Monday, April 25, 2005

Oil for Food- conclusion

It has taken over four years for the UN to react. Initial reactions where complete denial. Then the UN sealed any documents pertaining to the scandal from Congressional investigators. Most recently they have started their own investigation, which is an internal investigation. Paul Volker, former Federal Reserve chairman, is leading the investigation. The investigation is entirely funded by the United Nations under the control of Kofi Annan. The Volker investigation panel subsequently has no authority to question anybody outside of the U.N. He also lacks the authority to punish those who fabricate or tamper with evidence. The final report of Paul Volker’s investigation will be handed over to the Secretary General and it is under his digression if the report is to be released to the public. Essentially, the people involved in the scandal could be involved in its investigation. The UN has failed to be transparent in its actions. Claude Hankes Dreislma, stated in his testimony to the Subcommittee that, “Much of the corruption and mismanagement under the almost 64 billion dollar Oil-for-Food program could have been prevented through transparency and had the UN recognized the importance of public accountability.” Without a system of checks and balances in the UN there can never truly be transparency. Without fear of prosecution there is nothing to stop the corrupt from continuing to profit from their scams. The Oil-for-Food scandal spiraled out of control because influential people in the UN were profiting from the corruption. Without anything or anybody to stop them, their only incentive was to acquire more money. America’s invasion of Iraq has given people on the outside of the UN some insight as to what was really going on. In the end we can see just how complex and influential the Oil for food program was. It allowed dozens of powerful people to steal money that was aimed toward helping the desperate and impoverished Iraqi people. It led to the biggest financial scandal in history. And while many people benefited from the corruption, sadly the one who benefited the most was Saddam Hussein himself. The program was supposed to punish Saddam's regime for the injustices he had committed, instead for seven years he ran a highly profitable business right under the nose of the UN. He robbed the Iraqi people of one of their greatest resources but most importantly he robbed them of a future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Oil for Food (continued)

How would you respond if you were being accused of such actions? Most would probably start investigating if allegations were true. In a fax sent to Benon Sevan dated October 2nd 2002 we can see that the Swiss based company Lakia had been asked by Iraqi officials to deposit 60,000 dollars in a secret bank account for the sale of Iraqi oil. This in itself was illegal because all oil for food money was to be held in a UN escrow account. In Sevan's response we see him respond immediately yet he informs the Iraqi Government of the allegations and gives them until the 9th to respond. The Iraqi Government sent a response back that is suspiciously dated October 1st although it was registered as being sent on October 8th (within Sevan's Generous deadline). The Iraqi response stated that Lakia was incorrect. We know now that they were telling the truth according to records in the Jordan National Bank where the Secret account was. Yet, these were not the first formal allegations. Claude Hankes-Drielsma brought up two instances where corruption had been previously brought to the attention of United Nations in regards to the Oil-for-Food program. This is a quote from meetings of the UN Security Council in March 2000 from Mr. Cunningham of the United States: “As Council delegations heard in the Multinational Interception Force briefing to the sanctions Committee yesterday, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gas oil are being smuggled out of Iraq, with the proceeds going not for oil-for-food humanitarian imports but to the regime and its cronies.” Another quote from the same meeting illustrates that the United Nations was informed about inner corruption. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, of the United Kingdom stated this at the same March 2000 Security Council meeting, “The Committee has also heard convincing evidence that smugglers are also exporting oil through other neighboring States including Turkey. The potential revenue from all these operations must now exceed $1 billion per year. Instead of being used to rebuild a hospital in Baghdad or provide clear water for a village, this money is being spent by Saddam Hussein’s regime for the sustenance and comfort of the Iraqi elite and military”.

Oil for Food (continued)

