Monday, September 20, 2004

Oil-for-Food, Oil-for-Graft, Oil-for-Terror

Claudia Rosett and George Russell write of apparent links between Saddam and Al Qaeda through the United Nations Oil-for-Food program at Fox News (acknowledgements to Belmont Club). By manipulating contract prices, Saddam was able to skim off billions of dollars of revenue. A key question is to what extent these revenues were used to assist Al Qaeda. Rosett, Senior Fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, sees a potential connection to Ahmed Idris Nasreddin and his business partner, Youssef Nada, whose defunct Swiss investment company, Nada Management Organization (formerly called Al Taqwa), based in Lugano, Italy has been accused by the United States of financing terror. Some of these connections between Saddam's business partners and Al Qaeda were raised in the July 8, 2004 Congressional hearing before the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

At that hearing, Ms. Rosett raised two telling points. First, it should have been obvious that something funny was going on with the "Oil-for-Food" program:

"Actually, there is something that I've been debating whether to mention, but I think I should. In discussing the palaces, the weapons, and so on, there is an arithmetic identity here that everybody keeps overlooking. Iraq's government under Saddam had no source of income other than Oil For Food, there was no tax system, there was no other source of income, except oil. Under the U.N. arrangement all oil was supposed to go through the U.N. programs, therefore, anything basically that got funded, the military, the ministries, was either illicit or went through the U.N. The world hasn't noticed this. I am not sure why this doesn't figure in the discussions. But, it would seem to be a very strangely concocted program that we had, and the assumptions that went with it, that this was simply the way it should operate becomes stranger and stranger as you see more about how this whole thing works."

Moreover, the investigation of Oil-for-Food has been as farcical as the program itself.
"...we've all been playing by the U.N. rulebook, which imposes absurd, and self-serving levels of secrecy. Does it strike no one here as strange, for instance, that the United Nations clearing Koto Annan, the son of the Secretary General, of any wrongdoing via the inspections firm Cotecna, hired by the United Nations, that this report was done by an employee of Kofi Annan, and apart from the convenient leak to produce a sympathetic article in the New York Times, it has remained the confidential property of the United Nations."

Later in the hearing, Jed Babbin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the George H. W. Bush administration, broadened the charge against the United Nations:

" serious as the oil-for-food scandal may be, it is after all only about money. There is a corruption in the U.N. and its agencies that is far more important to every American, and it is not financial corruption. It is a moral corruption, a decadence of thinking and reasoning that tolerates terrorism. No, it's more than just a tolerance -- it's an acceptance of terrorists and the nations that support them, evidencing a moral bankruptcy that is unimaginable to most Americans."

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|| headland, 12:43 AM


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