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September 20, 2004
Volcker Commission Hardly Independent

In response to the mounting evidence that the UN Oil-For-Food Program wound up enriching everyone except the Iraqi people it was meant to feed, the UN reluctantly (and only after much arm-twisting) formed a commision to investigate the corruption that gave Saddam Hussein billions of loose cash. The UN put former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker at the head of the commission and after much debate, the Security Council gave Volcker a mandate which demanded cooperation from all member states.

The Heritage Foundation's Nile Gardiner and James Phillips, however, remain skeptical of the Volcker Commission's independence and viability, and for good reason. The pair give the first look at the staffing that belies the commission's "independence, while noting that its authority for investigation appears nonexistent:

So far, few details have emerged regarding the Commissions modus operandi, its staff, or its overall effectiveness. The Commissions operations are shrouded in secrecy, with little transparency or external oversight. For a commission designed to unearth corruption and malpractice on a huge scale, it is strikingly opaque. Its spartan official website contains little information of value, not even a mailing address. ...

The Commission bears all the hallmarks of a toothless paper tiger, with no subpoena power, and is clearly open to U.N. manipulation. It bears no enforcement authority (such as contempt) to compel compliance with its requests for information and has no authority to discipline or punish any wrongdoing it discovers.

That doesn't build much confidence in Volcker's ability to reach definitive conclusions as to where the money went and who got rich off the backs of the Iraqis. Nor will the commission's hiring practices make anyone more optimistic:

A truly independent inquiry into U.N. corruption should not be staffed by U.N. employees, former U.N. employees, or those with any significant ties to the U.N.

It is therefore surprising to discover that the official spokesman for the Commission, Anna Di Lellio, is a former United Nations official. Moreover, Ms. Di Lellio, who is Director of Communications for Paul Volcker, has publicly expressed contempt for the U.S. president. In an interview with the London newspaper The Guardian on the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Ms. Di Lellio launched into a vicious tirade against the U.S. and Italian governments, implicitly comparing President George W. Bush and key U.S. ally Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Osama bin Laden:

What I do feel is a sense of powerlessness against the changes which are potentially lethal for our civilization. But I see the major threats coming from ourselves, rather than the east. I find deeply unsettling both the ascendance of George Bush and his puppeteers to the U.S. government, and the mix of self-serving hypocrisy and incompetence prevailing in European governments.

I dont like it that the two nations whose citizenship I hold, Italy and the U.S., have leased their institutions to a couple of families. With defenders like W and Berlusconi, largely unchecked by a sycophantic media, who needs Bin Laden to destroy culture, personal freedom, respect for other human beings, integrity, and the rule of lawall the things that make our lives worthwhile?

Read all of the Heritage Foundation's report. We need to push Congress to bypass this whitewash commission and continue to investigate on its own, or with the British, about where the billions of dollars wound up. Perhaps Claudia Rosett could offer to lead the investigation for the Anglo-American effort; thus far she's found more in her truly independent investigation than the Volcker Commission is ever likely to report.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 20, 2004 12:40 PM

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Tracked on September 20, 2004 1:32 PM

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