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Oil For Corruption

Oil For Corruption

Making Sense

By Michael Reagan

If anybody wondered why the sainted United Nations, France, Russia and Syria joined forces in trying to block the U.S. from ousting the brutal Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq the answer is now becoming clear; they feared exposure of the corruption into which they had dragged the now-infamous Oil for Food program.

That program was meant to allow Saddam to sell a certain amount of oil outside of the bounds of the UN sanctions. The proceeds, handled by the UN, were to be used to buy food and medicine and other basic necessities for the Iraqi people, thus keeping the sanctions from punishing innocent Iraqi citizens who were in effect prisoners of their despotic government.

It didn't quite work out that way. As General Tommy Franks said, the Oil for Food programs should have been called "the oil for palaces" scam.

The way it did work out built scores of posh palaces for Saddam and lined the pockets of France, Russia, Syria, China and the United Nations, which alone raked in more than $1 billion from its 2.2 percent "commission" on the more than $50 billion worth of oil Iraq exported under the program, allegedly to pay the costs of running the program. According a New York Times expose, written by Claudia Rossett, UN staff members say the program's bank accounts over the past year had over $12 billion in the kitty, none of which will the UN account for -- the books are closed to outsiders.

The $50 billion paid for a huge featherbedded pre-war staff of 1,000 international employees and some 3,000 Iraqis all helpfully supplied by Saddam's socialist Baath Party. More paid for a whole range of things that had nothing to do with feeding the Iraqi people or paying for medicine for sick children, stuff like TV broadcasting equipment, "boats" and boat "accessories" from France and "sport supplies" from Lebanon, all approved by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

It was a scam, and the truth is now coming out as documents uncovered in Iraq are showing. Documents such as those unearthed by Britain's Telegraph newspaper which show that a top Labour Party member of Parliament who bitterly opposed Tony Blair's part in the war was allegedly on Saddam's payroll. The paper reports that George Galloway, an outspoken member of the governing Labor Party, received an annual cut from Iraq's exports under the oil-for-food program worth approximately $585,500.

Galloway denies the accusation, but the amount of corruption that centered on the Oil for Food program is hard to ignore. And the UN has had a long background of corrupt practices.

Rossett wrote that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan handed out contracts to Saddam's favored trading partners — France, Russia and Syria, the latter two of which mysteriously won contracts to supply Japanese vehicles to Iraq. France and Russia were among the top five contractors in the oil-for-food program.

Writing in the New York Post, Dick Morris asked "Why do you think France, Russia and China sided with Saddam Hussein in the United Nations Security Council against the invasion of Iraq?" His answer: because Saddam bought and paid for it.

Back in 1997, Saddam found what he thought was a way he block American efforts to stop him from dominating the region. He would get UN approval to lift sanctions and allow unrestricted oil sales, by bribing France, Russia, and China with juicy contracts giving them a right to develop the major oil fields in Iraq contingent on the lifting of sanctions, to get their votes in the Security Council.

In short, France and Russia they strove mightily to keep their good buddy Saddam in power to keep the gravy train running in their direction. It's time to kiss them off, nullify those contracts and get out of the corruption-ridden UN once and for all.

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