This week, historian and foreign policy expert Bruce Herschensohn (also a member of CFIF's Board of Directors) spoke with the Center for Individual Freedom's Renee Giachino, who hosts the radio talk show "Your Turn -- Meeting Nonsense with Common Sense" on WEBY 1330 AM in Northwest Florida, about the U.N.'s scandal-plagued Iraq Oil for Food program and the world body's desire for global taxes.
What follows are excerpts from the interview.
GIACHINO: If you are just joining the program, you are very fortunate to have tuned in now because I have on the line Bruce Herschensohn who is not only a friend of mine but also a very important person out in Los Angeles. Bruce, welcome to the show.
HERSCHENSOHN: Thanks, Renee, for saying that. I dont know how important, but it sure is great to talk to you.
GIACHINO: Well, let me tell people about how important you are. Mr. Herschensohn teaches foreign policy at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and is the author of a wonderful book a heavy book, but a very good book published last year called "Passport." Media reports label him as a conservative television and radio commentator. I also know that he is an economist and I look to him as a political expert. And, something I didnt know about you, Bruce, despite the fact that you have been my friend for many years, is that you also have been a Hollywood director.
HERSCHENSOHN: Well, documentaries, yes, documentary films, and then I went to USIA (United States Information Agency) to head their film unit. So, it was a sort of a number of years working in motion pictures.
GIACHINO: Well, that is wonderful. Now, you were also a 1992 candidate for Senate, is that right?
HERSCHENSOHN: Yes, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.
GIACHINO: Great. Well, I have you on the show today to talk about an issue that I think as a nation we really need to get people to focus on. I am disappointed that despite the medias constant attention on the war in Iraq, I think you will agree with me Bruce that many Americans are still unaware of the mushrooming scandal involving the United Nations Iraq Oil for Food Program. Would you agree with that?
HERSCHENSOHN: Absolutely, and the two go together. The war in Iraq is so terribly important, but you have to put the fastener onto the very fact of what the United Nations has done about Saddam Hussein through the years. Look, it seemed like a good program at one time. I think it did to most Americans. It started in 1997 it was Oil for Food, and the whole idea for the Oil for Food Program meant that Iraq would be permitted to sell oil and only, however, if it used the revenue for humanitarian assistance. We wanted the people of Iraq not the government of Iraq, but the people of Iraq to prosper from the sale of their oil. And that was the whole program. But we find out as time goes on and I have to say this as an accusation, none of this has been proven in court, but boy the charges are terribly serious that during this whole period, from 1997 through 2002, that Saddam Husseins government received $10,100,000,000 in illegal revenues from it, and the UN itself received, I think Im right on this, $1,400,000,000 for administrative costs.
When I say scandal we have talked about scandals of so many things, Enron, oh, so many things this has no competitor in terms of the amount of money and the kinds of organizations, and particularly the United Nations organization, that has prospered from this.
GIACHINO: Well, and I think it is imperative that as a free nation we learn exactly how much money terrorist organizations received from the program.
HERSCHENSOHN: You bet. It all goes hand in hand. Im happy to say that there is a House of Representatives Bill to call the U.N. to task for this to the point of warning the U.N. that we would withhold contributions to the U.N. unless our President certifies that the U.N. is cooperating in the investigation.
GIACHINO: Well let me set this up just a little bit more so that people understand because I know that until I really started researching this idea I did not appreciate what the Oil for Food Program meant. People need to understand that Iraq was allowed to sell a limited amount of oil underneath economic sanctions that were aimed directly at Saddam Husseins regime. Isnt that right, Bruce?
GIACHINO: And that, in fact, documents discovered after the liberation of Iraq revealed that the United Nations self-described flagship humanitarian program was actually wracked with bribery, kickbacks, smuggling, under-the-table deals I mean I have even heard allegations that to some degree the French and Russian opposition to our intervention in Iraq was motivated by Saddams payoffs. Do you know anything about that, Bruce?
HERSCHENSOHN: Yes, Ive heard exactly what you have heard. I want to be real careful and not go ahead of any investigation, but, yes, those charges are out there. They seem to be well documented, but I dont want to say they are substantial in themselves because I simply dont know.
But the charges are immense, and you described it very well when you said at the beginning that you didnt understand it. I dont think anyone did. Everyone thought this was a pretty good thing. What we wanted in 1997 was for the people of Iraq to have humanitarian aid, to have food, to have medicine, to have water; we wanted them to have the stuff of life. But we didnt want Saddam Hussein to get money from the sale of his petroleum. And so this was worked out through the U.N. Not very good because the U.N. does not do these things well, and apparently it does these things for its own interests.
