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Author Topic: The Newspaper of Record and Oil for Food
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NYT Defends Kofi. Badly.
Posted by: Dale Franks

You know, when the New York Times starts an editorial with the following sentence, you pretty much know where the article is going:

The assault on the United Nations is escalating.
Well, there you go. An assault on that bastion of international legitimacy, the UN. And, of course, it’s an unfair assault:

A Senate subcommittee has raised the estimate of how many illegal billions Saddam Hussein was able to amass under the noses of monitors hired by the United Nations. Several other Congressional committees are exploring the scandal. Norm Coleman, the subcommittee’s Republican chairman, has joined a gaggle of conservatives calling for the resignation of Secretary General Kofi Annan.
See? It’s a gaggle of conservatives leading the assault, so that’s really all you need to know about the seriousness of the whole thing. Just a gathering of right-wing kooks and their black helicopter fantasies, droning on and on about this silly "Oil For Food" (OFF) deal.

Why, it’s hardly worth the coverage it takes up the nations’ newspaper of record, especially because it’s all so confusing and difficult. Perhaps we should wait before coming to any hasty judgements:

Mr. Annan, who drew the wrath of Republican Washington for opposing President Bush’s war in Iraq, will have to face the judgment of United Nations members on how much responsibility he bears. But before the call for his scalp gains more political momentum, it is important to disentangle the mlange of charges swirling around.
Let’s not rush to judgement. That would be wrong.

Although, it would be interesting to replace the words "Kofi Annan" and "The UN" in this article with the words "Ken Lay" and "Enron" and then try to imagine any conceivable circumstances in which the Times would print that article. When it’s Enron, we need to have immediate prosecutions, lengthy prison sentences, and, hopefully, nasty jailhouse assaults during a long, post-conviction prison stay.

But when the proprieties of Kofi’s Crowd are suspect, then we must all avoid a hasty and unseemly rush to judgment. Indeed, like OJ Simpson’s tireless search for the "real killers", the NYT seems to be urging us to look elsewhere for the real culprits in the OFF scandal.

The United Nations bureaucracy does not bear the primary responsibility for letting Saddam Hussein amass a secret treasury estimated by official investigators at $10 billion to $21 billion.
On the other hand, they are responsible for 100% of the money that Saddam Hussein looted from the OFF program, and, however much of the money might’ve come from somewhere else, the UN is still responsible for its own portion of the total, as well as for the corruption engendered by the program.

There is no doubt that the United Nations oil-for-food program was manipulated by Saddam Hussein to generate substantial sums. The money was then used to buy forbidden goods or otherwise solidify Mr. Hussein’s power. The most worrisome charge is that Benon Sevan, head of the program, received oil allotments from Iraq that amounted to a bribe. These charges need to be fully investigated, as they will be by the United Nations’ own panel and other inquiries.
Mistakes were made. Not bad mistakes, but those little embarrassing laspes of judgement to which we’re all prone from time to time. I’m sure Mr. Sevan has a perfectly rational explanation for the millions of dollars flowing into his bank account. And when we hear it, we’ll all realize how silly our suspicions were, and we’ll laugh and laugh.

And we probably should, because the real fault with the OFF program, as the Times’ editors are positively eager to tell us, lies with the United States., and for evidence, they produce this non-sequitur:

An analysis by Charles Duelfer, the chief American weapons inspector in Iraq, estimated that Iraq generated some $11 billion in illicit revenue and used the money to buy prohibited items, including military equipment. The main routes for these illicit transactions - $8 billion worth - were trade deals that Iraq negotiated with neighboring countries, notably Jordan, Syria and Turkey. By the Senate subcommittee’s higher count, Iraq got almost two-thirds of some $21 billion through the trade deals or smuggling.

But these trade agreements had nothing to do with the oil-for-food program, and were hardly a secret. The United States actually condoned Iraq’s trade deals with Jordan and Turkey, two allies whose economies suffered from the sanctions. This was a reasonable price to pay for maintaining their support on the main objective - denying weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein.

