Let’s Hear The Clintons Explain This

ABC News reports tonight that oil shipping records show that the fugitive financier pardoned by Bill Clinton in the last hours of his presidency played a significant role in Saddam’s fleecing of the UN Oil-For-Food program. Marc Rich, who received a pardon from Clinton despite being on the run and over the objections of the Department of Justice, provided a middleman for Hussein and major oil companies looking to keep their hands clean from scandal:

Former American fugitive Marc Rich was a middleman for several of Iraq’s suspect oil deals in February 2001, just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, according to oil industry shipping records obtained by ABC News.
And a U.S. criminal investigation is looking into whether Rich, as well as several other prominent oil traders, made illegal payments to Iraq in order to obtain the lucrative oil contracts.
“Without that kind of middleman, the system would not work because the major oil companies did not want to deal with Iraq because there was a mandated kickback,” said human rights investigator John Fawcett.

So when Bill Clinton allowed Marc Rich to go free — coincidentally just after his wife, Denise Rich, donated $450,000 to Clinton’s presidential-library fund — he set loose one of the conduits that helped Saddam steal $21 billion from his own people and funnel it to his military and, probably, Islamist terrorists. Not only did he allow Rich to escape prosecution for his earlier crimes, he also eliminated any chance of trying him for any crime committed before the pardon was issued in January 2001. While the fortune Rich funneled to Saddam gets used to kill American servicemen and Iraqi civilians, Bill Clinton wanders around his presidential library, wrapped in the loving embrace of the American media.
However, I suspect this will make a huge dent on Hillary’s chances for the presidency in 2008, especially if this administration manages to capture and try Rich for his part in UNSCAM. After this report, you can bet that they’ll be issuing warrants for his arrest and extradition. (via Instapundit)
UPDATE: Deltanine reminds me that I wrote about Marc Rich’s inclusion in the Duelfer Report on October 7th:

At the time of the pardon, many people puzzled over why Bill Clinton would pardon a man who fled the country and whose status as a fugitive had been under negotiation with the FBI just prior to Clinton’s action. Instead of cutting a deal with Rich to get him back to the US to face charges, Clinton pulled the rug out from under the FBI. Without the leverage of the charges, Rich had no further motivation to cooperate with the DoJ on any outstanding investigations.
At the time, the presumption was that Rich’s wife had donated enough money to buy the pardon. Now, however, the question may be whether Clinton knew about the corruption and feared that an aggressive Bush administration policy would uncover Rich’s participation in undermining Iraqi sanctions while Rich raised funds for both his presidential library and Hillary’s election. Or maybe the issue runs even deeper than that?

Compromise In Ukraine?

The French press service AFP and Postmodern Clog both report that an agreement has been reached between the Ukrainian government of Leonid Kuchma and opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko to bring the standoff in Kyiv to an end:

Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma said the two rivals agreed with the help of foreign mediators to let the court pass judgment on the November 21 vote and then jointly figure out how to resolve independent Ukraine’s worst political crisis.
But most agreed that another poll was inevitable and the European Union’s troubleshooter Javier Solana said that a month would be needed to set a date for another election — the third since November 30.

According to AFP, Kuchma finally acknowledged that the election suffered from massive fraud but doesn’t quote him on that admission. The agreement supercedes the Rada vote dissolving the Yanukovych government and lays the groundwork for constitutional changes diluting the presidency in the future, strengthing the Prime Minister role instead. While the agreement purports to wait on the Ukrainian Supreme Court to rule on the election challenge, Javier Solana told AFP that everyone expects new elections in some form within the next 30 days.
However, Reuters disputes the reports of compromise:

Ukraine’s feuding presidential candidates failed to find a clear way out of a standoff over a contested presidential election that has brought tens of thousands in the streets, but new elections looked likely.

