oil for food article




 
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Boots
 
April 18th, 2005  
chewie_nz
 

Topic: oil for food article


The UN Oil for Food scandal



As you might have heard – and have probably already become desensitised to – the UN is reeling in the aftermath of an independent inquiry into the Oil for Food programme in Iraq. At the centre of the brouhaha stands Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, accused of offences ranging from corruption to gross negligence and all manner of misdemeanors in between. The findings of the independent inquiry into the programme are contained in what is commonly known as the Volcker report, named after the chairperson of the inquiry committee. A conclusive independent report should have settled the matter, yet in the fortnight or so since its release it has served only to strengthen the division between the UN and its mostly American accusers.


So what was the Oil for Food programme?

The Oil for Food programme was a UN initiative set up in the wake of the first Gulf War. Its purpose was to fund humanitarian aid in Iraq as a temporary service. It was the first and only initiative of its kind in the history of the UN, as it was the only occasion where a country in need of humanitarian aid funded its own aid needs. It allowed Iraq to sell a certain quota of oil on the international market. Two thirds of the proceeds were to fund humanitarian efforts within Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s Government was allowed to keep the other third, after various other levies. The programme was headed by its own independent executive set up to administer the funds and monitor the quota, and was assisted by various other UN departments and subcontractors.

The programme only got off the ground in 1996 after the UN failed to persuade Saddam Hussein to fund the humanitarian aid voluntarily, and the scheme was conducted under the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Gulf War. It was only intended to be temporary, so, as time went on, the quota was progressively phased out. Naturally, the more oil that was sold, the more cream the Government was allowed to keep. The programme came to a halt on 18 March, 2003, when the UN evacuated its personnel in the face of an imminent US invasion.

The problem was that Saddam had managed to corrupt the administrative workings of the programme. Somehow, it was left up to him to choose to whom the oil contracts would be distributed. His regime compiled a list of 270 people to whom oil contract vouchers were to be granted. These vouchers held the rights to make contracts with the Iraqi government for the procurement of oil under the quota restrictions imposed by the UN. The trick was that the names on the list of voucher recipients were generally key opposition or potential opposition to his regime. People ranging from London Bankers to the then Indonesian president were on the list. By merely appearing on the list their names were sullied as beneficiaries of an Iraqi government oil contract. If they could not themselves use the voucher to buy and sell the oil they could sell or give away their voucher to a company that could. Many people on the list did not know about it, and it has caused most of them a great deal of grief in the recent inquiries. Although some did “cash in” their vouchers, they usually only got a few thousand dollars as consideration from the oil companies who would take over the contracts. Saddam perverted the system using many other devices, such as falsifying the prices of the aid items that were being brought into Iraq, as well as adding 10% surcharges to the oil contracts themselves. All of which supposedly slipped under the noses of the UN.

Corrupt and cheeky darkies?

So Saddam found a way to screw the system for $21 billion. This doesn’t seem surprising, but what has attracted attention was who was to blame for the major screw-up that the “oil for food” programme became. It was, at best, negligence; at worst, widespread corruption. But what the Volcker report seems to suggest was more of the former with more with a sprinkling of the latter in key areas. What the report really focuses on is the involvement of Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo. Of specific interest was Kojo’s employment by a company that received one of the oil contracts, and whether Kofi himself was guilty of any sort of corruption.

Kofi was cleared of any wrongdoing amounting to anything more than failing to personally monitor the programme. This was important when half of America was calling for his blood. His son was found to have less than upright dealings with his employer, Cotecna, who continued to pay him his salary for almost six years after his internship had ceased with them. He also lied to his father, in the very least by omission. Though it caused more than a headache for the Secretary General, it ultimately served to prove he had no knowledge of the dodgy dealings.

To put this all into context: the UN and, more personally, Kofi Annan has been dragged over hot coals by the American right, in what the accusers have touted as the biggest scandal in history. Ultimately the UN is responsible for the gross shortcomings in the Oil for Food scheme. It is most likely, however, that it was the actions of a corrupt few on the ground in Iraq who let Saddam’s dirty dealings go unnoticed for so long, not an organisation-wide conspiracy leading all the way to the top.

