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December 4, 2004
What's The Strib Afraid Of?

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune unleashes its venom on Senator Norm Coleman, who had the audacity (in the Strib's view) to demand accountability from the United Nations and its leader, Kofi Annan. Indulging in its usual namecalling by labeling Coleman an "embarrassment", the Strib seems particularly unhappy that the US has launched an investigation into the world's largest financial-corruption scandal:

The ostensible reason for seeking Annan's resignation? It was on his watch that Saddam Hussein diverted billions from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program designed to relieve the humanitarian burden on Iraqis suffering as a consequence of U.N. sanctions.

Note that no one has the slightest whiff of proof that Annan knew about, condoned or profited from this scandal. Furthermore, when the scandal surfaced, Annan appointed former Fed chairman and man of impeccable honor Paul Volcker to thoroughly investigate the matter. Volcker's report, which both he and Annan have promised will be made public, is still a work in progress.

As Hindrocket at Power Line writes today, the Strib never supports its idea that Annan has been a "splendid" public servant. Instead of offering any evidence of that, the editorial attacks conservatives for attacking the UN as punishment for its opposition to our actions in Iraq, and calls Coleman a lackey for the right in this effort.

Let's think about that for a moment. The United Nations refused to enforce sixteen of its own resolutions, including the supposed ultimatum of 1441, because it argued that the sanctions regime worked to keep Saddam "in his box". George Bush and Tony Blair disagreed; they had some intelligence that Saddam had circumvented the sanctions and was trading oil for arms and doing some skimming as well. The UN tried to stonewall the US and UK, especially Russia, China, and France. Newspapers, including the Strib, argued vehemently that the US had no business initiating military action against Iraq without explicit UNSC approval, basing part of their argument on the sanctions regime rendering the Iraqi threat as minimal.

Only after we captured Baghdad did we find differently. Once the US and UK had the Iraqi Intelligence Services files in their possession, they determined that Saddam wasn't just cheating on oil sales and arms -- he had built a huge apparatus of corruption that included the same people who tried to stop us from going into Baghdad in the first place. Russia, China, and France, not coincidentally the same nations that threatened to veto any enforcement of 1441, stuffed $21 billion dollars into Saddam's pockets through the Oil-For-Food program. The man who Kofi Annan appointed to run the program, and who only reported to Annan, became one of the corruption's beneficiaries, scoring millions on under-the-table oil futures for his astigmatism on OFF corruption. And let's not forget that Annan's own son, Kojo, continued to receive kickbacks from a Swiss firm implicated in the corruption well after he supposedly terminated his relationship there.

Yes, Kofi Annan appointed Paul Volcker to look into the corruption. However, Volcker has no subpoena authority and can only ask people for cooperation into the his investigation. Moreoever, Volcker is not allowed to release the report publicly; he must deliver it to Annan, who then can make any portion of it public that he wishes. He could also choose to keep any portion private. Annan has no accountability whatsoever in his position and he will suffer no penalty if he deep-sixes anything personally embarrassing to himself or his family. Is that the kind of independent investigation that satisfies the Strib's editorial board?

The UN receives approximately one-quarter of its funding from the United States. The American taxpayer pays for this multilateral forum despite a long history of anti-American rhetoric and the overwhelming majority of kleptocracies and dictatorships that comprise the UN. It is entirely appropriate for the US Senate to investigate the use of our funds when the corruption at Turtle Bay has been proven so widespread, so deep, and so breathtaking.

What does the Strib fear from Coleman's efforts? It knows that its editorial position of relying on the sanctions regime will embarrass the Strib when the corruption is completely revealed. The nations that the Strib insisted were our allies instead were busily selling us out. Their beloved UN was busily allowing Saddam to steal food from the mouths of Iraqi children in order to stuff bank accounts around the world, and probably to fund terrorist activities. (Saddam regularly sent money to suicide bombers and their families with the cash.)

In short, the Coleman investigation will reveal the Strib's editorial board to be nothing more than an idiotic, knee-jerk leftist group who will support any corruption as long as it serves the interest of those who oppose Republicans. Coleman isn't the embarrassment here.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 4, 2004 7:13 AM

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