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April 23, 2004
Annan: Shoot the Critics

Predictably, when a bureaucracy comes under criticism, the bureaucrats respond by attacking the critics rather than addressing the issues. Kofi Annan heads the world's most unaccountable bureaucracy, and so his response to damaging revelations about the multibillion-dollar Oil-For-Food scam comes as no surprise:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan accused critics of the U.N. oil-for-food program Thursday of treating allegations of corruption as fact and ignoring the program's role of providing aid to nearly every Iraqi family.

Very much like OFF program Benon Sevan's dismissal of corruption, when he said that 90% of the money went where it was intended, so why all the fuss over the remaining 10%?

The U.N. chief declared that he was "very keen" for the three-member panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to report "as soon as possible." And he promised that any U.N. official found guilty of accepting bribes or kickbacks would be dealt with "very severely."

Annan said he met Wednesday with Benon Sevan, who headed the oil-for-food program and has been accused of receiving kickbacks from Saddam Hussein's government, to discuss the allegations and cooperation with the investigation. ...

"Benon has stated quite clearly that he is innocent," Annan said.

Well, that's a surprise. Because as I've noted before, documents uncovered in Iraq show Sevan and hundreds of other bureaucrats from inside and outside the UN to have received millions of dollars in oil futures.

Perhaps it's important to act as if we were all judges and issue the trite disclaimer that "nothing has been proven yet" every time we speak of this issue, but regardless of whether one particular individual dipped his own hands into the trough, clearly the UN actively dismantled every safeguard and check on this program, and just as clearly the program allowed Saddam to stuff his pockets with tons of cash -- which is exactly what the UNSC sanctions were supposed to prevent. As Claudia Rosett notes in her excellent Commentary review, the OFF program strengthened Saddam immeasurably while weakening everyone else in Iraq. No serious doubt remains at the sheer magnitude of the incompetence of this program and the organization which ran it as its own private fiefdom, profiting handsomely from it (over $1.4 billion in admin fees alone).

Annan surely has the right to defend himself publicly, but every time he proclaims that OFF mostly helped Iraqi families in the face of overwhelming evidence that it didn't, he makes the UN less credible and his critics more so, especially in Iraq, where they know how little of that money they actually saw.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 23, 2004 6:59 AM

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Independent inquiry will yield facts on Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme - Annan 22 April 2004 - Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced confidence that an independent panel into allegations of corruption in the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme will ... [Read More]

Tracked on April 23, 2004 3:45 PM

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