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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The U.N. is Not Our Savior, Pt. III

Part one: The behavior of the U.N. during the 12 years of Iraqi sanctions, considering what the U.N. could have had to gain from the relationship with Saddam Hussein.
Part two: Reviewed the series of abuses of the Oil for Food program.
Now, in part three, I look at President Bush's reaction to the situation as presented to him.

Follow the links above to read the first two sections.

The U.N. is Not Our Savior, Pt. III

President Bush, especially, found himself in a position to either “fish or cut bait,” and there is no question that he is a person who would rather fish. What some term “cowboy mentality” is more likely a mindset which dictates that inaction is often more dangerous than the wrong action; that sins of omission are as damnable as sins of commission.

Reviewing the President’s record (both public and private sector) it is clear that he is an action taker. Compared to his immediate predecessor (who is, of course, a “thinker” more than a doer, as demonstrated by his now-Senator wife who laments the days when we were led by someone who would “really think” about these issues, not act) Bush does appear reckless and indiscriminant, but that does not mean such a perception is valid. It is easy to dismiss him as reckless, when what is really meant is that he talks with a Southern drawl, gets syllables mixed up when he’s confronted by long words, and is probably just not so smart, after all.

Putting myself in the position of the President makes me realize one important thing: I would have done exactly what he did, and I’m not sure I’ve yet heard a single alternative “plan” that would have addressed the perpetual propping up of Hussein at the expense of the health and welfare of the Iraqi people.

Granted, there is no evidence to suggest that the humanitarian purposes alone would have ever moved the U.S. or U.K. to take a stand against the U.N. graft machine. But the threat of being “caught looking” at another terror strike was certainly a factor. President Bush was being criticized for not acting in anticipation of the Trade Center attacks. The thinking goes like this: the President had SOME information regarding terrorists learning to fly or knowing how to fly or planning to hijack U.S. airlines, so he should have done SOMETHING. So, he has some information regarding terrorists securing chemical or biological weapons from Iraq with the intent of inflicting punishment on the infidel Americans. He is told by defectors from Hussein’s regime that Iraq may be within months, or even weeks, of obtaining nuclear capability.

We know that the regime in Iraq is well funded and firmly empowered by the U.N., and that internal controls (weapons inspections, intelligence, and international oversight) are failing to maintain any sense of security. Terrorists are coming and going at will, often with either the profit from illegal oil sales or the training and experience offered by Iraq in their back pockets when they leave. It is not unreasonable to assume they are being given chemical, biological, or even nuclear agents for use against the Western Allies.

And, after September 11, it is not a stretch to believe they are willing to strike us inside our own borders. Every single intelligence agency in the world knew that Saddam Hussein’s government possessed and used chemical weapons in the past, they were engaged in at least attempting to manufacture or maintain them in the present, and planned to use WMDs whenever the chance presented itself in the future. The Iraqi government was in breech of the most recent U.N. resolution (1442) and more than a dozen others.

For months, the White House attempted to utilize the structures of the U.N. to force the issue. As we reviewed earlier, the U.N. had little reason to cooperate. (In reality, that attempt to work through the bloated bureaucratic system may be one reason evidence of chemical and biological weapons is now so difficult to find: the delays gave ample opportunity to the Iraqi government to cover up and destroy.)

After months of effort, a coalition of like-minded nations was employed to take the actions the saber-rattling members of the U.N. constantly threatened, but lacked the moral fortitude to follow up on. Dozens of other countries joined the U.S. and U.K.-led military build up and eventual invasion. Even though diplomacy was pursued and the choice-consequence nature of the situation was repeatedly laid out for the Hussein government, the critics continued to maintain that the action of the coalition was illegitimate and reckless. How many countries does it take to make a “legitimate” coalition? How long do you allow a dictator, condemned by most every civilized nation in our world, to personally profit from the exploitation of a system we were in part responsible for? How many times do you tell a child not to touch the boiling pan of water on the stove before you smack his hand to keep him from burning himself? Grand edicts are useless without the moral resolve to back up the consequences. The U.N. as an organization may have been comfortable with the duplicity and dishonor of the Iraq situation, but that in no way should bind the sovereign nation that I live in to perpetuate the same.

There are also long-term, strategic considerations to ponder. The middle-east is often referred to in the media as a “tender box”, and the history of terrorism, dictatorship, brutality, and anti-American fanaticism is well documented. To diffuse or moderate that sector of the world has to be a goal of our country’s foreign affairs policy making.

