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  • Saddam's U.N. Financiers

    From Today's WSJ

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/editor...l?id=110004919

    Saddam's U.N. Financiers
    Only U.S. pressure can pry open the Oil for Food scandal.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee opens hearings today on the Iraqi Oil for Food scandal, to be followed by the House later this month. We hope the Members are serious, because the unfortunate truth is that without pressure from the U.S. we'll never get to the murky bottom.

    United Nations chief Kofi Annan has finally conceded the need for an independent probe, but keep in mind that the scandal implicates his son, his handpicked Iraq program chief, and his own management of the largest relief operation the U.N. has ever run. The U.N.'s dissembling continues to this day. Having tried denial and feigned confusion ("It's not really clear to us even what the allegations are"), Mr. Annan's latest defense is that his office was powerless to do anything about a program run by the Security Council.

    As a legal matter this is obviously untrue. Under Security Council Resolution 986, which established Oil for Food, Mr. Annan had almost total freedom--and a huge budget consisting of 2.2% of program revenues--to implement a program to ensure "the equitable distribution of medicine, health supplies, foodstuffs, and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs."

    What Iraqis got instead was a program so secretively run that it seemed almost designed to facilitate the corruption that fleeced them of billions of dollars in aid. Mr. Annan and Oil for Food director Benon Sevan were at best unhelpful when it came to complaints from the two Security Council governments that actually seemed to care. Today, Chairman Richard Lugar and his fellow Members will have an opportunity to quiz U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte about the history of U.S.-British attempts to do something about Oil for Food corruption. Here's a partial timeline:
    November 1999: The U.S. holds up a substantial number of supply contracts under Oil for Food because of kickback concerns. Mr. Sevan responds by noting the deleterious effect of the hold on Iraqi food production and electricity supply.

    December 2000: The Iraqi Oil Ministry introduces a standard surcharge of 25 to 30 cents per barrel of oil, depending on its destination. Iraqi oil sales drop by more than half as major oil traders balk at paying the kickbacks. Hundreds of shady middlemen move in. "Every man and his dog is buying Iraqi oil," remarks one trader in January 2001.

    March 2001: The U.S. and Britain ask the U.N. sanctions committee to cut down the list of more than 600 operators approved by the U.N. to purchase Iraqi oil in order to eliminate companies paying the kickbacks. France and Russia object. Messrs. Sevan and Annan, primarily worried about having enough revenue to fund the next phase of the program, call on Iraq to boost its exports. Mr. Sevan disclaims responsibility for policing the system.

    November 2001: The U.S. and Britain make another attempt to stop the kickbacks, this time by forcing the sanctions committee to retroactively price Iraqi oil, thus making it harder for Iraq and its buyers to calculate the margin for the surcharge.

    February 2002: Mr. Sevan criticizes the retroactive pricing policy, saying it may indeed have reduced room for kickbacks, but "At the same time, I think, the main result has been the reduction in the oil exports"--then around 1.5 million barrels a day, down from 2.2 million before. Mr. Sevan declares a "financial crisis," complaining of U.S.-blocked contracts and "so many political and procedural hurdles."

    June 2002: The Oil Daily reports Iraq has informed its customers the oil surcharge will drop to 15 cents per barrel--an apparent victory for U.S.-British policy.

    August 2002: Mr. Sevan again raises "grave concern" over an export shortfall he blames on retroactive pricing.

    September 2002: President Bush addresses the U.N on Iraq. Iraqi oil sales subsequently jump, Mr. Sevan candidly reports to the Security Council, "amid industry reports that the surcharge has been removed."

    Late April 2003: Even after regime change, France, Russia and China--which hold about three-quarters of the Oil for Food contracts--press to keep the program going. Says an anonymous diplomat with a sense of irony: "I think once we start to examine the contracts--and the built-in kickbacks--people might decide that it's not the best use of Iraqi money right now." Messrs. Sevan and Annan never once appear to have spoken out against Saddam's manipulation of their program.

    This scandal is not primarily about the employment history of Mr. Annan's son or the Iraqi Oil Ministry list on which Mr. Sevan's name appears--though we will need to find out if it was financial inducements or sheer callousness that made U.N. officials complicit in the looting of Iraq. Rather, this is about the undeniable fact that the U.N. Secretariat and three of five permanent Security Council members knowingly facilitated what Tommy Franks dubbed Saddam's "Oil for Palaces" program.
    Surely this sorry history is relevant to whether Iraqis can trust the U.N. to play a major role in the future of their country. Yet the State Department has not even proposed a Security Council resolution demanding the full cooperation of member states in the Oil for Food probe.

