Thursday, April 22, 2004

The degree of corruption that is now coming to light regarding the UN's administration of the Iraq sanctions and Oil-for-Food program is unsurprising but nevertheless greatly depressing. All those who thought that below the surface the whole thing was about entities getting rich off of Iraq's oil have been proven correct - except that where they were wrong involved who the offending parties were. As it turns out, the suspicions raised about Halliburton, the Bush Family, Texas, et. al. were enormously misplaced. As evidence is unearthed, entities within the UN, including the lead administrator for the UN Oil-for-Food program as well as the son of UN General Secretary Kofi Annan appear to have had knowledge about the scheme - even gone so far as to have enriched themselves through bribes and kickbacks - all at the expense of the suffering people of Iraq.

Though slow to build at first, coverage of the scandal is gaining as it is becoming harder for the major news outlets to ignore it. One thing I can't figure out is why the Left isn't all over this. To the Left, the UN is the Last Best Hope for Humanity. The UN represents the embodiment of all their values, including multiculturalism, consensus through mediation, and a check on American power. Their popular view is that the UN is high-minded, fair, and incorruptible. It resides in a realm removed from that which they think motivates the US: power politics, capitalist greed, and self-interest. That mythical and idealistic view is effectively destroyed now that additional details of the scope of the scandal become known.

The real ugliness of the scandal is not so much that it involves the corruption of UN administrators, cronies, hired third parties and so on, but that the victims of the scandal were Iraqi people who were on the receiving end of UN administered aid. Money from oil bought food and medicine for Iraqis, but as is now becoming known, money to buy food and medicine was skimmed and diverted into personal bank accounts - Saddam's and others (third parties involved in the oil for food trade, sympathetic politicians and political parties worldwide, even potentially UN officials themselves). Over anything else, a vast majority of people in the world think of food aid when they think of the UN. They think of the social works and services that the organization provides. This scandal cuts right to the heart of that and makes what was thought of as saintly now extremely suspect. How much suffering of the Iraqi people was a result of this scandal? It is terrible for all, but for the Left in particular - who make it their mission to monopolize concern (or at least the appearance of concern) for social welfare - this scandal is outright betrayal. This is why I think they of all parties should be all over this. They should be demanding investigations, answers from Kofi Annan, tribunals and the like. They should be demanding full and unceasing accountability and explanation from UN officials. They mustered tremendous energy in support of UN values during the runup to the Iraq war - filling the streets of cities worldwide with the like minded. Where are the protests now? Where's the sense of outrage, of betrayal. I mean, so much was vented about Blood for Oil, and now that has been proven true (but not in the manner that they expected) why aren't they pissed off??

Here's a blog dedicated to news of the scandal. I'm waiting for the anti-war people to march in the streets demanding answers to this. But I know that the likelihood of that happening is nil. If the Left wants a strong UN to run the world, it's going to have to demand a broad cleanup of UN practices. Until credibility, accountability, and trust is restored, the UN is effectively dead. Here's an article that explains how big this problem is.


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