Just when we thought the corruption of the U.N.-Iraq Oil for Food program couldnt get any more egregious, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced on October 13 that he was going to pay for the world bodys internal investigation with proceeds from Iraqi oil sales.
Recall that the money from the sale of oil under the program was supposed to be used to benefit the Iraqi people. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein transformed what was designed to be a Herculean humanitarian effort into a monumentally corrupt boondoggle rife with bribery and kick-backs. Among those apparently bribed was the U.N. official in charge of the program.
In response to the flood of information revealing the corruption, Annan named a panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to investigate, while stiff-arming other investigations, including those of the U.S. Congress. That was in April.
Last week ― seven months after appointing the panel ― Annan finally got around to deciding that the investigation should have a budget and money to fund its efforts. Though the Security Council had instructed Annan not to spend Oil for Food proceeds on the investigation, the Secretary General announced that he would do exactly that ― use money that was supposed to go to Iraqis to determine what part the United Nations played in helping Saddam steal billions of dollars that were supposed to go to Iraqis.
Moreover, its not as though Oil for Food left Annan and the U.N. Secretariat in the poor house. Under the program, they were allowed to pocket $1.4 billion to cover "administrative costs." And that doesnt include any of the money U.N. officials might have taken under the table. In the case of the programs director, that may add up to millions more.
Annans decision to spend the Iraqi peoples money investigating how his organization helped their sadistic dictator steal from them compounds the great tragedy of the Oil for Food scandal. There is no question that because of the corruption of the program, Iraqi and Kurdish children needlessly starved to death. And there is no question that the money Saddam pocketed from the program helped sustain his regime in spite of international sanctions, leading to the deaths of even more Iraqis and Kurds.
Now Kofi Annan is going to steal from them again. His choice to spend their money to hire auditors and lawyers instead of allowing Iraqis to buy food and rebuild their country adds yet another disgusting chapter to the Oil for Food debacle.October 29, 2004