Last week, the Center for Individual Freedom outlined the growing scandal surrounding the United Nations Oil for Food program (see "Oil for Osama"). But in the last few days, even more information evidencing the breadth of the scandal and the possible extent of the cover-up has come to light.
On May 11, the Wall Street Journal uncovered a third "hush" letter from the office of U.N. Deputy Secretary General Benon Sevan. Recall that Sevan managed the Oil for Food program and has been implicated in the scandal. Though Sevan remains on vacation pending his retirement, the letter from his office is a clear warning to the recipient, an Oil for Food consultant, that the U.N. will take legal action should any information be disclosed to Congressional or other investigators outside of the U.N.
As the Journal points out, "The Secretary-General has the authority to waive all these confidentiality agreements. The fact that Kofi Annan has chosen instead to pursue a campaign of legal intimidation is a pretty good indication that he intends as much of a whitewash as he can get away with."
Also this week, the New York Post reported that the French bank BNP Paribas, which handled the bulk of the $111 billion worth of Oil for Food transactions, has hired attorney and Washington insider Bob Bennett who represented President Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. According to the Post, the bank is expecting subpoenas from any of the three Congressional committees now investigating the scandal-plagued program.
Rather than hiding behind gilded lawyers, BNP Paribas ought to provide all of its Oil for Food records to Congressional and other investigators post haste. There have been enough cover-ups. And Congress needs the complete facts, especially the banks records of Oil for Food transactions, if its going to make a useful independent assessment of the damage the corruption of this program has done to U.S. interests, the war on terrorism and the Iraqi people.
Most important, its time for Secretary-General Annan to direct the U.N. bureaucracy to stop stonewalling. If hes unwilling to do so or unable to bend the bureaucracy to his will, he should resign.
The Oil for Food scandal is already undermining the U.N.s ability to contribute usefully to the reconstruction of a liberated Iraq. Thanks to the scandal, Iraqi citizens are reported to be very skeptical of the U.N. and rightfully so, as it is now clear that Oil for Food money which was supposed to be feeding them was instead employed for bribes and pay-offs with billions going to Saddam, himself, and other enemies of peace, possibly even including Al Qaeda.
In order to preserve any notion that the U.N. can play a roll in achieving peace and democracy in Iraq, it must come clean about Oil for Food right now.May 12, 2004