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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.


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