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"This is like an onion ..."

Posted by Helen Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Senator Norm Coleman. (R-Minn) of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs used that expression to describe the whole convoluted food-for-oil scandal that the committee has been investigating. More and more layers are being uncovered to explain how Saddam used the programme to finance his power and bribe people of influence around the world.

The latest estimate of Saddam Hussein’s illegal revenue is $21.3 billion, more than twice the previous one. These figures are based on papers that have become available to the Committee, some from the French bank BNP Paribas, heavily involved in all the dealings.

The one organization that has not been particularly co-operative is the UN. The excuse for not providing the information or access to potential witnesses is that the UN is conducting its own investigation under former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The trouble with that investigation is that it has no power to subpoaena anybody or to punish anybody for malfeasance. So far, none of the results of the UN investigation have been made public. That’s transparency for you.

The whole complicated edifice involved Saddam and his friends and family as well as the government, various foreign individuals and organizations who were given vouchers for allocations of oil, which they then sold to proper oil companies with a sizeable chunk of the money remaining in their, improper, hands.

There is also the question of sub-standard food imported into Iraq under the scheme. As Associated Press puts it:

“According to the documents, the Iraqi government signed deals to import rotting food and other damaged goods with the full understanding of the exporting companies, who accepted payments for top quality products while kicking back much of the price difference to the Iraqi regime.”
This massive fraud, perpetrated largely on the people of Iraq, went on for years under the supervision of that estimable body, the United Nations and its equally estimable Secretary General, Kofi Annan, whose son, Kojo, is also involved in some of the shenanigans.

Has anybody heard a single squeal from all those vociferous individuals and organizations who, some paid, some unpaid, told us endlessly that Iraqi children were starving because of the UN sanctions? Well, I haven’t. It may have been drowned out by the continuing praise heaped on the head of Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) and the venal and incompetent UN, pre-eminent of the transnational organizations whose self-appointed brahmins want to rule us all.