GIACHINO: As I understand it and again I think a lot of this is speculation, in part because the media has almost refused to report on this issue, I guess it is just as Bernard Goldberg, and I keep going back to this because I recently had him on the show, says the liberal media bias plays into this they are happy to report about what is going on in Iraq, but not anything having to do with this Oil for Food.
Nonetheless, Bruce, as I understand it there are now at least nine investigations on Oil for Food underway. You mentioned that the House of Representatives is getting involved and the U.N. has an official investigation being led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Bruce, do you think any of these investigations will get to the bottom of this mess, or do you think the U.N. will keep stonewalling?
HERSCHENSOHN: No, I dont. Nothing against Paul Volcker because the guys terrific, but the U.N. is not going to pay attention to him. The UN I believe is at the bottom of this. And one thing, Renee, that I think most people miss because there are a lot of people who say the U.N. is terrific and the U.N. could well be the savior of the world the U.N. is filled with governments that have no interest, not even no interest, in liberty. They despise it. You will never, ever, ever, accomplish those things that we wanted to accomplish when the U.N. was formed because we made the same mistake with the U.N. that we made with the League of Nations after WWI, and that is that we will well, we didnt actually make the mistake with the League because we never joined it, but Wilson was certainly behind it and I wont go into that but the idea is that any country being able to join even if that government is unelected. So we have a composite in the United Nations of governments not people, but governments of people over half of which have no interest even in their own people, they have interests only in their own power as governments. We have to realize what the U.N. is.
And so when a scandal like this comes although it surprised people certainly because of the immensity of it, I mean, we are talking billions, over 10 billion to Saddams regime over a billion, four hundred million to the U.N. for administrative costs it isnt really surprising in that the U.N. itself has been so continually corrupt, both in terms of the liberty and in terms of straight corruption of money.
GIACHINO: Im sure youll agree that the Oil for Food Program is about the worst scandal in U.N. history. But, if I understand you right, Bruce, you think this was is not a one-time problem but that the U.N. has a culture of corruption?
HERSCHENSOHN: Absolutely. Oh, there is no question. Even look at little things. The amount of little things that we would never let pass. The amount of parking tickets in New York has gone into the millions. It is totally corrupt because they feel now, when I mention the parking tickets, that are so small in comparison to the Oil for Food Program, but it is the way in which the U.N. operates. It is a tremendously arrogant, in terms of the diplomats who come to New York and then have conferences in Geneva in a continual fashion, it is a life in which they prosper tremendously, generally well above their own citizens of their own country. And it is the history of the U.N. really from the beginning, from 1946 forward.
GIACHINO: Their mission, obviously, is supposed to be to promote peace. Do you think they are accomplishing that at all, or are they merely lining their own pockets?
HERSCHENSOHN: I think that they have been an impediment to peace. And I hope that look, this is going to be from memory but its a pretty good memory and I may be paraphrasing, but remember when Jeanne Kirkpatrick was Ambassador to the U.N.? She said that the U.N. does not do much in the way of promoting international peace, and then she said what often goes on in the U.N. is actually an exacerbation of conflicts, rather than resolving them. I think I said that pretty close to the way in which she said that.
And if I can this one I do know that I know without paraphrasing, Daniel Moynihan, who was also an Ambassador to the U.N., a great guy, said, he gave three definitions, he said "it is a theatre of the absurd, it is a decomposing corpse and it is an insane asylum."
These are people who had daily and nightly functions with the U.N. organization. They were the U.S. Ambassadors to the U.N. organization one of them a Democrat, one of them a Republican.
GIACHINO: Thats right. So this isnt a partisan issue.
HERSCHENSOHN: Thats right. This is not a partisan issue. And were in this organization that is so corrupt. We pay 22% of the dues plus 30% of any peace keeping activity, and it isnt that we get nothing out of it it is that we generally do ourselves harm.
GIACHINO: Thats very interesting. If the listeners want to learn more about the Oil for Food scandal, they can visit my organizations website at www.cfif.org and read the articles that we have written about this scandal.
Bruce, Id now like to turn our attention to another upcoming scandal, potentially, I guess you could say, involving the United Nations. And thats the issue of global taxation.
HERSCHENSOHN: Yes, thats been around, Renee, from one Secretary General to another from the early 1960s. Now this is from memory, so it might even be before then. But I remember the first Secretary General who talked about a global tax was Utant and that was around the time of President Kennedys Administration. He felt that there should be a tax on everyone on everyone, particularly the industrial countries of the world, and, of course, that always meant a finger pointing right at the United States of America to support other peoples of other countries of the world involuntarily, of course. In other words, this would be a real tax.