Despite the allegations of crimes concerning billions of dollars against the UN, it has been suggested that the real base for the inquiry – and the huge media attention it has attracted – is political. Dr Joy Gordon, who teaches Political Philosophy at Fairfield University, Connecticut, believes that the US Government is using the Oil for food scandal to distract world media attention away from their ongoing involvement in Iraq.

The US has been increasingly uncomfortable with its relations with the UN ever since the Security Council failed to make a resolution expressly allowing its invasion of Iraq, which took place in March 2003. Since then, the US and UN have continued to diverge in terms of goals and policies. Kofi Annan has become less and less popular in the US after continued statements of his goals of strengthening the unity of the UN and attempting to procure more contributions from the US. There are strong concerns within the US that Kofi Annan wishes to make the UN something equivalent to a single global country and is therefore a direct threat to American sovereignty. But these possibilities are remote at best (at least in the foreseeable future).

Critics have found that the best way to criticise the UN is through its leader. The National Business Review said Annan has been “Hugely overshadowed as a global leader by George W. Bush and Tony Blair [and that] he has appeared weak and clueless in confronting major problems.” These claims are, of course, a matter of opinion and not particularly well founded, as Annan has consistently held to whatever statements he has made throughout his term, something that can not be so easily said of the two examples to which was compared.

On the Internet there are sites with the sole purpose of trying to get Kofi Annan to step down, such as Friends of Saddam, at http://acepilots.com/unscam. The most common and comparatively well-founded arguments against Kofi Annan have already been stated, but almost every article encountered researching this article has been packed with such vast amounts of rhetoric that it becomes difficult to find the charges at all. Of course, lumped in with the comparatively valid, are some truly hollow claims as to why Kofi Annan should be sacked. The most striking is that “It all took place under his watch”. By this rationale, George W. Bush should be impeached because the September 11 attacks happened under his watch. It would even be backed up by the 9-11 commission.

So?

So why should anyone in NZ give a toss what happens to Kofi Annan, or the UN? Well, traditionally, NZ has been right up front when it comes to supporting the UN and its ideals. If for no other reason than because it endorses a sense of a world community to which we belong, and where we are not disenfranchised in the face of the self-serving acts of a super power. If the US is successful in its character assassination of the Secretary General, the UN stands ripe for the instalment of yet another American puppet (check out Paul Wolfowitz, one of he brains behind the Iraq war, as the new head of the World Bank). Though the UN is most definitely a flawed machine – in too many ways than can be dealt with in this article – it still offers an optimistic world-view, and provides mechanisms that, though cumbersome, do in general achieve their goals. We should care about it if for no other reason than for the fact that it’s all we’ve got. 


For further discussion, check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/pr...for_food.shtml. Here you’ll find an excellent two-part radio documentary, with some great investigative journalism into the Oil For Food conspiracy.
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April 18th, 2005  
MontyB
 
 
Well it all looks pretty straight forward.

If you look at the opinions of the UN on these boards you will see how little people really know about the institution, there seems to be a general misconseption that the UN is some sort of "super state" that only needs to snap its fingers and the armies roll but because its too weak and cowardly to use its "power" it doesnt deserve to exist.

It is usually over looked that the UN is nothing more than a voluntary collection of member states with differing views, no power and no armies and in reality its greatest "crime" was to have the audacity to say no to George Bush who in true to form petulent schoolboy fashion is now out to extract his pound of flesh.

I personally am not sure what the future of the UN is, I dont see the major European powers giving up their new found strength to appease America, I cant see the current US administration changing its views so I am guessing that it will simply limp on for 4 more years in the hopes the that either the next US administration will be a little more realistic or Europe gets a few less nationalistic leaders.
April 19th, 2005  
Missileer
 
 
I have a better idea, why not move the UN headquarters to a European country and leave the USA out of it completely. Bush is reacting as he should be, if he seems petulant just because aid money that should have gone for food and shelter went for scores of palaces surrounded by slums, then I say he has every right to be so. By the way, flaming our President doesn't give your argument much credence, even though that particular game seems popular with some here.
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Boots
April 19th, 2005  
A Can of Man
 