This President seems committed to a long-term, gradual transformation via the democratic mechanism, and sees a democratically governed Iraq as an important piece of such a plan. The philosophy behind such belief is that empowering a people (in this case, the Iraqis) with the ability and the system to improve themselves (reduce poverty, promote greater freedom and equality) is far superior to either forcing better conditions upon them from the outside (humanitarian aid alone) or lowering our own standards (so they aren’t so “jealous” of our power and wealth). In other words, teaching a man to fish.

Governments and man-centered bureaucracies are breeding grounds for the deadly sins that come from power and wealth, and man’s fallen nature makes it easy to be seduced by these corruptors. This tendency toward self-gratification must be considered when we consider public policy. Of the two systems offered (a U.N.-centered program and a U.S./U.K.-led coalition) which offers the greatest number of checks and balances against abuse? Which environment better allows for identification and correction of abuses and problems?

Is there room for debate about the specifics of such a plan? Undoubtedly. Does this action by our government, as well as any other action, require of the citizens of the United States to serve as the ultimate oversight committee to ensure accountability, openness, efficiency, and honest morality? Without a doubt. Do I have more confidence in the United States, and especially this President, than I do in the United Nations in helping achieve such a goal? For me, there is no question.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The U.N. is not our Savior, Part II

In Part One, I examined the behavior of the U.N. regarding 12 years of Iraqi sanctions, asking what the U.N. could have had to gain from such a long, complex relationship with Saddam Hussein. I concluded by reviewing a list of circumstances that increase the likelyhood of people behaving in a corrupt manner. Part One of this Three-Part post can be read here...

This is the second of a three-part reaction to this article: Commentary Magazine article.

The U.N. is Not Our Savior
I Would Have Done The Same Thing

According to investigation (by the Wall Street Journal, the Coalition for International Justice, and others) it appears that the chief administrator of the program was the recipient of “gifts” of oil from Hussein. Even more startling was the replacement of a UK company with the responsibility of inspecting all shipments of materials and commerce INTO Iraq with a company with ties to the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan. It is not surprising, then, that with the great benefit being personally gained, that the U.N. moved to more than double the revenues permitted, and expand the list of the kinds of items Iraq could import. All of this about the time that Hussein decided the weapons inspections were becoming tiresome, and kicked the inspectors out of the country.

The reaction from the U.N. administrators? “Let’s expand the program even more!” As the inspectors left Iraq, so did the limits on the amount of sales the U.N. would allow. As more oil was sold, the U.N. benefited, the individuals who were involved in “business” with Iraq benefited, and Hussein benefited. It is unclear exactly how the ordinary citizens of Iraq benefited from this arrangement. After all, the food and medicine could have been sent in regardless of the sanctions, but that system – the other countries paying for the relief supplies to Iraq, as happens in any other relief program where oil isn’t involved – would not have been nearly as beneficial, I’m sure. Nor would such a program have strengthened both Hussein’s political power, and his pocket book.

You see, the biggest beneficiary – yes Kofi may be surprised by the fact he was snookered into a system where he and his U.N. friends were nicely rewarded, but not anywhere near the level of our daring despot – was Saddam himself. While many others profited (both legally, and illegally), it was Hussein who personally benefited the most. By selling oil below market value to certain friends (Russia and France, for example) and then partaking personally in part of the profits from those friends re-selling the oil at a higher rate, Saddam’s personal bank account burgeoned. Hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions) that could have, would have, should have gone to relief services for Iraqi women and children was instead diverted into Hussein’s checking account for use as he pleased (including the funding of terrorist activity around the world). That was followed, soon, by smuggling of oil for sale outside the bounds of the Food for Oil bureaucracy and the demands for kickbacks on the RELIEF side of the equation.

Additionally, two of the companies with whom Hussein chose to do business were headed by individuals known to either associate with, or were active members of, al Qaeda. The so-called “international community” is culpable for whatever extent the policies and procedures of the UN Food for Oil program allowed Hussein to fund terrorist activities

By the time the US and UK had decided to draw a line in the sand, the Security Council had voted to turn over almost all oversight of the program to the Secretary General’s office, only supervising “dual use” materials. The Secretary then promptly expanded the humanitarian relief to include materials and supplies related to justice, sports, information, and social programs. These “departments” were, in effect, the departments of state under Hussein’s Baath Party control, including the rape rooms, propaganda instruments, and police enforcers who maintained Saddam’s iron grasp around the throat of his country. The money devoted to Iraqi sports programs was used to further the activities of organizations such as the Iraqi soccer team, which Saddam’s son Uday groomed to be used as targets and victims of his sadistic and violent impulse for torture.

