Skip to comments."Oil-for-Food" Scandal Threatens UN Legitimacy
Posted on 05/06/2004 9:48:15 PM PDT by thatcher
"Oil-for-Food" Scandal Threatens UN Legitimacy http://michnews.com/artman/publish/article_3571.shtml
By Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute
May 7, 2004
The Friday Fax has learned that Saddam Hussein 's government attempted to bribe a developing world government in exchange for its support on the Security Council. A diplomat from that country said that the Iraqi's offered his nation a massive contract to buy agricultural products and it was clear that the contract was to ensure that the country had a financial stake in the continuation of the Hussein regime.
Information continues to surface about widespread bribes through the United Nation's "Oil-for-Food" program, especially about alleged complicity by senior UN personnel in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 's theft of billions of dollars earmarked to feed the Iraqi people. Serious questions are now being raised about the UN's ability to carry out honest and efficient international social policies, and even about the UN's very legitimacy. The Washington Post editorialized on March 26th that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "owes it to the Iraqis to make this investigation real and thorough. If the United Nations cannot disprove its critics - and punish wrongdoers, if any - it will be harder to trust the organization to manage humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in the future."
A Republican Policy Committee report, released earlier this week by Senator Jon Kyl (R-Az), echoed the Post's sentiments, stating that "The UN's failures in Iraq need to be accounted for and assessed; and the UN needs to restore credibility with Iraqis and the world.It is the scope of the scandal that calls into question the UN's ability to play a responsible role in any crisis, post-intervention administration, or humanitarian operation. It is more than botching their biggest such operation to date: This seems to be so large an error that it is necessary to examine the very premise of the UN bureaucracy and its involvement in significant international programs."
"For the UN to be seen as legitimate" the report concludes, it "must reform itself to ensure that future UN humanitarian operations are not ripe for such abuses." The report suggests that "Kofi Annan should testify before the UN investigatory panel [in the US Congress] to show that the Secretary General is taking this scandal seriously and also to demonstrate that no one in the UN is above the law."
The "Oil-for-Food" program began in 1996 as way for Iraq to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods, primarily food and medicine. The program was run by the UN Secretariat and monitored by nations on the UN Security Council, with the stated purpose of ensuring that Saddam Hussein would not divert funds away from the Iraqi people.
However, the US General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates that, between 1997 and 2002, Saddam Hussein received $10.1 billion in illegal revenue from the program. It is further alleged that not only did the UN turn a blind eye to Hussein 's activities, UN officials may have also profited by them. According to the Republican Policy Committee Report, "On January 25, 2004 , the Iraqi Governing Council released documents suggesting that Saddam Hussein , UN officials (including Oil-for-Food program director Benon Sevan ), well-connected governments (including some UN Security Council members), and private individuals all benefited from the manipulation of the UN-administered program. Those involved with this scandal allegedly utilized illegal oil shipments, financial transactions, kickbacks, and surcharges.The corruption and abuse.may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis."
Abandoned dogs or starving children?
Area activists try to remind people of the sanctions against Iraq, and inform them about their deadly, ongoing toll
Photo by Larry Dalton
Patricia Daugherty and Cindy Litman compete with animal adoption advocates in trying to raise awareness of the toll our sanctions against Iraq are taking.
Next door is a simple table covered with information fliers on the impacts of the decade-long sanctions against innocent Iraqis. Above the booth is a large, hand-painted sign that states in black letters, 5,000 Iraqi Children Die Every Month from Malnutrition Because of Sanctions.
Alongside the table is a poster displaying photos of young girls and boys from this secular country. Few passersby give more than a passing glance to the booth sponsored by the Davis Coalition to End the Sanctions in Iraq.
Even fewer stop.
Cindy Litman, who has been tabling for the coalition since last year, has become used to watching people gather in support of abused, abandoned and unwanted dogs next door. But she still has a hard time swallowing the fact that many of the people who respond with such empathy to the plight of Labrador retrievers stroll past our table without a pang.
Lacking the basics
Litman, the coalition and a sister organization in Sacramento have been working for months to bring attention to the plight of Iraqi people who have been subject to 11 years of punitive sanctions and intermittent bombing by Americans. Since the Gulf War, many Iraqis have lived without functioning water delivery, sewage treatment or electrical systems, facts given short shrift by the mainstream press in the United States.
You cant have good health unless you have good water, said Patricia Daugherty, co-founder of the Davis coalition. And she knows what she it talking about.
Daugherty, a nurse practitioner, worked in the Peten region of Guatemala for two years in the late 1990s to reduce illnesses and death caused by contaminated water. She saw the suffering caused by preventable water-related diseases, including dysentery that can devastate young children, particularly malnourished ones.
