I haven’t posted on the Oil-For-Food subject for a while because of disgust and frustration. The story is not in the front pages of the papers. Only Fox News and people like Kudlow and Rosett are talking about it.
It’s not like there isn’t plenty of material to talk about. Loook at the companies that might be involved, such as Saybolt Eastern Hemisphere BV of the Netherlands, Cotecna, BNP Paribas of France, Lloyd’s Register Inspection of Britain; the UN functionaries involved, such as former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former director of the OFF program Benon Sevan, UN official Joseph Stephanides, and Kofi Annan’s own son Kojo. The UN inspectors ‘spent their days drinking’ back when they were in Iraq.
This is no simple list of petty grievances from a discontent minor blogger (i.e., me). The sums of money ($20+ billion and counting) makes this the biggest fraud in the story of mankind. As Friends of Saddam asks,
Volcker’s recent interim report–there is another interim one expected soon and a final report due out this summer–does not even begin to address the true dimensions of Oil-for-Food, in which the United Nations oversaw more than $110 billion of Saddam’s business transactions while Saddam racked up sanctions-busting illicit income estimated at anywhere from $9 to $17 billion. The emerging picture is that Oil-for-Food was the largest scam in the history of humanitarian relief. And the big questions are: Who at the United Nations might be to blame? And what needs fixing?
To cover its costs for overseeing the program, the Secretariat collected 2.2 percent of the revenue on every barrel of oil sold, amounting to $1.4 billion over the life of the program (plus another 0.8 percent, or $500 million, to pay for weapons inspections that ceased in late 1998, when Saddam stopped cooperating with them). This meant that Annan–who was secretary-general for all but the first month.
The scandals don’t stop there, with the U.N. Refugee Chief May Be Forced Out because of sexual harassment, and the many articles referring to rape and prostitution carried out by UN forces.
Meanwhile the US is the largest financial contributor to the UN, which is housed in prime Manhattan real estate and is planning a total refurbishing of its existing facilities plus a brand-new building, at America’s expense,
The GAO report says it assumes the federal government will pay 22% of the $1.2 billion loan principal, because America pays for 22% of U.N. operating costs. If the total construction cost reached as high as $2.45 billion, the portion supplied by American taxpayers would be $539 million. In addition, the GAO reported: “The Secretary General anticipates that the United States will provide a no-interest loan to finance the renovation.” The United Nations has not yet accepted America’s offer of a $1.2 billion loan at 5.5% interest. According to the State Department, the offer expires September 30.
Small wonder then, that one reads this in the headlines, Conservatives Mobilize Against ‘Law of the Sea’ Treaty
Conservative activists are pressing the Bush administration and Republican lawmakers to reverse their support for an international oceans treaty they claim will limit American sovereignty and empower an international body akin to the United Nations.
They want President Bush to repudiate a treaty called the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, just as he pulled America out of an agreement creating the International Criminal Court and has refused to sign the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions. The White House says it wants to see the treaty ratified soon.
Although the oceans treaty may be obscure, it is stirring intense passions among conservatives who see it as internationalism’s latest encroachment on American sovereignty.
The treaty has created “another unaccountable, politicized multilateral tribunal,” said the president of the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney. The treaty, which came into force in 1994 and has been signed by 148 countries, created an International Seabed Authority to oversee extraction of resources from the seabed. The authority has an assembly, a council, and a secretariat; an International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was also created to resolve disputes.
Last November The Economist had a special report that ended by saying,
Many believe this could be the UN’s last chance of reforming itself for a very long time. But the question goes far beyond the customary meaning of “reform”. The principle at stake is whether the world accepts that its armed actions should be governed by commonly agreed rules of international law. Strobe Talbott, a deputy secretary of state under Bill Clinton, cynically notes the alternative: “The sheer pre-eminence of American power could, in itself, be the ordering and taming principle of a disorderly and dangerous world.”
The poor old United Nations is indeed a flawed and defective organisation: the action, or more often the inaction, of its members, as well as its own intrinsic faults, have made it so. But, as its secretary-general warned the General Assembly last September: “Let’s not imagine that, if we fail to make good use of it, we will find any more effective instrument.”
Maybe not. But it’s time the US stops funding the UN. At the UN the language of diplomacy is spoken in dollar terms. It’s time to make a statement they can understand.