the Secretariat itself.
That, in the end, may be the dirty secret at the center of the
Oil-for-Food scandal.

And is this the same United Nations that, now, we are planning to
entrust with bringing democracy to Iraq?

Claudia Rosett, who contributes a bi-weekly column on foreign affairs to
the Wall Street Journal's online edition,, is a
senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and an
adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute.

1 As of 2001, one of the largest shareholders in BNP was Iraqi-born
Nadhmi Auchi, among Britain's richest citizens. In the 1980's Auchi had
brokered business deals for Saddam; last year he was convicted in France
of illicit profiteering as part of the huge Elf oil scandal. The UN says
the Oil-for-Food contract was awarded to BNP on a strictly competitive

2 According to a spokesman at the UN Secretary-General's office, Kojo
Annan had been a trainee at Cotecna from December 1995 to February 1998,
and two months later was back at work for the firm as a consultant; his
consultancy, which lasted until December 1998, thus coincided with the
period during which the UN would have been receiving and reviewing bids
for the Oil-for-Food inspection job. Both Kojo and Kofi Annan have
denied that Kojo's consulting work was in any way related to the UN.

3 This is especially significant in light of the role that would be
played by Saddam's televised propaganda during the war. In the event,
Saddam may have had to rely on equipment brought in earlier under
Oil-for-Food from places like France and Jordan. He was unable to take
delivery of TV studio equipment ordered from Russia and approved and
funded by the Secretariat on February 7, 2003, just six weeks before the
war. But that was not for want of Kofi Annan's approval.

4 Not only the occupation authority but the Iraqis themselves have
failed to penetrate the UN wall of disdain, although it is their own
money they wish to know about. The Iraqi Central Bank began requesting
copies of the relevant BNP bank statements in July 2003. Not until late
March of this year, after I aired the matter in a piece in National
Review Online, was there some halting sign of movement in the UN
treasurer's office. Similar stonewalling=E2=80=94no accounting given, no
access to statements=E2=80=94has met the repeated efforts of Kurds in north=
Iraq to find out what happened to about $4 billion in separate
allocations owed to them under Oil-for-Food.

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