During the war in Iraq there were many documents that were uncovered. Currently Claude Hankes-Drielsma, the British investigator, is working closely with the Iraqi government to investigate who were the beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein’s illegal oil sales. The documents found in the Oil ministry were translated in to English. According to these Iraqi internal documents hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil was illegally distributed to influential people throughout the world including officials in the United Nations. Saddam Hussein would handout oil vouchers to people who were not authorized. These people would then hand over oil vouchers to large firms who in return would pay a commission. For every million barrels of oil a commission could range any where from in between 50 to 300 thousand dollars. Oil was also being smuggled out of Iraq at an alarming rate. It is estimated by the General accounting Office that $5.7 billion dollars in oil was smuggled out of Iraq. We can see how Saddam Hussein used Oil-for-Food to gain political power and profit. The General Accounting Office recently estimated that “Saddam Hussein attained $10.1 billion illegal revenues from the Oil for Food program.” The Defense Contract Audit Agency recently concluded “half of at least 368 of 759 contracts examined were overpriced by at least 5% of the contract value.” and some of the money was used to buy unnecessary goods such as a fleet of Mercedes Benzes. The UN’s executive director, Benon Sevan, reportedly received vouchers for 11.5 million barrels worth of oil vouchers. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Benon Sevan in 1997. Benon Sevan was responsible for the overall management and supervision of the Oil-for-Food program. The annual funding for the program was 10 billion dollars. An on going investigation by the chairman of the government reform subcommittee on international relations, Christopher Shay, has brought up charges involving the son of Kofi Annan. Kojo Annan, the son of the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, worked for a Swiss based company named Cotecna. This company was contracted to monitor the goods entering the country through the oil for food program. Not only did Cotecna fail to inspect incoming goods but in a UN audit it was revealed that there was over 111 million dollars that was unaccountable as a result of Cotecna's involvement in the program. The U.N. recently admitted that Kojo Annan received more money than previously disclosed by Cotecna. There are allegations that Kofi Annan knew about his sons 150 thousand dollar a year payments from Cotecna. Kofi Annan has denied any knowledge of payments to his son from Cotecna. In one report According to testimony by Claudia Rosett to the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, the establishment in 1999 of the Dubai-based trading group, El Wasel & Babel, one of the UN approved suppliers to Oil for Food, was found by Treasury to be a front company engaged in procuring arms for Saddam Hussein. Congressional investigators also found that money from the oil for food program was used to buy motorcycles that were used in attacks by the fedeyeen against American forces in Iraq last spring during the coalition offensive. In fact Norm Coleman, chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, claims to have evidence that Oil-for-Food funds made it in to the hands of terrorists. So far I have listed some of the many instances where the United Nations Oil for food program was corrupted but it is the response of the United Nations that is most important.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Oil for Food (continued)

The United Nations is conducting its own oil-for-food corruption investigation, led by the former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker. The UN investigation is being entirely funded by UN under the control of Kofi Annan. All of these investigations are crucial to uncovering the truth about how far the corruption reached. There are many issues that are still unresolved. We may never find out the truth. Yet, with the overwhelming amounts of corruption uncovered we can conclude one thing. Oil-for-Food corruption arose, and escalated because influential people in the United Nations were profiting from the crooked program. To understand how Oil -for-Food Scandal escalated we have to look at how this flawed program functioned. It started in August 1990 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The end of the first Gulf War is where the Oil-for-Food program started. As a result of Saddam Hussein’s unsuccessful war campaign, The Security Council adopted resolution 661. According to The United Nations Security Council the UN was determined to bring the invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq to an end and to restore the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Kuwait. Resolution 661 prohibited import and or export sales from Iraq to United Nations Member States. This resolution imposed very harsh sanctions against the despotic regime. Its aim was to weaken Saddam Hussein’s hold over Iraq. It was designed to make sure that Saddam Hussein could never be a threat again. In the following year it was clear to the United Nations that sanctions were unfairly punishing the poor Iraqi people. To ensure that the Iraqi government could meet humanitarian needs the United Nations developed the oil for food program under resolution 986. The program was designed to set up a system where Saddam Hussein’s Government could trade oil for food, medicine, and infrastructure supplies. The program started in 1996 when the UN and the Iraqi government agreed to the conditions. At first Iraq was allowed to sell 2 billion dollars worth of oil in a 180-day period. The money was supposed to be spent for medicine and food. We know now it wasn’t. In 1998 The United Nations allowed Saddam to increase oil sales. And in 1999 the cap on oil sales was completely lifted. In a statement posted on the UN’s web site this enabled the program to focus on infrastructure like the oil industry. This allowed Saddam Hussein to sell an unlimited amount of oil in exchange for vital supplies. We know now from documents found in the Iraqi oil ministry that the oil sales were instead grossly misused. The UN allowed Saddam to pick his oil buyers and allowed him to pick the people who supplied the relief. Saddam Hussein was allowed to assemble a list of contractors to be used in the program. The program that started with the best of intentions had allowed Saddam to pocket literally billions of dollars. Sadly the people who suffered the most were the poor Iraqis who were not receiving the food and medicine that they so desperately needed. If this corruption had not been uncovered the Iraqis would have suffered even more than they already have.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Switching Gears: Oil for Food Scandal