What struck Daugherty most when she began learning about conditions in Iraq was the lack of potable water supplies. When she discovered that the U.S.-led blockade prevents Iraqis from rebuilding their infrastructure she began actively campaigning against the policy. The sanctions dual use provision prohibits the sending of any material to Iraq that could be used for military purposes, which extends to parts to reconstruct vital water purification and treatment and electrical facilities destroyed during the war.
The U.S. policy is so blatant and means that people cant take care of their children, Daugherty said.
The sanctions policy is based on driving Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power, and defenders of the policy blame him for the suffering of his people. And suffering they are. One Iraqi child dies every 10 minutes from malnutrition, avoidable water-borne diseases and medical care deficiencies, according to UNICEF.
The once robust Iraqi public health care system is in tatters. The middle class has been wiped out. The economy is in shambles. Everything from iodine for the purification of contaminated water to badly needed medicines is nearly non-existent.
Earlier this year, Davis activists attempted to send medicine, water-purification tablets and childrens vitamins to Davis sister city, Al Jamhurieh, Iraq. The U.S.-sponsored sanctions, which have come under increasing international criticism, also forbid mailing goods weighing over 12 ounces to Iraq, including humanitarian supplies and products as basic as aspirin.
The group had no illusions their care packages would be accepted by the post office but were part of a nationwide effort to bring attention to the brutal fallout of the sanctions on young and old Iraqi civilians. Besides, they knew there was not much point in sending curative medicines if measures are not taken to prevent the diseases.
The gruesome September 11 attacks left a significant mark on the local coalitions. After the tragedy, they laid low to honor the victims. But as the shock of the traumatic event began to wear off, they felt it was still their duty to provide an alternative voice and push to overturn the ongoing sanctions in Iraq.
It was with trepidation that the Davis coalition members recommenced tabling at the Farmers Market, concerned they would be labeled unpatriotic. Yet much to their surprise, several people who previously expressed only tepid interest in getting involved suddenly signed up with the group.
They seemed happy to hear another voice, Litman said.
The Davis and Sacramento coalitions have become magnets for peace activist organizations. Theyve helped coordinate rallies, forums and speakers. But, lifting the sanctions on Iraq continues to be the key mission.
The head of the national anti-sanction organization and a former top ranking United Nations official were sponsored by the two groups recently to help keep the war in Afghanistan from drowning out their message about the forgotten war in Iraq.
Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices in the Wilderness, called the sanctions a weapon of mass destruction. She has been to Iraq numerous times and part of her work involves trying to comfort distraught mothers whose children have died from malnutrition and curable diseases.
During a recent trip, Kelly managed to get a television crew from CNN to come to one of the Iraqi hospitals filled with sick and dying children. After the reporter finished interviewing her at the entrance, he and his entourage walked away. Kelly called after them and insisted they film more than a talking head. While pleading with them to go inside a ward, an Iraqi man ran past them into the hospital, cradling a tiny motionless bundle in his arms. He cried out that his baby had just died.
A few seconds later, Kelly said the reporter looked at her and said, That could have been staged. She said she truly hoped the man was holding nothing more than a swaddled doll. Kelly asked him again to go inside the hospital, adding, You cant stage a dying child before you own eyes.
Kellys co-speaker, Hans von Sponeck, was the head of the U.N.s Oil for Food Program in Iraq from 1998 to 2000. He said the sanctions have caused a humanitarian disaster, a view that led him to resign his post with the U.N. in February 2000, ending a 32-year career, to protest the destructive policy and accompanying massive misinformation campaign. Under the Oil for Food Program, about half of Iraqs $44.4 billion petroleum sales from end of December 1996 to July of this year was available for humanitarian use, which equals about $120 a year per Iraqi.
Iraqis deserve justice and human rights protections as much as you and I, von Sponeck told packed houses in Davis and Sacramento, adding he was no fan of Saddam Hussein, who he called a ruthless dictator and criminal. He warned the wretched conditions created by the sanctions have increased support for Hussein among Iraqis.
All about oil
The root of the problem in Iraq is not Saddam Hussein, but the black liquid gold under his country. Von Sponeck harked back to Henry Kissingers infamous statement that oil was too important to be left in the hands of the Arabs.
Without Iraq, there is no justification for U.S. presence in the Middle East, von Sponeck noted.
Members of the Davis coalition, like Elias Rashmawi, dont believe its worth the trade-off: A barrel of oil is not worth the life of a child.
Von Sponeck also warned that since September 11, there have been efforts to link Iraq with Osama bin Laden and terrorists. Bin Laden has never been welcome in Iraq, with its secular government, but von Sponeck fears the war effort in the devastated Afghanistan will soon expand to Iraq.
We see these days an attempt to link Iraq to this whole network of terrorism, von Sponeck said, including its alleged links to anthrax and the World Trade Center.
