In the Days of These Kings . . .
Vol: 31 Issue: 28 Wednesday, April 28, 2004
To forestall congressional investigations into a multibillion-dollar U.N. scandal, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has just approved appointment of a three-man outside commission, headed by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, to look into the oil-for-food scandal.
The investigation is a slam-dunk. They don’t even need to meet. The findings are obvious as are their conclusions, which say something like this:
1) There was indeed a ripoff by UN officials of Iraqi oil money; and, 2) Kofi Annan is innocent of wrong-doing. All the blame will fall to underlings, who will never be charged with a crime.
Some may be fired, like program administrator Benon Sevan, but he is due to retire, anyway. And the estimated $3.5 million he skimmed off in the form of oil vouchers from Saddam will cushion the blow.
The intent of the program was to sell Iraqi oil to pay for food and medicine for the Iraqi people, who were suffering under UN sanctions designed to contain Saddam Hussein and possibly bring down his government from within.
Instead, the nightly news programs treated us to stories about the crippling sanctions that were starving Iraqis as Iraq’s child mortality rate shot through the roof.
Photos showed pitiful thin Iraqi men, women and children suffering under the cruelty of the US-led containment policy. (I recall noting at the time that Saddam and his cronies appeared to be putting on weight)
So much publicity was engendered for the plight of the poor Iraqis that the UN hammered out the ‘Oil for Food’ scheme to buy food and medicine for innocent Iraqi citizens.
Instead, vouchers were doled out as gifts or as payment for goods imported into the country in violation of U.N. sanctions. The recipient would then turn the voucher over to one of a number of firms operating in the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for commissions ranging anywhere from 5 cents to 30 cents per barrel, depending on market conditions.
(This translates into a profit of $50,000 on the low end and $300,000 on the high end for every 1 million barrels worth of oil vouchers.)
Here’s how the scam worked:
(1) Saddam sold oil at below-market prices to his chosen customers.
(2) They in turn sold the oil to third parties at a fat profit. Part of the profit was kicked back to Saddam and paid into bank accounts outside the U.N. program and in violation of U.N. sanctions.
(3) Saddam began smuggling out oil through Turkey, Jordan and Syria making a mockery of Oil-for-Food that was supposed to help the Iraqi people. This was reported in the press but ignored by the U.N.
None of this was unknown to Secretary Annan, despite his denials. In 2002, Annan signed a letter to the Security Council authorizing use of $20 million from the Oil-for-Food funds to pay for an “Olympic sport city” in Iraq and $50 million to equip Saddam’s “Ministry of Information”.
In 2003, Minister of Information Mohammed Saed (Baghdad Bob) used that equipment to amuse the West with comments like, “American soldiers are committing mass suicides at the gates of Baghdad.”
Before the famous list of kickbacks was discovered in Iraq and made public, Annan carefully denied everything, saying, “As far as I know, nobody in the Secretariat has committed any wrongdoing.”
Afterwards, Annan grudgingly conceded, “It is highly possible there has been quite a lot of wrongdoing.”
That ‘wrongdoing’ consisted of the U.N. Secretariat being officially on Saddam’s payroll and collaborating with Saddam instead of, as was their duty, supervising him.
Despite the fact that the evidence proves the UN’s complicity with Saddam, the UN has insisted on playing a leading role in Iraq’s transition to sovereignty, claiming that Iraq is once again under UN jurisdiction. U.S. officials have given the UN the lead in shaping a new governing arrangement in Iraq ahead of the planned transfer of sovereignty on 1 July.
As the newly-appointed UN envoy to Iraq told the Security Council in a report, the problem with insurgency in Iraq is largely due to its lost sovereignty. “The sooner a credible Iraqi government is in place to lead the way the better, especially because the absence of such a sovereign government is part of the problem in the first place.”