    Apart from Congress, the best hope now for getting at the truth lies in following the money trail. France's BNP Paribas, which handled the Oil for Food accounts, is chartered in New York and the possibility of program-related wrongdoing warrants an investigation by that state's Banking Department. The scrutiny of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau (who has been poking around Paribas of late), State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the House and Senate Banking Committees would also be welcome. Surely every good liberal preaching the U.N.'s virtues will want to make sure this outrage never happens again.

  • #2
    Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

    Originally posted by leejo
    Surely every good liberal preaching the U.N.'s virtues will want to make sure this outrage never happens again.
    Not likely... :icon23:
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    • #3
      Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

      lol.

      You know, Bush should have stopped this sooner. Let's blame Bush.

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      • #4
        Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

        But can we really push the investigation and lay blame where it belongs? If the UN lacks credibility (what's left of it) can they do the job in June?

        From this article:

        "No, the bigger problem is the prevailing notion and it seems to prevail all the way up to the White House that the U.N.'s image must somehow be kept pure enough so that it can soon (June 30) replace the Coalition Provisional Authority in post-Saddam Iraq as the primary outsider involved in Iraqi daily affairs. The fear, in New York and Washington, repeated by many a source speaking strictly on background, is that if we ever get to the bottom of this U.N.-funneled geyser of graft, it might discredit the U.N. too badly to allow it yet another influential role in Iraq."
        New to TG?

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        • #5
          Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

          Well I agree that the UN shouldn't be dismantled and it's in the USA's long-term best interests to have a robust and honorable UN.

          That doesn't necessarily mean that Mr. Annan, France, Russia, China, and others who profited from Iraq's misery shouldn't be spanked hard. Kofi Annan is done, e.g.

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          • #6
            Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

            the best hope now for getting at the truth lies in following the money trail
            I agree.. The "7 sisters" are more than likely involved in this... Lets' not be too naive to think that US companies were "above" making money from oil games before the trail is followed completely.

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            • #7
              Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

              Let's not make accusations like that without some evidence to support it. ;)

              P.S. It's irrelevant. IF the UN proves to have behaved in this corrupt manner, then that's it. US Oil companies aren't the story here. Why bring them up?
              Last edited by leejo; 04-07-2004, 01:23 PM.

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              • #8
                Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                How ironic would it be if, after years of accusing the US of wanting Iraq for the oil, it turned out that the REAL reason why certain nations didn't want Iraq liberated was to protect their oil-for-food secret and income?

                A) Pretty damn ironic.

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                • #9
                  Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                  Placing bids through overseas subsidiaries and affiliates, more than a dozen U.S. firms have signed millions of dollars in contracts with Baghdad for oil-related equipment since the summer of 1998, according to diplomats, industry officials and U.N. documents
                  According to U.S. government figures, American firms account for only a tiny share of the nearly $10 billion in trade that has been conducted under the oil-for-food exemption. U.S. citizens have received licenses to export about $15 million of oil-related spare parts and $400 million of food, medicine and water treatment equipment to Iraq, according to the State Department.

                  But those figures do not count most products purchased by Iraq from American subsidiaries abroad. This indirect U.S.-Iraqi trade is tracked by the United Nations, which must approve all the contracts. But little information about it has been made public.

                  Until recently, visitors to the Web site could search for a company name and then call up the contract numbers associated with that company, allowing cross-referencing between contracts and companies. The search engine was shut down last week after U.N. officials learned that The Washington Post had used it to investigate U.S. companies doing business with Iraq through foreign subsidiaries.

                  John Mills, spokesman for the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program, declined to comment on the extent of U.S. trade with Iraq, saying it was proprietary trade information.

                  According to diplomats and the Web site, American firms that have done business with Iraq, directly or through subsidiaries, include such petroleum industry giants as Halliburton, the world's largest oil field service company; Schlumberger, the second largest oil field servicer; the Fisher-Rosemount unit of Emerson Electric Co. in St. Louis; the Hamilton Sundstrand unit of United Technologies in Windsor Locks, Conn.; and Baker Hughes Inc. of Houston.
                  Granted, this article was written in 2000, it still shows a bit of "evidence" of US companies possible complicities in the entire scheme.