The evidence does not support the claims, he told SN&R. Rather, he is convinced there are U.S. government officials who want to seize the opportunity to finish unfinished business.
President George W. Bush and his cabinet members warn that all countries supporting terrorism are fair game, giving some weight to von Sponecks assertions. And as the bombing campaign in Afghanistan begins to wind down, the prospect that Iraq may be the next target of U.S. military force could be growing.
Kelly and von Sponeck urge Americans to learn as much as they can about the impact of the ongoing blockade and to speak out. Contacting elected officials and writing letters to the local papers about the destruction wrought by sanctions and bombing was also recommended.
Kelly urged people to let the media know we dont want cartoonish versions presented to us.
The Davis and Sacramento groups continue to sponsor international experts on Iraq and Middle Eastern affairs and hold teach-ins, demonstrations and rallies. But with American flags flying everywhere and widespread support for the war, they know they face an uphill battle.
Theyve unsuccessfully tried to get the ear of Congressman Doug Ose, a Woodland Republican. Coalition members set up a meeting with him in July to talk about the severe impacts of the sanctions--from the effect on childrens health to diminished educational opportunities--and hand him more than 600 letters from constituents that object to the blockade. One hour before the scheduled meeting, they say, Ose cancelled. Since that time, numerous calls the activists have made to reschedule have not been returned.
But theyre not giving up, and still trying to be heard, now more than ever. The coalition continues its tabling at the Davis Farmers Market alongside the retriever association, to maintain a visible presence and provide resources.
We have to be here, Litman said, to educate ourselves and our community and keep up our sense of hope. Daugherty added they are also working to keep this country from becoming the evil we deplore.
Benon Sevan appeared on a list published by the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada in late January of 270 former Cabinet officials, legislators, activists and journalists from more than 46 countries who allegedly received bribes in exchange for supporting Saddam's regime.
Sevan, a veteran U.N. diplomat from Cyprus, said in a statement Tuesday "there is absolutely no substance to the allegations ... that I had received oil or oil moneys from the former Iraqi regime."
Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council has asked the Oil Ministry to investigate the allegations. According to Al-Mada, the bulk of the bribes went to Russian firms as part of Saddam's bid to maintain good ties with the Kremlin, which argued heartily against the U.S.-led invasion.
Sevan's satatement said "those making the allegations should come forward and provide the necessary documentary evidence" and present it to the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services.
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard, who read Sevan's statement, said the United Nations does not plan to launch an investigation because "it's really not clear to us even what the allegations are."
"First of all, this oil-for-food program has been audited to death. Second, we have a lot of personal confidence in Benon Sevan's integrity," he said.
The oil-for-food program was established in December 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Under the program, Iraq was allowed to sell unlimited quantities of oil provided all the revenue went into a U.N.-controlled escrow account and was used primarily to buy food and other basic imports.
It quickly became a lifeline for 90 percent of the population.
When the program ended in November, Sevan reported that Iraq had exported $65 billion of oil over its seven-year life span; $31 billion in food and medicine had been delivered to the Iraqi people; and $8.2 billion worth of humanitarian goods was still in the delivery pipeline.
Iraq had plenty of oil.
If Saddam had wanted to purify water, he could have made oil/kerosene available to boil the water to purify it.
All scrutiny of the UN and EU member corruption has been put on indefinite media hold while we still have nakid Iraqi, Syrian Terrorist and IslamoSolialistFacisticFreedomFighter pictures to dribble out on the front pages and nightly newscasts.
Our pleas for more pictures has been fruitful and we believe that we have more pictures than you have UN investigators that can get anywhere with the UN working against its exposure.
Our next hyped scandal's pictures will be ready in three weeks, at which time we will tell you which story to watch instead of this one.
Thanking you in advance for your cooperation
Your trusted buddy,
Is there a thread of this report?
Wed Apr 28, 2:32 PM ET
The US government says Saddam and his associates may have pocketed around 10 billion dollars, including more than five billion from smuggled oil sold outside the rules of the programme."We had no mandate to stop oil smuggling," Annan said. "There was no way the UN could have stopped it."
He said some of the smuggling was done overland in trucks through northern Iraq, where the United States and Britain at the time patrolled a "no-fly" zone -- and a similar zone in the south -- that kept the regime hemmed in.
"They were driving the trucks through northern Iraq to Turkey," Annan said. "The US and the British had planes in the air. We were not there. Why is all this being dumped on the UN?"
Annan has also been put on the defensive because of revelations that his son Kojo worked for a company, Cotecna, that was contracted to work under the programme.
Oil-for-food was launched in December 1996 and was terminated in November. Its director, Benon Sevan, has denied any wrongdoing.
Annan recalled that the day-to-day monitoring of the programme was done by a sub-committee of the 15-nation UN Security Council
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