However, Reuters includes most of the same points of agreement in their report that AFP’s has, which sounds as though some compromise has been reached. AFP reports that Viktor Yushchenko will call for an end to the blockade of government buildings but not the street demonstrations, at least not until elections are set.
More to come …

Schroeder Goes Out On A Creaky Limb With Russia

CQ reader Ken Powell directs us to a new English-language version of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, which reports in its latest edition on the diplomatic razor-dance Gerhardt Schroeder has performed lately between the United States, Russia, and the rest of Europe. According to DS, Europeans have become increasingly disenchanted with Schroeder’s apologism for Vladimir Putin and accuse him of sacrificing the democratic ideals over which he scolded George Bush for a pocketful of Russian Euros:

Worldwide criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin is mounting — leaders increasingly doubt his democratic credentials. Except Gerhard Schroeder that is. The German Chancellor continues to stand by his friend and business partner. It may soon get him into trouble. …
The most-recent questions surrounding the Schroeder-Putin courtship surfaced last week. Following energetic attempts by Putin to influence the elections in Ukraine — including massive financial support and campaign appearances supporting government candidate Yanukovych as well as premature recognition of a Yanukovych victory despite clear indications of massive fraud — Schroeder came to Putin’s defense. “I am thoroughly convinced that the Russian president wants to transform Russia into a democracy and that he is doing so out of a deeply held conviction,” he said. As if that weren’t a gem of a quote, a few days earlier Schroeder had referred to Putin as “a flawless democrat.”
Criticism of Schroeder’s position isn’t just coming from the German media — more and more voices from abroad are questioning his “German path” as Schroeder himself refers to his efforts to become more independent from the United States security umbrella. Russia’s best-know human rights activist, Sergei Kovalyov, is livid. He feels Germany is sacrificing long-held beliefs in human rights and democracy for a powerful friend and a few euros. “What the chancellor is doing with Russia isn’t just morally wrong, it is also dangerous,” he warns.

We’re not talking about chump change in this Russo-German relationship, either. German imports from Russia have increased almost 70% over the past five years, and as Germany moves away from nuclear energy, they will need access to cheap oil from Russia. German exports went up by almost 150% in the same period, but still lag far behind their Russian imports; the trade balance ratio favors Russia almost 1000:1.
The economic concerns appear to outweigh any other, and not just in Ukraine. When the entire EU rejected recent elections in Chechnya, Schroeder asserted that he could find nothing wrong with them. Schroeder has remained silent about Putin’s crackdown on the press and his hostile assault on Yukos, the Russian oil company Putin has all but stolen. George Bush receives criticism about his relationship with Putin, but Bush doesn’t shy from expressing his differences with the Russian leader. Gerhardt Schroeder has elevated toadying to a new level.
In the wake of the American invasion of Iraq and Schroeder’s strong rejection of their US allies in that cause, the German leader became for a short while the toast of Europe. According to DS, that has mutated into a strong suspicion that Schroeder may be nothing more than a sellout who cannot be trusted.

Barghouti Reconsiders

Last week I posted about jailed Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti declining to run for the Palestinian presidency. His decision caught me by surprise, as I expected Barghouti to use a presidential campaign to embarrass his Israeli jailers, who convicted him of terrorist acts as the chief of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (now renamed the Yasser Arafat Martyrs Brigade). His withdrawal appeared to hold out promise that the Palestinians had finally gotten serious about pursuing peace with Israel.
Apparently, my analysis was a bit too optimistic:

Associates of Marwan Barghouti said Wednesday that the jailed Palestinian uprising leader has decided to run for president, reversing an earlier decision and throwing Palestinian politics into disarray. …
Barghouti’s decision came after he met with his wife and two senior Palestinian officials at an Israeli prison where he is serving multiple life sentences, the associates said on condition of anonymity.

Hmmm. The Palestinians either convinced him to run, or could not talk him out of it. Mahmoud Abbas, the former PM who resigned when Arafat blocked him from any real authority, had already announced his candidacy and is clearly viewed as a moderate with whom Israel and the US can work. Barghouti remains wildly popular among Palestinians as a living martyr, imprisoned unfairly in their eyes by the oppressor. Barghouti has a good chance of winning — which will create a huge amount of pressure for Israel to release him, even with his record of killing women and children in Israel.
In a way, this may wind up as a positive development. If the Palestinians reject Barghouti for Abbas, the world will see that they are serious about peace. If they elect Barghouti, we will know that they seek nothing more than more war and destruction.