The ‘sovereign government’ that is ‘absent’ forming ‘part of the problem in the first place’ was jointly that of Saddam Hussein and the UN’s Oil For Food administration program that kept Iraqis in chains of misery for a decade so that each could enrich themselves at the expense of the suffering Iraqi people.
In testimony before House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations on the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal, delivered on April 21, 2004, investigative journalist Claudia Rosett explained;
“It bears noting upfront that the U.N. has no effective mechanisms of checks, balances, and disclosure. What finally began to bring some daylight to this program was certainly not any initiative on the part of the U.N. where Secretary-General Annan and his senior staff at every turn sought to continue and expand Oil-for-Food.”
“Nor was it any initiative of the Security Council where the project of funneling relief through sanctions quickly became a rationale for huge flows of corruption-laden business between Iraq and such major U.N. players as France, Russia, and China. What finally flushed Oil-for-Food into the open was that Saddam’s regime fell.”
“It is obvious that there were many parties to Saddam’s business who expected him to remain in power, protecting the confidential records of dirty deals; and it may be more than coincidence that some of his favored business partners notably Russia and France, but also the U.N. Secretary-General himself (flush with its Oil-for-Food commissions and clout) lobbied to keep Saddam in power.”
She continued: “It must also be kept in mind that once Saddam had done a tainted deal, delivered a bribe, received a kickback, given a gift of those now-infamous oil vouchers; he had the goods on the other party to the deal. Along with the graft came ample opportunity for blackmail, a danger to which the U.N. was also, apparently, indifferent.”
“Very likely, Saddam’s partners in graft had more to lose than he did especially as the program proceeded, and Saddam’s regime, having tested the U.N. envelope again and again, discovered it could game the system almost any way it chose.”
The UN may survive the Oil-For-Food scandal, but its survival will only be temporary. Iraq is the UN’s ‘Abyssinia’. In the mid-1930’s, Italian forces invaded and occupied the African nation of Abyssinia. The League of Nations ordered Italian forces out. Mussolini rejected the League’s ultimatum out-of-hand and promptly withdrew.
Italy’s withdrawal from the League sparked a mass exodus that culminated with the League sitting out World War II in exile before being disbanded as ‘irrelevant’ in 1945.
The United Nations took the same route with Iraq as did the League with Abbyssinia, with one notable exception — that of motive. The League was weak.
The UN is crooked.
It was Kofi Annan who compliantly condoned Saddam’s ever-escalating schemes and conditions, and who lobbied to the last to preserve Saddam’s totalitarian regime while the U.N. Secretariat was swimming in his cash.
In the final analysis, there are only two conclusions one can reach concerning the UN — and neither gives any reason for optimism for the UN’s future.
Either the corruption at the UN is so endemic that it reaches all the way to the UN Secretary General’s office, or Annan is so incompetent that he didn’t know. In either case, the fact he remains in charge makes it all academic.
The UN’s days are numbered — but the UN is not just a debating society on the East River. Over the past six decades, the UN’s infrastructure has reached into every facet of international relations. UN Treaty Law, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization . . . the list is endless.
Even if the UN collapses under the weight of its own corruption and incompetence, those organizations are a necessary part of the international system. Without them, entire national economies would also collapse. So would treaties that maintain peace and define international law.
The void left by the collapse of the UN would have to be filled somehow. The only likely candidate for the job is multi-national Europe.
The prophet Daniel identified the final government as “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Jerusalem and the Temple)” (Daniel 9:26)
That destruction was accomplished seven hundred years later in AD 70 by a Roman general named Titus who went on to become Emperor of Rome.
Daniel further identified the final form of world government as a confederation of ten ‘kings’. (The EU actually only has ten full members. The ‘expanded EU’ consists of nations holding either ‘associate’ or ‘observer’ status. But the power remains with the original ten)
Daniel described them as ‘partly strong and partly weak, like iron mixed with miry clay’ and said “And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.” (Daniel 2:42)
Sounds more like the EU all the time. Daniel says of this coming global system:
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)