American diplomats tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Syria to stop buying Iraqi oil outside of the oil-for-food program, but did little to crack down on that trade. Syria became a major supplier of military goods to Iraq. This was a failure of American diplomacy, not Kofi Annan.

Well, all that’s interesting, I’m sure, but none of this is related to the investigation of the OFF program. Nobody is hinting that Kofi Annan is responsible for those deals, or for the smuggling.

Oh, sure, we can talk about whether these trade deals were wise. For example, was keeping Jordan and Turkey on board with the anti-WMD program worth the trade-off of giving money to Saddam? I dunno. But, I do note the Times didn’t complain about it when the Clinton Administration authorized those deals, just as I note the Times doesn’t make it clear that those were Clinton Administration decisions.

As for Syria, OK, we failed to stop the Syrian deal from going down. And our options for forcing the Syrians to stop it was...what? The Times offers no answer, but one suspects bombing Syria wouldn’t be high on their list of hypothetical answers.

Not that it matters, because, as I say, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with Mr. Sevan suddenly showing up at his UN office by the East River wearing a new Rolex, a $5,000 suit, smoking a $75 cigar, and asking his secretary to schedule a long lunch at Tavern on The Green. It doesn’t have anything to do with Mr. Annan’s son Kojo getting a couple of grand a month from a company he hasn’t worked for for four years. It’s simply not relevant to the central question: Was the UN’s OFF program a hotbed of bribery, double-dealing, and financial shenanigans? So far the answer appears to be "yes", and that has nothing to do with our failure to stop the Syria/Iraq trade deals by bombing Damascus back into the Stone Age, or, at least, into the Age of Reason.

But, the Times feels that it is a compelling enough explanation to let Mr. Annan off the hook, at least for now. Which is funny, because that’s a lot like writing an article about Enron, and demanding that people lay off of Ken Lay because, after all, he had nothing at all to do with the financial shenanigans at WorldCom, and all that Martha Stewart insider trading stuff was completely outside of Enron’s purview. I mean, OK, true enough, but...so what? Nobody’s calling on Mr. Annan to resign because the Clinton Administration allowed Turkey to trade with Iraq. They’re calling on him to resign because the UN appears to be corrupt and bloated with pelf.

Not that the Times is willing to acknowledge that fact.

Kofi Annan’s role will also have to be laid out fully. He has, unfortunately, issued inconsistent statements about the role of his son, Kojo Annan, in working abroad for a Swiss company that won a contract to monitor imports under the oil-for-food program. The whiff of nepotism has set the hounds baying, and may bring grief to Mr. Annan, but what all that has to do with Saddam Hussein’s illicit billions remains murky. It seems wildly premature to call for Mr. Annan’s resignation.[quote]

Murky. There you have it: It’s "murky". Just because Kojo was working--or, not working, as the case mainly is--for a company that did OFF inspections of trade goods at the time when his father was Sec. Gen., giving him access to the highest levels of the UN doesn’t mean that anything was actually, you know wrong. On the other hand, it doesn’t look good, any more than it looks good that Kojo got monthly payments from the firm for four years after he left it.

But, then again, this is more misdirection on the Times’ part, because no one is asking Mr. Annan to resign because his son may--or may not--be corrupt. What has "set the hounds baying" is that UN officials have been caught with their hands in the till, Saddam Hussein did manage to loot the program, and, as the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Annan was the final authority overseeing all this mess.

For some reason, though, the Times chose not to dwell too lengthily on that.

Come on now, NYT. You're making yourselves look bad. And biased. Just a little bit.

The UN needs to make sure their house is in order to regain a semblance of their peacekeeping authority and legitimacy, and somebody (more likely, a few somebodies) who was actually responsible should be hung out to dry. No finer example could be made to show that the UN is a legitimate organization that can be trusted with rights and responsibilities.

[ December 06, 2004, 04:59 PM: Message edited by: WarrsawPact ]

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Wow...someone else visits Q&O around here?

I really like Dale the best of the three......

Anyhow, one thing is becoming increasingly clear here: Kofi must go.

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President Bush’s war in Iraq
Is the guy writing this even American?

