Under pressure from the revelation of what may be the largest corruption case in history, Kofi Annan attempted to strike back at critics of the UN and the Oil-For-Food program, asserting that member nations never alerted Annan to the smuggling and the kickbacks that stuffed Saddam’s pockets:
Annan pointed out that all members of the U.N. Security Council were on the committee overseeing the program, yet none had come forward and said “we had a role.” Instead, Annan said, all accusations of wrongdoing were being leveled at the U.N. Secretariat which he heads.
“Be that as it may, these allegations are doing damage, and we need to face them sternly and do whatever we can to correct them,” he said. “And we are beginning to put out quite a lot of information which I hope will correct some of the misinformation that has been put out.”
Annan wants to play a little misdirection with the facts. The UN specifically was put in charge of this program and was supposed to be administering the contracts and the shipments, guaranteeing that the money stayed within the program and that the proceeds went to aid Iraqi citizens, not Saddam’s regime. If it had trouble fulfilling that mission, the UN Secretariat should have informed the Security Council, at which time the UNSC could have decided on a course of corrective action. In fact, as the excellent blog Friends of Saddam notes in several posts, the UN OFF relaxed its oversight over time, allowing a much wider range of goods to be purchased and eliminating most rudimentary accounting controls.
But Kofi’s blameshifting is not the real story here. When responding to the allegations of smuggling, Annan said:
On the $5.7 billion that the GAO estimates Saddam pocketed through smuggling, Annan said “there was no way the U.N. could have stopped it” but he suggested the United States and Britain could have.
“We had no mandate to stop oil smuggling,” he said. “There was a maritime task force that was supposed to do that. They (the Iraqis) were driving the trucks through northern Iraq to Turkey. The U.S. and the British had planes in the air. We were not there. Why is this all being dumped on the U.N.?”
Annan’s remarks boggle the mind. He literally endorsed the entire idea of unilateral action by the Anglo-American alliance to enforce UNSC restrictions that the UN was clearly unable to maintain. In fact, what he says here is that the OFF corruption can be blamed on the US and the UK failing to act, even without specific UN approval, when Saddam clearly was in violation of UNSC resolutions well before 2002.
Annan, simply put, just agreed with everything George Bush has said in his justifications for military action in Iraq. Saddam clearly was in violation of Resolution 1441 — even Hans Blix acknowledged that — so Anglo-American military action, in Annan’s view, was justified. Saddam, in fact, violated every single one of the UNSC resolutions related to disarmament, human rights, and reparations after the Gulf War, especially in continuing to oppress Iraqi citizens — and so Anglo-American military action to rectify the situation was necessary, as the UN was unable to act on its own to stop it.
In fact, since the first whiffs of the OFF debacle only started coming out publicly in the run-up to the war, and since continuation of sanctions would have continued the smuggling and kickbacks by Saddam and his henchmen, Annan has now legitimized the Coalition action to remove the tyrranical regime and put an end to the OFF program.
Alert John Kerry — even the UN Secretary General has conceded the worthlessness of the UN in enforcing world order, and has endorsed the Anglo-American initiative to reintroduce accountability to international relations.