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August 12, 2004
New York Times Discovers UNSCAM .... Finally

The Gray Lady has finally cast her shaded eyes across town to Turtle Bay and discovered that the institution it has held up as the epitome of international justice allowed one of the worst dictators in recent history to stuff his pockets to the tune of $10 billion, with de facto approval from the highest levels of the UN. This is hardly news to those who read the Wall Street Journal and the indefatigable Claudia Rosett, but given the New York Times' editorial insistence on UN approval on all aspects of international relations, it represents a shocking reversal:

Oil industry experts told Security Council members and Secretary General Kofi Annan's staff that Iraq was demanding under-the-table payoffs from its oil buyers. The British mission distributed a background paper to Council members outlining what it called "the systematic abuse of the program" and described how Iraq was shaking down its oil customers and suppliers of goods for kickbacks.

When the report landed in the United Nations' Iraq sanctions committee, the clearinghouse for all contracts with Iraq, it caused only a few ripples of consternation. There was no action, diplomats said, not even a formal meeting on the allegations.

Since the fall of Mr. Hussein, the oil-for-food program has received far more scrutiny than it ever did during its six years of operation. Congress's General Accounting Office has estimated that the Iraqi leader siphoned at least $10 billion from the program by illicitly trading in oil and collecting kickbacks from companies that had United Nations approval to do business with Iraq.

Multiple investigations now under way in Washington and Iraq and at the United Nations all center on one straightforward question: How did Mr. Hussein amass so much money while under international sanctions?

An examination of the program, the largest in the United Nations' history, suggests an equally straightforward answer: The United Nations let him do it.

Now the Times has linked Kofi Annan's staff, and presumably therefore Annan himself, to the corruption, and based on the Times' reporting, it could hardly look any worse. How bad did it get? Even the Iranians tried to tip off the sanctions committee, just to get shined on. If you want to know why the corruption ran so rampant, all you need to hear is this limp excuse from the man who controlled the entire program, Benon Sevan:

Mr. Sevan, the Cypriot who headed the program, has denied that he received any kickbacks and would only say in a statement that his office was not responsible for ferreting out corruption. Congressional investigators this year disputed that claim, citing United Nations resolutions.

So the man who was in charge considered himself little more than the program's bookkeeper. He certainly took little executive interest in the program, at least officially, although Sevan himself faces allegations of payoffs as well, which would make his laissez-faire approach to enforcement a lot more understandable.

Read the whole thing. Most of it is just a well-organized collection of information that we already know from having read Rosett, but there are a few surprises along the way. For instance, there's this passage that made me laugh out loud:

Evidence of fraud passed from office to office in a round robin ending nowhere.

A former State Department official who was part of an interagency committee that reviewed trade contracts with Iraq said the group detected "abnormalities in pricing that suggested fees and kickbacks."

The former officials said the committee "asked why Iraq needed to import gilded tiles for palaces, or liposuction equipment."

Why did they need liposuction? Because Saddam was getting fat off of UNSCAM, that's why, and he wasn't the only one, either.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 12, 2004 10:55 PM

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» UNSCAM Update from :: Political Musings ::
The New York Times is out with a story on UNSCAM today. Multiple investigations now under way in Washington and Iraq and at the UN all center on one question: How did Saddam amass so much money while under international sanctions? . An examinat... [Read More]

Tracked on August 13, 2004 2:25 AM

» Deluded In Boston from The Black Republican
John Kerry, tell us again how we should put our security in the hands of the United Nations? Additionally: The UN oil for food program scam is finally getting notice in the MSM.... [Read More]

Tracked on August 15, 2004 7:14 AM

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