Willingham’s Defenders Play The Race Card

After three seasons of frustration, punctuated by un-Irish-like blowouts in big games, Notre Dame fired Ty Willingham as its football coach yesterday. Those of us who have watched as the program continued its slide into mediocrity had no illusions about Willingham’s status; Irish coaches are expected to win, and certainly not allowed to get blown out of games with traditional rival USC. After the third straight 31-point loss to the Trojans and the second blowout loss this year, anyone who couldn’t see this as the end point doesn’t know Notre Dame football.
However, that hasn’t stopped people from speculating that the Irish fired Willingham because of his race. Understandably, people are sensitive to the lack of African-American head coaches in the NCAA; at the beginning of the season, Willingham was one of only eight, an embarrassing number in a division with 117 head-coaching positions. After the usual exits at the end of the year, only five remain. However, Ty’s exit does not make the Irish racists, a point predictably lost on the head of the Black Coaches Association:

Willingham’s firing sends a clear message, said Floyd Keith, executive director of the BCA:
“It tells you something is really wrong. And it should tell all of America something is really wrong.
“What’s magnified this thing is, there’s simply not enough African American coaches out there. People know it’s wrong. You have to know it’s wrong. You’ve got such a disparity.”

No, it doesn’t. Willingham’s hiring into the most prestigious head-coaching position in college football told us that progress had been made, and his firing also tells us the same thing. Willingham was held responsible for his performance. He had three years to turn the program around and simply didn’t do it. Should Notre Dame have sacrificed its program just to turn Ty into a token? Does the BCA think that would have satisfied Ty Willingham, or helped other schools take black coaches any more seriously?
The Los Angeles Times piece provides balance, with a diversity expert in sports, Richard Lapchick pointing out that AD Kevin Smith had the courage to both hire and fire Willingham, so the issue likely went beyond race. ESPN disappoints in its analyses of the situation. Pat Forde argues that Willingham’s firing makes Notre Dame no better than USC in its efforts to provide excellence while emphasizing academics:

The athletic director stressed that the football coach has done wonderful, inspirational work off the field. The academic performance has never been better, he said. The coach is a man of unassailable character who has recruited players of similar ilk.
“In a lot of ways,” the athletic director said, “this program hasn’t been this healthy in a long time.”
Firing Ty Willingham exposed Notre Dame as nothing more than a football factory.
Except for one way. The wins-and-losses way. Which is what truly matters at all football factories.

Forde tells ND fans that they had better face reality — that Notre Dame is hypocritical in its claim to be any better than USC or Oklahoma in selling their students out to athletic success. Really? A quick look at the NCAA graduation-rate stats shows that Notre Dame graduated 89% of its student athletes, compared to 64% for the Trojans, 55% for the Sooners, and 52% for the Texas Longhorns. (Doesn’t ESPN pay their analysts to actually do research before opining?) Forde also says that Notre Dame had better have a “good answer” to allegations of racism — as if no one at ESPN can read a won-loss record or margin of loss analysis. Bob Davies and Gerry Faust didn’t rack up as many blowout defeats in their generally reviled tenures as Willingham did in an abbreviated time frame, and they managed to win a game against USC during their tenures.
In college football, the final criterion will always be the won-loss record. Coaches should already know that, and sports analysts who don’t should find work elsewhere.

Ukrainian Rada Tosses Out Yanukovych Government

Ukraine’s Parliament, called the Rada, has voted to oust the government of Prime Minister and nominal winner of the presidential election Viktor Yanukovych in a secret ballot, attempting to force an end to the political crisis that has gripped the former Soviet republic for ten days:

Ukraine’s parliament Wednesday voted to sack the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich to help end a political crisis triggered by his contested election last month as president.
In parliament, 229 deputies, three more than required, voted in favor of sacking Yanukovich, declared winner in the Nov. 21 election, denounced by opposition rival Viktor Yushchenko as being tainted by fraud.
Deputies also voted to create an interim “government of national trust.

This resolution may prove to be of little value; as I’ve mentioned before, Ukraine’s PM is appointed by the executive, not the legislature as in other parliamentary democracies. However, what essentially amounts to a no-confidence vote in the Kuchma and Yanukovych government delivers a body blow to their public-relations efforts. The same Rada earlier rescinded an explicit no-confidence vote in the Central Election Commission when the Communists joined the Kuchma government in an attempt to force Yanukovych into power, but this secret ballot appears to demonstrate that the earlier vote may have been based on some arm-twisting.
The vote also demanded that a new interim government be formed, one of national “trust” to shepherd the political crisis to an end. That means Kuchma will have to name a new PM, one that the inflamed Rada will accept, for the transition to either a recast second round of elections, which is what Yushchenko wants, or a rerun of the entire election, which is what Kuchma holds as his fallback position. It’s rather doubtful that anything except the former will convince the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians on the streets to disband.