It has been labeled the biggest financial scandal in history. It was a program that was intended to help millions of impoverished and suffering people. Instead, literally tens of billions of dollars were siphoned away by Saddam Hussein from the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program. The United Nations was shaken earlier this year when talk of scandal arose. The most recent allegations have implicated influential people in the United Nations. Allegedly, Saddam used stolen funds to bribe foreign officials linked to the U.N. The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has denied any wrongdoing by U.N. members. In written testimony by Claude Hankes-Drieslma, advisor to the Iraq Governing Council on The Oil-for-Food Program to the United States Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, claims that The U.N. Oil-for-Food Program allowed Saddam to get support internationally by bribing political parties, companies, journalists and other influential people around the world. This network of bribes provided Saddam Hussein with international support from countries in the United Nations Security Council. The testimony by Claude Hankes-Drielsma also found that much of the corruption under the 64 billion dollar Oil-for-Food program could have been prevented. Recent findings in the Charles Duelfer report, which was aimed to investigate if there where weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has indicated that Saddam Hussein had been aggressively trying to recruit, and bribe people in the U.N. The chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Norm Coleman, has led a bipartisan investigation in to the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program. In their investigations, the Investigative Subcommittee has collected an abundant amount of evidence that Saddam Hussein manipulated the Oil-for-Food Program. They have presented evidence to the United States Congress, which asserts that Saddam Hussein accumulated more than $21 billion dollars through Oil-for-Food corruption. According to Norm Coleman Saddam Hussein, “used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials, companies and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the program to his advantage.” The Investigative Subcommittee has uncovered that Saddam gave illegal oil vouchers to foreign officials, influential journalists and even U.N. members. Through these vouchers Saddam Hussein was seeking to undermine international politics. This was all taking place right under the nose of the United Nations.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

New American Ambassador elected to the United Nations

In this past month, President Bush has taken steps to nominate and elect a new US ambassador to the United Nations. Undersecratary of State John Bolton who previously held the post within the State Department as undersecratary of arms control and international security since 2001, is known for having a strong sentiment about the international body that is the United Nations, albeit a negative one. Despite his known feelings towards the United Nations, President Bush chose him for a reason and a big part of his logic has to do with reform within the UN.
Bolton is a veteran of more than 20 years in three different administrations in various posisitions in government. He is known for being blunt and harsh in his remarks towards certain issues. For instance, just recently, Bolton drew much attention to himself for comments made about North Korea. In August 2003, he described Kim Jong Il as a "tyrannical dictator" of a place where "life is a hellish nightmare." Those remarks angered the North Korean government so much that it withdrew from the negotiation talks and referred to Bolton as "human scum". Consequentially, Bolton was eventually removed from the negotiation panel. Though some might view that as being negative, I disagree with that notion. I feel that we need to send a strong message to thos rogue states that are undermining our security.Sometimes, being blunt will make people realize, and in some cases, it might be very effective. Though I beleive there are many ways to attempt to deter rogue states from gaining weapons of mass destruction, we must send a signal that we are not taking the matter lightly. By electing Bolton who has a conservative and hard lined stance on international security to the UN, we are telling the world that it is time for change and reform. I believe that by electing Bolton, the US is attempting to take the United Nations in a new direction by demanding accountability from the United Nations.
The nomination of Bolton as ambassador drew much ire and shock around the international community. Some view Bolton's nomination as the US continuing their aggresive stance on foreign policy, and yet others see this as a step back in terms of repairing the burned bridges caused during President Bush's first term. There have even been many within our own government that strongly oppose the nomination of Bolton. "This is just about the most inexplicable appointment the president could make to represent the United States to the world community," said Sen. John Kerry from Massachusetts. Kerry stated Bolton's nomination "carries with it baggage we cannot afford." Though there was some division within congress and senate, Bolton's nomination was narrowly approved 10-8 by the Foreign Relations Committee and 57-43 by the full Senate.
Instead of viewing his nomination in that way, I see his election to this post as a logical choice. In my opinion, I think that reform is needed in the United Nations, and because the US is such a large player in the international community, we need a bold and strong willed representative to "crack the whip", if you will. I believe that Bolton also knows how many people think of him and though I do not think that he will become softer in his stance to appease those who think negatively of him, I think that he realizes the sensitivity of his new position and will do his best to ease relations while still holding a high standard of accountability.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Final thoughts on Darfur

Unfortunately, a ruling by a United Nations panel on Darfur given on January 31, 2005, ruled that genocide has not been committed in Darfur. According to the UN-appointed panel’s report, there was not clear evidence of "genocidal intent" against the civilians in Darfur. "The crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing, at least as far as the central government authorities are concerned," the report said. "Generally speaking, the policy of attacking, killing and forcibly displacing members of some tribes does not evince a specific intent to annihilate, in whole or in part, a group distinguished on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds." However, the panel said that the crimes committed in Darfur were horrific and blamed that Sudanese government, the militias and the Darfur rebels. The report went on to say that "there was no military necessity for the destruction and devastation caused and the targets of destruction during the attacks under discussion were exclusively civilian objects.” Although there has been no finding of genocide in Darfur according to the United Nations, the UN wishes to still hold those responsible for committing the human rights violations accountable and will attempt to try the perpetrators under an international court of law, mainly the International Criminal Court.