 
As Dave Chapelle said... Go sell some medicine b1tches.
April 19th, 2005  
chewie_nz
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missileer
By the way, flaming our President doesn't give your argument much credence, even though that particular game seems popular with some here.
i wouldn't consider this flaming, it's an opinion held by many around the world...some are just better informed about the reasons for their opinion.
April 20th, 2005  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missileer
I have a better idea, why not move the UN headquarters to a European country and leave the USA out of it completely. Bush is reacting as he should be, if he seems petulant just because aid money that should have gone for food and shelter went for scores of palaces surrounded by slums, then I say he has every right to be so. By the way, flaming our President doesn't give your argument much credence, even though that particular game seems popular with some here.
And if you are a true representation of american opinion why has the USA stayed in the UN this long?.
Its not compulsory you know and I am sure if the US pulled out it would happily close up shop and move elsewhere.

I am guessing that in reality the relationship is more symbiotic than you think.

Quote:
As Dave Chapelle said... Go sell some medicine b1tches. Laughing
Who's Dave Chapelle?
April 20th, 2005  
Missileer
 
 
Let's see, how shall I put this? Without the US, there is no UN. Even the shell which exists now will be gone.
April 20th, 2005  
Missileer
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewie_nz
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missileer
By the way, flaming our President doesn't give your argument much credence, even though that particular game seems popular with some here.
i wouldn't consider this flaming, it's an opinion held by many around the world...some are just better informed about the reasons for their opinion.
If you want to call it an opinion, that's one of your many freedoms you can enjoy. I doubt that most of the info you get from the media is the true opinion of most people around the World. If it is, there are a lot more small folks with small minds than I thought. You know, Bush will be gone in a few years and the World will magically heal all wounds and there will be nothing at all left to worry about.
April 20th, 2005  
Big_Z
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MontyB
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missileer
I have a better idea, why not move the UN headquarters to a European country and leave the USA out of it completely. Bush is reacting as he should be, if he seems petulant just because aid money that should have gone for food and shelter went for scores of palaces surrounded by slums, then I say he has every right to be so. By the way, flaming our President doesn't give your argument much credence, even though that particular game seems popular with some here.
And if you are a true representation of american opinion why has the USA stayed in the UN this long?.
Its not compulsory you know and I am sure if the US pulled out it would happily close up shop and move elsewhere.

I am guessing that in reality the relationship is more symbiotic than you think.

Quote:
As Dave Chapelle said... Go sell some medicine b1tches. Laughing
Who's Dave Chapelle?
You don't seem to have a clue about how deeply the US aids the UN. We give them 20%+ of their budget and provide the muscle for their conflicts. The chances of the UN surviving without the US is pretty damn slim.
April 21st, 2005  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missileer
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewie_nz
Quote:
Originally Posted by Missileer
By the way, flaming our President doesn't give your argument much credence, even though that particular game seems popular with some here.
i wouldn't consider this flaming, it's an opinion held by many around the world...some are just better informed about the reasons for their opinion.
If you want to call it an opinion, that's one of your many freedoms you can enjoy. I doubt that most of the info you get from the media is the true opinion of most people around the World. If it is, there are a lot more small folks with small minds than I thought. You know, Bush will be gone in a few years and the World will magically heal all wounds and there will be nothing at all left to worry about.
Not necessarily you could vote in another right wing psuedo religous nut job, the really sad thing is that 5 years ago I thought he was going to one of the best presidents you have had.

But either way you have over looked my question entirely, why if your opinion is truely representitive of american opinion havent you simply pulled out of the UN?.

Lets face it you have next to no understanding of how it functions, no respect for it and no desire to acccept its rulings why stay in it at all?



Quote:
You don't seem to have a clue about how deeply the US aids the UN. We give them 20%+ of their budget and provide the muscle for their conflicts. The chances of the UN surviving without the US is pretty damn slim.
Quite frankly why do you care if it falls over, its not like it means anything to you or me for that matter but be warned that in leaving the third world to its own devices you would be doing little more carrying out a recruiting drive for every tin pot terrorist group in the world.

My personal belief is that despite my exceedingly low level of respect for your administrations intellect they have enough sense to know that if nothing else the UN is a great forum spreading ideas and making yourself heard.