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May 11, 2004
UN Still Obstructionist, Threatens OFF Contractors

The Wall Street Journal discloses a confidential memo sent from the UN Secretariat on behalf of Benon Sevan, the Oil-For-Food Program chief. The memo instructs their contractors to withhold any documents or information until the UN gets around to authorizing their release:

Dated April 27, the note--like earlier ones to inspection companies Saybolt and Cotecna--is signed by another U.N. official "for Benon V. Sevan," the outgoing Iraq Program chief. In this case the recipient was an individual consultant whose name was blacked out by our Capitol Hill source.

The letter informs the consultant of a contract clause stating: "contractors may not communicate at any time to any other person, Government or authority external to the United Nations any information known to them by reason of their association with the United Nations which has not been made public, except in the course of their duties or by authorization of the Secretary-General or his designate."

The purpose of the first of these letters to surface, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard argued last week, was to facilitate evidence gathering by the U.N.-backed inquiry headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. This excuse didn't make a whole lot of sense. It's not as if the Oil for Food-related documents in question could be shared with either Congress or Mr. Volcker but not both. But this latest hush letter adds a new wrinkle, stating twice that the U.N. demands control of "documentation or information" (emphasis added). Translation: Shut up or we'll sue.

As OpinionJournal notes, these memos from the UN hardly inspires confidence that they will provide complete cooperation with Paul Volcker or any other independent investigation. Had this memo been issued within the US government in response to an independent probe, obstruction-of-justice charges would be filed against the person who wrote it. What's worse, at the same time that the UN sends out this not-so-subtle threat, they have the gall to position themselves as the only organization with the moral authority to handle the transition to representative government in Iraq.

Congress and the Bush administration need to take quick action to send the message that interference will not be tolerated and full cooperation is expected. A large amount of American dollars disappeared into the OFF rathole, along with euros, pounds, kroner, etc., that were intended to assist the Iraqi people, not perpetuate their oppression by putting the money into Saddam's pockets. But instead of the phased retention of UN dues that WSJ recommends, we should suspend all monies earmarked for the UN until cooperation increases.

In the meantime, this episode should demonstrate the futility of dealing with an organization whose overwhelmingly tyrannical, kleptocratic membership has thoroughly corrupted its bureaucracy, especially in the expectation of creating a corruption-free democracy in Iraq. The notion borders on satire. Politicians who keep demanding that the US pursue that policy should be recognized as hopelessly out of touch with reality.

Note: As always, keep checking in with Friends of Saddam, which covers this development as well. If any news comes up about UNSCAM, you can be sure to find it there.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 11, 2004 4:59 PM

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