October 09, 2004

Coalition of the Bribed


From The Wall Street Journal: Iraq Amnesia.

[Saddam] instituted an epic bribery scheme aimed primarily at three of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, with the intent of having them help lift those sanctions.

"Saddam personally approved and removed all names of voucher recipients," under the Oil for Food program, Mr. Duelfer writes. Alleged beneficiaries of such bribes include individuals in China, as well as some with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac.

As Congressmen Chris Shays's House International Relations Committee heard in testimony on Tuesday, France, Russia and China did in fact work hard to help Saddam skirt and escape sanctions. One Iraqi intelligence report uncovered by Mr. Duelfer says that a French politician assured Saddam in a letter that France would use its U.N. veto against any U.S. effort to attack Iraq -- as indeed France later threatened to do. [...]

...Even if one accepts the desirability of some kind of "global test" before America acts militarily, U.N. Security Council approval can't be it. There was never any chance that this "coalition of the bribed" was going to explicitly endorse regime change, or the presumed alternative of another 12 years of economic sanctions. "Politically," writes Mr. Duelfer, "the Iraqis were losing their stigma" by 2001.

From WSJ's James Taranto: Duelfer Damns U.N.

If President Bush had decided not to liberate Iraq without yet another U.N. resolution, it seems clear that Saddam's coalition of the bribed would have continued to balk. The Iraqi people would have continued suffering under dictatorship or sanctions, while Saddam bluffed the world by pretending to have weapons of mass destruction.

Had the sanctions been lifted, Saddam likely would have acquired such weapons for real. Given that he had used them in the past, against both Iranians and Iraqi Kurds, there's no assurance he would have employed them only as a "deterrent"--or that he would not have given them to terrorists.

As it is, Saddam is in prison, and Iraq is disarmed and moving toward democracy. Can there be any doubt that America is safer--or that it would imperil both America and the world if a president were to subject U.S. national security to a "global test"?

And from NRO's Claudia Rosett: Saddam’s Sugar Daddy. (Via Little Green Footballs)

Saddam followed a deliberate strategy of using bribes in such forms as contracts for cheap oil via the U.N. program, or outright gifts of vouchers for oil pumped under U.N. supervision, to gain political influence abroad. He grossly violated U.N. rules, with illicit trade agreements, oil smuggling, and arms deals (conventional, but still deadly) — and the U.N. did not stop him. By 2001, Saddam was able to thwart many of the constraints sanctions were meant to impose on his regime. His strategy, notes the Duelfer report, succeeded "to the point where sitting members of the Security Council were actively violating resolutions passed by the Security Council."

But no one has ever heard these facts from the U.N. itself, certainly not from such prime violators as France, Russia, and Syria — nor from the man most directly responsible for protecting the honor of the institution, Secretary-General Annan. Instead, Annan has to this day refused even to disclose to the public such basic details as the names of Saddam's contractors or the terms of their deals.

UPDATE -- October 12: This cartoon (and the one above) will appear in the October/November issue of President & CEO Magazine. We're happy to announce that Cox & Forkum will be a regular feature of the magazine.

UPDATE -- October 20: From Claudia Rosett at The Wall Street Journal: La République des Bananes: Kofi Annan tries to explain away France and Russia's Oil for Food wrongdoing.

In defending Russia, China and France, Mr. Annan further implied that Saddam's traffic went only to companies, not governments, and therefore could not possibly have swayed state policies. Perhaps Mr. Annan has forgotten that all Saddam's contracts were funneled into Oil for Food via the official U.N. missions of the respective countries. Although earlier this year Mr. Annan and some of his aides were busy excusing Mr. Annan's Secretariat from any responsibility for Oil for Fraud, by way of blaming the U.N. member-state missions, especially those on the Security Council.

Maybe Mr. Annan also forgot that both China and Russia, however nonbanana their status at the U.N., have yet to enter the era of genuine private property rights. In both these nations, there is a hazy line between state and private sector, no fair and impartial rule of law to define that line, and no press free enough to delve deeply into such matters as when, by whom and at what price it might have been crossed. Maybe Mr. Annan also forgot that large business interests, even when private, can wield a certain amount of lobbying clout, even in France.

And maybe he just hasn't had time to read the lists of oil vouchers handed out liberally by Saddam to assorted French former officials and Russian politicians and state entities--alleged bribes now presumably under investigation by the U.N.'s own "independent inquiry" led by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. Earlier this year, an aggrieved Mr. Annan warned critics of the Oil for Food program to shut up and wait for Mr. Volcker to wend his way toward a final report. Apparently, when it comes to Saddam's biggest clients, Mr. Annan sees no problem with his own policy of pre-emptive exoneration.

Posted by Forkum at October 9, 2004 09:38 PM