By the time all of this had come about, the debate in the Security Council revealed a sharply divided “international community.” The divisions could basically be boiled down to two groups: those countries who personally benefited from the Food for Oil system, and those countries who did not (and had nothing to gain by accepting the status quo).

Those who chant “No War for Oil” should be railing against a U.N. system which perpetuated war by empowering, enriching, and enabling a brutal dictator over a twelve year period. Of the over $60 billion in oil sales, only $15 billion was used for the actual food and medical supplies it was intended for. (And this $15 billion estimate is likely on the “high” end if the graft and wasted/spoiled items are factored in.) Had a legitimate, fair, and uncorrupt system been implemented to actually help the Iraqi people while eroding and undermining Hussein’s influence, power, and wealth, perhaps the war – some 12 years and countless “resolutions” later – would have been unnecessary. That the US/UK-led coalition had finally decided “enough is enough” and took decisive action to circumvent the grave injustices perpetuated by the Hussein regime and enabled by the UN is a point which should be celebrated by anyone who claims concern for international peace and the sovereign safety of Iraqi citizens.

Perhaps the US and the UK had ulterior motives and designs on the control of Iraqi oil, though the pace at which the coalition forces have moved to restore Iraqi sovereignty seems to belie a “we want to profit from this” mentality, especially when compared to the funds expended, logistical nightmares, and lives sacrificed by these two countries, and the others in the coalition. What seems more likely is that the events of September 11, 2001 precipitated a change of perspective for President Bush and Tony Blair.

This is the second of a three-part reaction to this article: Commentary Magazine article.

The U.N. is Not Our Savior, part I

This is the first of a three-part reaction to this article: Commentary Magazine article.

If you read the above article (which is a better, more detailed account of much of the information below) you may find my commentary short on detail.

There is a person I respect very much, who recently surprised me by passing on a pseudo-petition from MoveOn.org, regarding the War in Iraq. I wasn't surprised that he was against the war. I did wonder, though, was why MoveOn.org was the outlet he chose to express his concerns with the war, and why he would advocate a petition which included these words: "We've got to transfer management authority over Iraq to the United Nations, to enable a real transition to peaceful Iraqi self-rule. "

After a brief email exchange, I decided to sit down and put several points of the war, terror, and our Republican President into sharper focus for myself, to test - if you will - my own resolve in defending these issues. I was greatly aided by the article linked at the beginning and end of this post, especially when it comes to putting into words my distaste for some International Utopia where the all-knowing, all-powerful United Nations is FINALLY allowed to enforce their interpretation of what is RIGHT, and JUST, and MORAL.

Ultimately (ie, part three of this series) I will deal with what I would have done, had I been in President Bush's position. That's the thing about this country...It is possible that I actually COULD be in his position one day. I've probably waited too late to begin positioning myself for such a feat, but if a peanut farmer (Carter), the poor son of a drunken shoe-salesman father (Reagan), or the product of an abusive marriage in some trailer-park in a little town called Hope (Clinton) can rise to the highest elected office in our country, the reality is that anyone who criticizes decisions of this magnitude should stop, put themselves in the same position, and ask, "What would I have done?"

The U.N. is Not Our Savior
I Would Have Done The Same Thing

When it comes to the 12 years of United Nations water-treading, one has to wonder what exactly would have changed in Iraq in the year since we began military operations, if that military option had not been utilized. From a merely casual observation of the history of the U.N.-Iraqi relationship, it becomes obvious that something wasn’t “right” about the whole situation. If sanctions and U.N. bureaucracy were the answer, surely 12 years would have been sufficient time to effect a positive change in the country; surely the desired outcomes would have been achieved. One is left with the sneaking suspicion that, in fact, the true objectives of the U.N.-led activities in Iraq WERE being met, but that their objectives were not our own.

What was the U.N. gaining from the relationship between Iraq and the rest of the world? After the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had been sanctioned by the U.N. Even though the sanctions ALWAYS allowed for essential foods and medicine to be exempt from the sanctions, Hussein’s regime released stories of the heartache, starvation, and general hardship perpetuated on the common people by the sanctions. Thus, in an effort to relieve the suffering which Iraqi citizens were needlessly undergoing, the U.N. devised a “food for oil” system where limited oil supplies could be sold by the Hussein government, as long as the money was used for food, medicine, medical supplies, and other “essential” items. (One wonders if the instruments used to torture men and women, abort babies, and otherwise rape – both figuratively and literally – the people of Iraq were considered “essential”.) Food For Oil was authorized in 1995, as a temporary action to relieve the world of the guilt associated with having left Hussein in power, but imposing crippling sanctions in an effort to bring him into line.

