Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Annan is corrupt, belongs in jail

Claudia Rosett at treads where few others want or dare to go: Who is ultimately responsible for the Oil-for-food scandal? I went into this in some detail here and here. From the fact alone that his son's name pops up wherever international fraud is found it should be obvious that Kofi Annan is bad news. But there's so much evidence that points to more than just mere indirect complicity:
With estimates soaring of graft and fraud under the United Nations Oil for Food program in Iraq, we are hearing a lot about the need to "get to the bottom" of this scandal, the biggest ever to hit the U.N. To get to that bottom will need a much harder look at the top--where Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself resides.

That violates all sorts of taboos. But so, one might suppose, does a United Nations that allowed Saddam Hussein to embezzle at least $21.3 billion in oil money during 12 years, with the great bulk of that sum--a staggering $17.3 billion--pilfered between 1997-2003, on Mr. Annan's watch.
First Annan insisted there was no fraud, then when he was forced to admit there was he insisted the UN do the investigating. Estimates of the scale of the fraud have been adjusted upwards only, (never by the UN investigators of course, even though they were funded from the very same money intended for the people of Iraq, money the UN is directly or indirectly responsible for not finding its intended recipients and rightful owners), and the extent of Annan's involvement is slowly but surely becoming clear.
These are the record-breaking new estimates released Monday by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, whose staffers, despite Mr. Annan's refusal to cooperate, have spent the past seven months voyaging deep into the muck of Oil for Food. At a hearing Monday, these investigators surfaced to tell us the theft and fraud under Oil for Food was at least twice as bad as earlier reports had suggested, and that all this is just a preview of yet more appalling disclosures they expect to release early next year. Sen. Norm Coleman, the subcommittee's chairman, underscored the urgency of such investigations, noting not only that the size of the fraud "is staggering," but that some of Saddam's vast illicit stash might right now be funding terrorists and costing American lives.

Mr. Annan, by contrast, seems to inhabit a different universe--one in which the chief problem lies not in the U.N.'s complicity, including his own, in the biggest fraud in the history of humanitarian relief, but rather in the attempts to shine any light on all that sleaze. In Annan Land, there was earlier this year no need for any probe into Oil for Food; and even now there is no need for any investigating beyond the U.N.'s own "independent inquiry" into itself, led by former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, required to funnel its findings first through Mr. Annan, funded to the tune of $30 million out of one of the old Oil for Food accounts it is supposed to be investigating, and not planning to clock in with any specific results until sometime next summer.
Of course, by the time the UN findings will be published, Annan will have quit the UN, sitting pretty on billions that do not belong to him.
Mr. Annan's own official U.N. biography states that before becoming secretary-general, he "led the first United Nations team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid"--and that implies a certain familiarity with the origins of Oil for Food.
Once Mr. Annan became secretary-general, he lost little time in getting deeply involved with Oil for Food. In October 1997, just 10 months into the job, he transformed what had begun as an ad hoc, temporary relief measure into the Office of the Iraq Program, an entrenched U.N. department, which reported to him directly--and was eliminated only after the U.S.-led coalition, against Mr. Annan's wishes, deposed Saddam. To run Oil for Food, Mr. Annan picked Benon Sevan (now alleged to have received oil money from Saddam, which he denies) and kept him there until the program ended about six years later.

Mr. Annan's reorganization of Oil for Food meant a nontrivial change in the trajectory of the program. All the signs are that Saddam immediately took the cue that he could now start gaming the program with impunity--and Mr. Annan did not prove him wrong. Within the month, Saddam had created the first crisis over the U.N. weapons inspectors, who were supposed to be part of the sanctions and Oil for Food package. Mr. Annan's response was not to throttle back on Oil for Food but to go before the Security Council a few months later and urge that Baghdad be allowed to import oil equipment along with the food and medicine to which the program had been initially limited. This set the stage for the ensuing burst in Saddam's oil production, kickbacks, surcharges and smuggling.
It just gets worse and worse after this. The man is clearly a thief of epic proportions. I used to think he was a Jewhater, now I'm not so sure. He just so totally lacks any scruples that if he has to play along with the French and the Russians to make money off Saddam Hussein, then he'll do it. No matter who and how many suffer as a consequence. In Annan's case, it really is just the money.
Read it all. It's fascinating in a morbid but necessary way. But try not eat anything before you do, you are bound to feel violently ill.


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