Though the US tried to urge the rest of the world to step up in terms of action in areas of need around the world by declaring for the first time a genocide which was still taking place, any hopes of seeing help in the form of intervention has been quelled through this ruling. It is up to those who are fighting the battles to overcome their differences if peace and stability are to prosper with a little help from international pressure on the Sudanese government to correct the situation such as sanctions and indictments of those found responsible for the violations. In cases such as Darfur, support must be given to those groups who have the ability to help mainly the middle power states and groups such as the African Union in order to help sustain any cease-fires and/or peace treaties. Basic necessities such as food supply lines and protection for international aid organizations such as the Red Cross must be assured. By having groups such as the African Union and other middle power states lead the movement to stop the violations in Darfur, pressures would be alleviated from countries such as the United States to intervene militarily and take the grunt of the work load of the backs of the US and the UN in such cases. This could even be done without the consent of the UN much like NATO and the situation in the Balkans. Although these groups might not have the logistical capabilities and/or the proper equipment, through international support, mainly by the US and UN and those who do have sufficient capabilities, those barriers can be overcome.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What measures are the United Nations taking to ensure peace in Darfur?

Sadly,
A week after the commemoration of the Holocaust, the United Nations has concluded in a report recently submitted that the events in Darfur DO NOT constitute a genocide and the Sudanese government and their muslim militia allies have not commited the act of genocide though they do state that war crimes have been commited. They have stopped short of calling what is happening in Sudan a genocide, for declaring genocide would have carried a legal obligation to act despite the fact that more than 70,000 people have died and around 2 million people have been displaced and moved from their homes.
(BBC reports on findings-- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4224757.stm)

The report says that government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks which included "killing of civilians, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur". Rebel actions were also condemned in the report as well. It said those responsible should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. (here is the report from the United Nations Website--http://www.ohchr.org/english/darfur.htm)

Once again, instead of doing what their mission statement claims, the UN has furthered themselves away from the problems that face them. When the UN should have been acting with a sense of moral outrage, they became bureaucratic and wasted much time debating what they should already know what to do. When the UN should have been naming the evil as genocide, they simply calculated what the implications of such a statement might have on certain partners and friends and economic communities. It is kind of aggravating to see the ineffectiveness of the UN once again when their help is so desperately needed. In the eyes of many, myself included, this is simply a way for the organization to wipe their hands of the situation. If it were labelled genocide, the UN would be obliged to intervene. But the UN will never do so. The UN talks a good game. But, when it comes time to do something, to act, to make the sacrifices that are required, there is no way on earth the UN would do so. There is no situation on the planet that the United Nations will ever call genocide, no matter how bad. They simply are unwilling to do anything to help.

I know it might seem a little harsh on the UN but simply put, they are the only organization that would have the international support and the means to do something. For once, the UN should be aggressive with their decision making in order to make an example out those who wish to commit genocide. Ofcourse individual countries can step up to the plate and take the lead but we all know what would happen if the US, the usual country that steps up, did so. We would be criticized for policing the world as usual. Furthermore, we would be viewed by much of the arab world as targeting muslims since those who we condemn in the Sudan for commiting these atrocities are indeed, Muslim. This would not work to our advantage in helping our image in the eyes of the Arab world. In my opinion, the middle powers which include France, Germany, and England and other European countries should be the ones to step up and show the world that they do care about humanity whether it be Europeans, Asians, or in this case, Africans...regardless of interests. Simply put, the European members need to a whole lot more than what they have been doing in recent history to help out.

In the end, we must ask ourselves, how many more people must be killed, how many more women must be raped and physically abused, how many more children must be maimed before the world, and particularly the UN, face their responsibility? Instead of playing with words to manipulate how much intervention is neccesary, the United Nations ought to be stern and straightforward with those who commit genocide and let them know, through force if necessary, that this is no light matter. The proverbial whip must be cracked in Sudan.