                  And from further reading, it seems most of the "oil for palaces" money came from illegal activities outside of the oil for food programs.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                    I see.

                    From what I've been reading, the issue isn't so much that legitimate businesses were engaged in the oil-for-food program, but rather businesses that DIDN'T EXIST were "engaged" in the oil-for-food program. Kofi Annan's son was a full-time employee of the company hired to audit these transactions until shortly before the UN deal went through, at which point he was made a "consultant".

                    I still think that responding to a story about the UN's corruption by dragging the US oil companies into the mud too is irrelevant and a little weird. Oh well.

                    I would add that if it turns out that American businesses profited by this UN corruption then I will be sad to hear that. In the meantime, I'm sure France, Russia, Annan et al would absolutely love to shift the blame or spread it around a little. Who wouldn't?
                    Last edited by leejo; 04-07-2004, 06:41 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                      Corporations from every country are screwing us and everyone else over, whilst paying politicians back-handers, screwing the system and ripping off the people. It's been happening for centuries but remains out of sight. Every now and then it's exposed, and we see them for what they really are. Don't think that just because they're from your own nationality that they regard you any differently, your just cattle to them. It's time to wake up and understand we're all being screwed - then perhaps something can be done about it. Contracts in iraq for instance - a US company may get it but who's paying them, you - the taxpayer. Who profits from it - shareholders (like rumsfeld). I wouldn't be surprised if Bush's buddies - the Bin Ladens, have shares in Betchel or Haliburton, etc. Blair too probably :)

                      Everytime this sort of thing comes no-one ever seems to connect it with anything else. Your friend is struggling to get his kids through college whilst being screwed from the top. Sometimes it's your own politicians, sometimes it's others from other countries. Jeez, are they all in one big "screw the small man club?"

                      This will continue until we say no more.
                      Jex.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                        "I wouldn't be surprised if Bush's buddies - the Bin Ladens, have shares in Betchel or Haliburton, etc. Blair too probably "

                        It is irresponsible to throw out a statement like that without facts to back it up. I know we're just chatting and formal debate rules don't apply, but what craziness is that?

                        If we're just going to make things up, I wouldn't be surprised if John Kerry has a picture of Saddam Hussein and Richard Simmons over his bed. Aliens rigged the 2000 election.

                        Again, the issue isn't that corporations were screwing the little guy, it's that the UN was doing business with companies that don't exist, and lined their pockets in collusion with SH at the expense of the Iraqi people.

                        Turning this into a rant against Bush or Halliburton is laughable. The same groups who've been trashing him for a year and a half for "failing" to gain UN support, the same groups who've called on the US to "put an international face" on Iraq are now left with what? Making up stories?
                        Last edited by leejo; 04-08-2004, 09:00 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                          Originally posted by leejo
                          Again, the issue isn't that corporations were screwing the little guy, it's that the UN was doing business with companies that don't exist, and lined their pockets in collusion with SH at the expense of the Iraqi people.
                          Indeed.

                          I don't why people aren't in more of an uproar over this. If this type of corruption were suspected in President Bush's administration, the whole world would be reading about it on the front page of their daily.

                          Instead we have people ignoring the political scandal to point out that corporations are greedy. Duh. They're supposed to be. Their purpose is to make money. Charities give away money, corporations make money. It's a simple concept, really.
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                          • #14
                            Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                            I did say I wouldn't be surprised if they had shares - however, the Bin LAdens have been buddies with the Bushes for years - especially though ther Carlyle Group I think it is.

                            My point however is do you not see this going on around you day in day out? It goes on everywhere and saying "that's the point of corporations" doesn't really go anywhere.

                            Is it the point of corporations to rip off its customers and employees, trash the environment and change government policy? If your happy with that your are in a minority for the rest of the american public would appear to be saying otherwise (thank god :)).

                            So it really doesn't suprise me to hear yet another story about back-handers and scandalls where money is concerned. Why localise it to the UN when it's going on all around us - surely by now with all the scandall that have come out and reporting being done that you must see that the game being played is for the elite few and not for the people who count - you and me?
                            Jex.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Saddam's U.N. Financiers

                              So when someone is murdered I should say oh well people speed all the time? It's all crime.

                              When Enron or Worldcom steals from the public they need not go to jail because oh well it happens all the time?

                              How about we keep our eye on the ball here and talk about the specific allegations and the specific people who executed them?

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