The tale of scandal surrounding the United Nations "Oil-for-Food" program makes an interesting backdrop for the current situation in Iraq. It also tells us why several nations did not support the United States in getting rid of Saddam Hussein--hatred mixed with a dash of greed.
The United States is regularly pilloried in the United Nations. Unfortunately, what was once sport only in the UN's unhallowed halls has spilled over into a vitriolic form of American debate. How much of the untruths behind UN hatred of America have many Americans bought? A great deal.
One of the greatest of the untruths, stage managed in great measure by Saddam Hussein himself, was the Oil-for-Food (OFF) scandal.
The total value of contracts under Oil for Food was more than $100 billion -- or $64.2 billion in oil sales and $38.7 billion in humanitarian purchases. Subtract a few billion dollars the U.N. spent in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and you have some $100 billion worth of business that Saddam was able to steer wherever he wanted.
OFF became the seedbed for Saddam's prodigious appetite for palace building--78 in fact--while his people starved. Saddam's cronies were placed at the head of a series of "front" companies whose primary purpose was to enrich the Baath elite and to further WMD programs. He purchased armaments from 13 countries, including North Korea, China, Russia, and France.
Interestingly enough, the Clinton and Bush administrations looked the other way while a lot of oil was traded for a lot of money outside the confines of the OFF program.
Paul Volcker headed a commission to study OFF and determined that Saddam was as much as $11 billion richer as a result of the UN's ill-conceived program.
One could not work for the OFF program without Saddam's approval. Saddam's friends and family became the bulk of the 3,000 workers who were paid out of OFF proceeds to administer the program. They were also the public relations people. Usually, the United Nations accepted and gave an official stamp of approval for Iraqi lies. Dr. Rehan Mullick, originally assigned by the UN to monitor OFF in Iraq, was demoted and ultimately fired, when he brought such unseemly facts to light.
The worst of the lies was with regard to medical and food supplies for the children. Allegedly, 5,000 children per months were dying due to lack of food and medicine, according to "official reports" fed to the UN by the Hussein PR Agency. Much like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq currently, the Hussein PR Agency was very adept at painting a picture of US and UN malfeasance, when in reality Iraq shared the bulk of the blame with the wily snakes at the UN.
As part of the OFF steal, UN allotted itself 2.2% of the proceeds, which amounted to $1.4 billion. So that's why they never 'noticed' that anything was going wrong in the program, including a faaaaaaat paycheck for Secretary General Kofi Annan--ahem--I mean, his son.
It's easy to blame America's insatiable appetite for oil. But why not blame France, Russia, and China, who benefited enormously from cheap oil during the scandal years?
The United Nations is a broken organization. It is little more than a band of criminals. Can it be saved and rebuilt? Maybe. But while George W. Bush has made a plethora of mistakes with regard to the Iraq War, going ahead without the United Nations was NOT one of them. They still haven't gotten their act together. Unseemly hatred of America spurs on several of its constituent nations in their Gadarene rush to destruction. Unslaked greed propels many of the rest of them.
Bush didn't do himself and the United States any favors by his flimsy excuse for attacking Iraq and his even more silly planning for said windmill tilt. But what dismays me even worse than that is the attitude of some Americans--they've been listening to the crooks and liars in the United Nations too much lately, and their utter hatred of Bush has become irrational.
Why are we surprised that Oil-for-Food was a scandal? It was conceived by one.