How was this affected? By agreeing to allow Hussein to be the agent in control of how the oil was sold, who it was sold to, the price, and even the “approved list” of bounty that could be purchased with the proceeds. Hussein was even allowed to choose where he would do his banking. Yes, there was “veto power” so to speak, on the side of the U.N. but even to a novice statesman it seems reckless to allow the person who is in grave breech of international opinion to have the kind of control granted to Saddam Hussein. This is neither wise, nor typical U.N. policy.

Another odd provision of the resolution which established Food for Oil was the funding structure for the program. Unlike other U.N. relief programs, this one was to be funded by the country being benefited via a commission on every barrel of oil sold. A net of 3-percent of all Iraqi oil sales were returned to the U.N. This totaled nearly $2 billion dollars that went toward administration and weapons inspection programs. In other words, the U.N. directly benefited from perpetuating and broadening the Food for Oil programs.

Undoubtedly, the Food for Oil arrangement strengthened Hussein’s position within Iraq. Because the oil was owned by the State (which really means, owned by the State’s self-appointed despot) the first benefactor of any oil sold was the owner-state-dictator. No other commerce was allowed in Iraq, other than the sale of oil, as controlled by Saddam Hussein. Not only was he the god-dictator of his land, but he was in charge of all commerce. The cat had been left to baby-sit the canary.

It is interesting to note that of the five permanent Security Council members who were in charge of oversight of the program, two chose to not participate in the Food for Oil program to any major extent: the US and the UK. The other three (China, France, Russia) were gaining both in oil and in other commerce, and spent little time in “oversight mode” because of the time commitment needed to urge the U.N. to expand the program, so they could benefit even more. Oh, yes. And, of course, benefit the Iraqi people, yadda, yadda.

There is much that could be said of the way the U.N. administration handled the implementation of the Food for Oil system. The bottom line is that as every year progressed, the U.N. labeled more and more information as “proprietary” – or, more accurately, classified – and kept it out of public view. Hussein, after all, was entitled to privacy. Why expose all of the inner workings of the business deals which are so complicated: things like customer names, the quantity of oil sold, the amount received in return? Surely we can trust a brutal dictator and an out of control bureaucracy with the details.

Well, we know trusting Hussein isn’t wise (ask all those dead lieutenants and body guards), but surely the U.N. is trust worthy. But a study of human nature reveals many things:
1. The bigger the organization, the less accountable individuals tend to become.
2. The bigger the operation, the more opportunity for abuse.
3. The more secretive a bureaucracy becomes, the more likely it is to foster corruption.
4. The more money that is on the line, the thinner a man’s resolve to be moral becomes.
5. As the prospect for going un-caught grows, so does the temptation to commit the immoral act.
6. A man who is acting immorally will be less likely to point out the immoral acts of another man, even if that is his responsibility.

All of these modifiers of human behavior were in play within the U.N. on an ever increasing basis. The Food for Oil program continued to grow, adding budget and staff constantly. The U.N. tolerated and perpetuated an atmosphere where the organization grew less and less accountable to anyone, while increasing the level of secrecy. All of these factors led to the opportunity to abuse the system, and there is evidence that this, in fact, did happen.

This is the first of a three-part reaction to this article: Commentary Magazine article.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Good 'ole Days

"It has often been said that the man and the moment come together. I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great Senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. Robert C. Byrd, in my view, would have been right at any time. He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this Nation. He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation's 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country. Certainly today that is not any less true." - Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat

The obvious questions follow: Does Senator Dodd really think Robert Byrd was "right" when he said that he would rather die than fight for our country side-by-side with a person of African-American heritage? Was Sen. Byrd "right" when he was an active member of an organization (the KKK) that terrorized, threatened, lynched, and generally ignored the legitimate laws of our nation, all because they didn't want the impurity of other races to tarnish their Aryan greatness? Was Sen. Byrd "right" when he used the term "white ni**ers" a few years ago? Would Sen. Byrd have made a good Senator during the Civil War, when he would have supported the institution of slavery and keeping black people "in their place", thereby perpetuating the most bloddy and devestating conflict our country has ever endured?

If asked to stop and think before flapping his well-oiled jawls, I dare say he would say, "Well, er, uh...that isn't exactly what I meant."

A few months ago, in a similar circumstance, a Republican Senator made an equally stupid remark. He was forced to appologize, at least a dozen times, in public. He faced IMMEDIATE calls for him to step down from leadership, to even resign. Several news cycles focused on his comments, and "how could someone make such a comment in this day and age" anyway? THIS particular Senator was removed from leadership, and humiliated, for comments that were actually less racially insensitve than the ones made by DEMOCRAT Dodd. And yet, have Dodd's comments been the lightening rod that past precident says they should be. Of course not.

