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Today's editorial in the Washington Post accomplishes the remarkable feat of both understanding that the Volcker Report doesn't exonerate UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at all, and then using that fact to endorse Annan's continued leadership of the UN. Confused? So, apparently, is the Post's editorial board:
While the investigators found that Kojo Annan misled the secretary general about the length of his employment, and while it seems all too clear that he intended to profit from his U.N. connections, the probe did not find any evidence that Cotecna won its U.N. contract thanks to Kofi Annan's intervention. Nevertheless, the report does not, as Mr. Annan claimed this week, amount to an "exoneration."
For while Mr. Annan was not found guilty of direct corruption, the portrait of the secretary general's office, as it emerges from the report, is not attractive. Mr. Annan's former chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, is found to have authorized the destruction of three years' worth of documents -- a procedure that began, perhaps not coincidentally, right after the investigation was launched. The head of the United Nations' office of internal oversight, Dileep Nair, is also found to have paid the salary of a staff member using money that had been designated for the administration of the oil-for-food program. This is particularly disturbing, given that Mr. Nair was the person responsible for monitoring U.N. management systems and the staff member was employed to design an anti-corruption program. These new revelations, when added to the portrait of dicey procurement practices outlined in the previous oil-for-food investigation report, don't exactly make the United Nations look like a model of efficiency.
No, it does not, and while we're looking at inner-circle Annan aides like Nair and Riza, let's also consider Benon Sevan. All three directly reported to Annan, all three served at his pleasure, and not coincidentally, all three have participated in corruption, cover-ups, and obstruction of justice. All of these men have one major point in common: they took orders from Kofi Annan. At some point, if based on nothing else other than sheer incompetence, Annan should be held accountable for their crimes and corruption.
Not according to the Post, however. The Post argues that the humiliation of discovery will motivate Annan to clean house and end corruption at Turtle Bay:
Mr. Annan has indeed been personally damaged by the oil-for-food scandal, but many of the United Nations' problems predate his arrival and will continue after he leaves unless they are addressed. And that, in the end, is precisely why he should stay on in the job: Both he and his staff should now have the motivation to carry out an ambitious, vital program of reform.
I'm not concerned about Mr. Annan's personal damage. What should concern all of us is his inability, at best, to recognize and stop corruption at the highest levels of his own organization, among his own closest aides. What the Post suggests equates to an argument for keeping Nixon in office to correct the excesses of Watergate. This editorial points out that Annan's own chief of staff obstructed justice, that another key aide paid off internal watchdogs to keep silent about corruption, that Annan's son got paid handsomely by a key contractor, and obliquely refers to a third aide who stuffed his pockets full of humanitarian-aid money intended for starving children.
This is the kind of leadership that the Post endorses?
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