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January 30, 2005


Do you have any evidence that Kofi Annan was stonewalling the investigation?

One thing that has consistently puzzled me about Republicans calling for a full investigation on the Oil-for-Food scandal: why do they want to see Dick Cheney, CEO of Halliburton during the years Halliburton was into Oil-for-Food so enthusiastically, investigated for his corporation's involvement in what these Republicans see as very shady activity?

And, if these Republicans think Dick Cheney is a vile criminal who ought to be investigated, why were they supporting his candidacy as Vice President?

However, snide comments about Cheney aside (when we're talking about financial corruption, he and Halliburtion are such easy targets) the fact is that the right-wing attacks on the UN via Oil for Food have been both biased and context-free. For example:

Several different UN agencies provided expertise, service delivery and monitoring once Oil for Food was finally implemented in March 1997, including UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Development Program. When the program was formally terminated in November 2003, $31 billion of humanitarian aid had been delivered, primarily food and medicine, but also items for water and sewage treatment, electricity production, transportation and agriculture. Within the narrow strictures of the sanctions regime, the Oil for Food program accomplished a great deal, according to statistics kept by these agencies and independent observers. Between 1997 and 2002, the nutritional value of the food basket distributed monthly by the program almost doubled, from 1,200 calories per person per day to about 2,200. The incidence of communicable diseases, including cholera and malaria, was cut down substantially. Electricity became more reliable, as did the availability of potable water. Despite these gains, sanctions continued to take a toll.

In the late 1990s and the early days of the current Bush administration, most of the debate over Oil for Food focused on its limitations as a remedy for Iraq's humanitarian crisis. Today's spotlight on alleged corruption in the program, in addition to being tinged with reflexive right-wing hostility to the UN, reveals the collective amnesia about the effects of the economic sanctions that made Oil for Food necessary in the first place. cite

It's certain that bribery was involved in Oil for Food: Halliburton, which profited by it, would have been one of the companies that gave bribes. It's acknowledged, however, that bribery is a fact of doing business in many countries: it shouldn't be regarded as an automatic sign of depravity.

The "evidence" that anything more was involved comes from Ahmed Chalabi. Would anyone like to take a bet that it's about as reliable as any other information provided by Chalabi - especially as he has refused to let anyone see the documents that supposedly prove the existence of this scandal?

"President Bush should forward a no-confidence vote on Annan's leadership straight away."

Maybe Rice should give a presentation to the Security Council. You know, like the one Colin Powell gave on Saddam's WMD.

We've known about Kofi's son's potential involvement for almost a year now, CB; this isn't the news you're making it out to be. I note, however, that you haven't addressed the points that a) almost all the information on the Oil For Food scandal came from Chalabi, and b) after the original problems were fixed most of the monies allegedly stolen were diverted at the behest of the US and US companies.

[And hey, if you're so virulently opposed to leaders covering their son's asses -- as well you should be -- can we retroactively impeach the first President Bush?]

I have to admire conservative dedication to the corruption that was the Iraqi sanctions program. All through the 90s, it was all I could hear from the right wing: "UN sanctions are corrupt! Starving children in Iraq!" I could barely get to campus without Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer mobbing the mail room with photocopied posters of malaria-ridden Iraqi toddlers and chants of "No Justice, No Peace!" You know how it's like with these idealist types, though: after a while I just got desensitized. By the time Fred Barnes set himself on fire on the White House lawn in '99 under the homemade No Iraqi Genocide sign I didn't feel a thing.

How much longer should we sit by and passively accept the status quo on this decrepit international body and a leader with no moral authority?

You mean the United States of America and George Bush of course.

We? I thought we didn't dive a flying fig about the UN? We don't need their stinkin' permission slip for nuttin; what do we care what their principal, er Sec-Gen, does? [/snark]

On a serious note, I do think the UN and its agencies should be above reproach; but it's not seemly for the US to be calling for an audit now, being so involved in the scandal itself. Let another country/countries do an investigation.

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