Those of you who discount the idea of liberal media bias explain this one to me, would you?

Today's Educational Oddity

Or as Mark Shea would title it: Reason #4593948739 to Home School Your Kids


This paragraph is the most impressive: "A student sitting in the ninth grade at age 17 is a kid who is going to say, `Forget this, I'm dropping out,' " Stripling said in a news release. "What we need to do is give that child a chance to earn promotion to the next grade while at the same time we give that student extra academic help to pass the class he failed."

So says the SUPERINTENDENT of the district.

I wish my employer were this understanding. You know, allow me to grow completely stagnant in my job, but worry that I might just say "Forget this" (is it just me or do you think maybe she initially said, "F*** This!" and then thought better of it and asked the reporter to moderate her comments???) if he doesn't find a way to have me earn a "promotion" that doesn't hinge upon me actually doing, you know, work, and stuff.

Yeesh, indeed.

This isn't Social Promotion, they said. They still have to earn the diploma, they insisted. But if they can't earn it the way everyone else does, then we'll find some other way they can earn it, they didn't say. We'll lower the bar for you, they should have said.

This isn't how life works. It isn't how relationships work, or how employment works, or how anything works. What service are we providing this student if we do this? I'll tell you what we accomplish: we make ourselves feel better at the expense of legitimately empowering a young student with the tools that might actually allow him to be productive, live a life that is fruitful, perhaps raise a family, enjoy life, love, and laughter.

Education isn't EVERYTHING. In my years, I've known some folks who weren't "book learned" but who were good human beings, with something to offer the world, and who had knowledge of the kind you learn outside of a school-and-books setting. But what is being discussed here is an anti-education poison which effectively enslaves people in a web of dependency and victimization. Shame on us as a society if we would sacrifice the youth of our nation at the altar of making ourselves feel good about "helping" someone with the kind of "help" I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Confusion in our society

The link below is indicative of how far afield we continue to travel as a society. This group is dedicated to making sure women can become mothers without having to come in contact with a nasty man. Stupid men. Who needs them anyway...

Now, I know I'm "old fashioned" (secular language) or "orthodox" (religious language), and I'm sure someone somewhere can come up with one of those "If we didn't have this option so-and-so wouldn't have been able to have a baby..." kind of scenarios where I would at least think, perhaps SOMETHING positive came out of this. Not that I would stray from my conviction that the occasional good "end" in any way justifies the flippantly anti-moral means...

But even from a secular standpoint I can't imagine this. I mean, the "secular" way to judge an action is "does the 'good' outweigh the 'bad', using some scale of justice to measure the two. And in this case, the scale of justice dips heavily to the 'bad' outcome of hundreds, maybe thousands, of fatherless children. We have identified fatherless households as a MAJOR contributor to poverty, especially among African-American populations. It is like a cancer on these communities. A self-feeding, re-cycling cancer.

And yet, we see that and WANT IT TO SPREAD to others as well??? We've identified a major contributor to the cycle of violence, poverty, welfare dependence, and crime, and instead of saying, "Wow, we need to do whatever we can to limit the number of children who grow up without the BALANCE of a mother and a father", we want to jump headlong into quasi-family arrangements that embrace an "alternative" to what works.

As someone who came from a single-parent home, I know it is both tough on the child and the parent. I also know it is POSSIBLE to produce happy, productive, and adjusted children even without the love, support, and guidance that the traditional family provides. But my mother's singleness was never her intent. A one parent family was not her "ideal" way to have and raise a child. Such situations are inevitable. But to actively PURSUE such a choice hints at being sociologically suicidal.

God, help us. I pray for the children born of such selfishness.

I provide this link just to show graphically the mentality here...the little man x'ed out in the corner says volumes. Other statements throughout show not only a lack of respect for the family, but a strong desire to reconstruct reality in terms of what THEY want Creation to be. I'm not on a crusade against them or advocating nasty letter to them or anything. I just thought it good to observe...


Grammar Man

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I don't usually post the results for some of these internet test thingys. I just don't. This one, though, was pretty tough. And I did well. And, I wanted to prove that when I think about it (ie, not in my emails, or blog, or postings online) I actually am a competent writer.

I think the link above takes you to the quiz, if you are interested. Or you can use this handy link.

Palm Sunday is just a few days away, and the busy-busy of Holy Week. I will actually probably post a bit more, even though I'll be more busy, just because I'm anticipating the emotion and excitement of the week will dislodge words from my fingertips.