Obviously Kofi is not taking it too seriously. He felt comfortable making a joke about it at a dinner. "I resign myself, to having a good time." Hardy har har. Ironical, considering Iraqi's may have starved because of UN corruption. I say the man at the top should take responsibility when appropriate. That goes for Bush and Anan.


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Bush is responsible of Pvt. England's "torture" of Abu Ghraib Iraqis, no flu vaccine, and "lying" about the WMD; but Anan is not responsible for the oversight his own fiefdom did in Iraq?

Would any on the Left care to show some consistancy here? Or at least explain the nuance how Bush is always guilty, but Kofi isn't?

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Adam Masterman
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Would any on the Left care to show some consistancy here?
Your posts would be more credible if you stopped refering to the "left" in order to make a point. The "left" is not a homogeneous group of like minded people, its a greatly innacurate label for a diverse and shifting political alliance. It would be just as accurate for me to lament the hypocracy of texans by citing my uncle Hos who opposses military force, and Bush taking us into Iraq. If you think someone is acting hypocritical, cite actual quotes by that PERSON showing different standards for different situations. ex. Pres. Bush campaigned by condemning the "useless nation-building exercises" of American foreign policy, yet, when faced with his first major foereign policy crisis, his solution is : nation-building. This would be an ACTUAL discrepency. One person in what you call "the left" contradicting another is meaningless.

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We'll never get to the truth if he resigns before the investigation is over.

His resignation would create a tremendous political surge to blame everything on him and shut down the investigation. And that's something he might agree to at some point in the future under pressure from his co-conspirators.

However, its not something the rest of us should be pressing now.

The longer the investigation and the more evidence that is revealed, the more the UN's way of doing business will be discredited. And the more likely there can be some kind of meaningful reform.

This isn't the only UN insider sweetheart deal scandal to have ever existed but it is the biggest. The bigger the scandal, the more the push to do something about it.

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Would any on the Left care to show some consistancy here? Or at least explain the nuance how Bush is always guilty, but Kofi isn't?
Did you read my post directly before yours? And I am from the left.


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So let me get this straight: If Annan resigns, Bush has to as well? [Big Grin]
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What I am saying is that several on this site, whom I decided to leave nameless, have a very "aggressive" stance on Bush's personal responsibility for various problems the nation experiences.

I was giving these people who advocate "hyper responsiblity" to apply the same standard to Kofi.

I could give names. I choose not to because the people know who they are. But, Adam, since you want a name, the New York Times, a (leftist) newspaper of record has been blistering in it's critiques of Bush and his responsibilty from Abu Ghraib to flu vaccines. And yet now they say "Softly, softly. Let us not rush to judgement. After all, it's not really his fault."

Disingenous hypocrisy. Specific enough?

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I'm more interested in seeing the UN lose influence. Or something awsome happening like a huge stonewall from Kofi which leads to America to stop funding it and/or supporting it.

The UN is a corrupt useless orginization. No one respects it.

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I agree that it is corrupt, but it is not useless. It is just inconceivable that countries like France are on the security council. More than anything else, the UN would function better if it were reorganized so that representation were based on dollars contributed; who else has as much interest in seeing a mission through than the one that pays for it?

I've been to Haiti a couple of times this year, and only the US Marines are respected; because they have leadership to get the job done. I would like to see the UN changed from an institution that is set up to fail to one that has a chance. Right now the only thing the UN is good at is passing resolutions to condemn Israel for existing.

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What's wrong with leaving the UN as it is, but starting a new organization which only allowed countries which applied democratic and republican principles in practice.

Sure, it would be a much smaller organization, but why should Lybia be on the Human Rights Committee? What does China have to tell us about religous tolerance? Syria, defender of freedom?

No, time to neuter the UN to what it actually is, a debating society and a place for talk. Action is beyond them.

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I always enjoy how the NY Times rag can on one hand, soften the obsolute corruption in the food for oil scandal and the UN, but dig and dig and claim "evil" Haiburton is behind the Iraq war....

*rolls eyes*


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