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[casi-analysis] Seven questions for the Oil for Food investigators

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Questions for Senator Coleman as he looks into Oil for Food
Minneapolis StarTribune
Nov. 22, 2004

I'm confused, Senator Norm Coleman.

You're investigating the United Nations' Oil for Food program, the central
humanitarian effort in a political conflict that claimed 500,000 children's
lives, and yet your subcommittee does not mention these deaths. It averts its
eyes, and interrogates accountants, and mumbles financial bromides, and smiles,
smiles, smiles for C-SPAN.

You're walking on graves, Senator Coleman.

Begin with the children. If the investigation of Oil for Food has any moral
weight, it's here. How accurate is the estimate of 500,000 children's deaths,
why did they die, and where lies the blame?

Investigate, and let the chips fall where they may.

Here are seven questions to get you going:

(1) The senator has noted that Oil for Food's mission was humanitarian.

How well did it work? Will the subcommittee review the research of UNICEF and
others estimating that 500,000 excess deaths occurred among Iraqi children from
1991 through early 1999? How solid is this estimate, and could it have been
inflated by Saddam Hussein's government? Why did the American media not cover
these studies when a policy change could have saved lives? Invite Prof. Richard
Garfield of Columbia University as an expert witness.

(2) The senator has called the United Nations uncooperative in its response to
the investigation. Why doesn't the senator invite the former in-country
administrators of Oil for Food to testify? Three key figures -- Assistant
Secretaries General Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, and World Food Program
head Jutta Burghardt -- are all available, as they resigned and ended their
careers rather than continue participation.

(3) By most accounts, economic sanctions removed $100-$150 billion from Iraq's
economy through the 1990s. By contrast, illicit revenue outside Oil for Food
amounted to $11 billion (though your subcommittee's investigation claims to
double this amount). Which figure had more influence on the welfare of the
average Iraqi? What if "smart sanctions" (aimed solely at military and dual-use
goods) were implemented initially rather than a decade later?

(4) Investigate Saddam's mismanagement and manipulations. Dig deeper than the
obvious (the postwar freeways and palaces). Pound the table and ask why Iraq
drained the southern swamps rather than rebuild the sewers of Basra. Ask why, in
heaven's name, Iraq delayed ordering protein biscuits (so vital in reducing
infant mortality). Invite Prof. Amatzia Baram of the University of Haifa as an
expert witness.

(5) The Duelfer report shows almost 100 percent of Iraq's illicit revenue prior
to Oil for Food, and 73 percent of their illicit revenue overall, was agreed to
by the United States. (Smuggling to Jordan and Turkey was allowed to ease damage
to our allies' economies. Pipeline trade with Syria was allowed to secure
support in the war on terror.) Removing these figures from the "U.N. fraud"
calculations reduces it to Halliburton-size. But that's not a comfortable
headline for a protégé of the vice president, is it, Senator?

(6) Will the subcommittee review cases where the United States, like Iraq, used
Iraq's Oil for Food funds for political leverage? The U.S. blocked humanitarian
contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, freeing the goods only after
key U.N. votes were obtained. At one point, the U.S. held roughly $5-billion in
contracts -- risking a calamity in Iraq -- until U.N. procedures changed.

(7) When Oil-for-Food began in 1996, presidential candidate Bob Dole criticized
the humanitarian program as "a source of revenue which will reduce Iraqi
domestic discontent with (Saddam's) reign." U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright
said that "the price is worth it," even if containing Iraq via sanctions caused
500,000 children's deaths.

Both statements advocate lethally targeting civilians to pressure their
leadership, a textbook definition of terror. Albright later apologized in her
autobiography, but neither party has disavowed these statements, and I'm curious
whether you agree or disagree.

You may want to talk to a Brooklyn Park family whose home was raided by
government agents, guns at the ready, early one morning in February 2002. Their
"crime" was sending survival money to Iraqi grandparents. Similar raids occurred
simultaneously in 14 U.S. cities and involved three federal agencies. Agents
said there was no concern the money was financing terror, but that the transfer
violated an administrative order and they were merely "doing their job."

Sometimes, Senator, you must ask whether merely doing your job is sufficient. I
don't envy you, saddled with a morally charged investigation into policies you
did not make.

But please don't walk on the graves, Senator Coleman.

- Drew Hamre

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