Now this has sort of come and gone and come and gone. Well, the guy who really tried to forward this was the Secretary just before Kofi Annan, and that was Boutros Boutros-Ghali he was just God awful and now it appears that Kofi Annan is going at it hard and that again it is going to come.
Now, one of these days, something like that is going to pass. And when I say one of these days, it could be in the near future rather than the distant future. When it first came up in the early 1960s a lot of people, I have to admit like me, who didnt know anything about it at that time, just sort of laughed about it come on, we arent going to do anything like that. But I can see the seriousness of that. And if this thing can win the vote in the General Assembly, and if this could become law of the U.N., I am not so sure what the United States would do about that. But it could indeed come.
GIACHINO: Bruce, what does that mean to average Joe Q. Public if there is a global tax? We are already paying you mentioned 22% of the dues come from the United States and 30% of any peacekeeping efforts we pay if there is a global tax, what does that mean to the average American?
HERSCHENSOHN: It means that we would be supporting, even more than we do, a massive organization that generally works against United States interest and generally works against those who risk their lives for liberty, generally theyre on the other side. And we have known that for decades now. Obviously it was not the intent when it started, but that is the fact and when we talk about the Oil for Food Program, which we did earlier, and then talk about a global tax, where do you think that tax money is really going to go? Do you think it is going to go to the people of the world? The United States has been giving money to the people of the world voluntarily though U.S. aid for decades look, since the Marshall Plan. There was no law that said that we had to contribute.
One of those things that I think you can tell anyone in the world is that the United States after WWII could have had the world as our taxpayer. We did exactly the opposite we gave our taxes to the world, to friends and to former foes in the hopes that they could build real substantial democracies, and many of them did. And to have to do this on an involuntary basis I bet you if it ever happens, and I dont think its too far fetched anymore that it could happen that money would not go to any hungry person in the world. It would go to the Secretary General of whatever year it may be.
GIACHINO: So, to the average American, we are going to get a bill, so to speak. Our taxes are going to have to be increased or our deficit is going to be increased should there be a global tax?
HERSCHENSOHN: Absolutely. Or, should some in the U.N. have their way, it wouldnt be a bill from the U.S. Treasury, it wouldnt be added to the 1099, it would be a bill from the United Nations organization.
GIACHINO: You have got to be kidding me. They are going to reach right into our pockets and pull the money out themselves?
HERSCHENSOHN: Absolutely. Now, the formality of how it is collected has always been a discussion. But that definitely has always been an idea that has been widely suggested that it be a bill from the United Nations Organization to the industrial countries of the world.
GIACHINO: Is there a single person who lives in Northern America who wouldnt say "lets get out of the U.N." then?
HERSCHENSOHN: People are very hesitant to get out of the U.N. They are very hesitant. They feel that people of the world look to the U.N. as its shining light, and a lot of good people do because they dont understand what the U.N. is. They think it is representative of the people of the world. They do not realize that it is representative of the governments of the world. Take one of them that has a billion people who are truly unrepresented Peoples Republic of China. There is not one person in the Peoples Republic of China who voted for Hu Jintau he was appointed, he appoints the representative to the U.N. It is not an organization that represents the people of the world.
GIACHINO: Is it true, Bruce, that the U.N. is comprised almost completely of third world nations? That they dominate the General Assembly?
HERSCHENSOHN: No, not completely. Now that the Soviet Union no longer exists and that the republics that were under their wings have become free, the third world takes on a different kind of complexion. It was always considered the free world or the communist world and then the third world that are sort of in between. And in the United Nations, they had a group of 77 countries in this group, called the Group of 77, of third world nations. And by the time the Cold War was over there were 128 in that group. But now, people dont know what the devil to call these countries anymore. One of them that was always in what we called the "third world" was Saudi Arabia, but, by God, its a very, very wealthy country. There is no way to categorize in any real direct fashion other than the ones that are obvious, the ones that used to be the third world countries. There just isnt a way to categorize them. I would say that it is very fair to say that among those countries that want freedom and want liberty, we are talking less than half, in terms of governments.
GIACHINO: Thats unbelievable. So people need to begin if they havent already to pay attention to the Oil for Food Scandal and the issue of global taxation.
HERSCHENSOHN: Of course.
GIACHINO: Bruce, thank you for coming on the show. I would love to have you on again so that we can help to raise more awareness about these issues. Thank you so much.
HERSCHENSOHN: My pleasure. Thank you so much, Renee. Great talking to you.
GIACHINO: Great talking to you.August 19, 2004