Friday, December 03, 2004


Off with Kofi Annan's head! (But pat Donald Rumsfeld on his.)

Thanks to Suburban Guerilla for pointing out this article:
Lynch Mob's Real Target Is the U.N., Not Annan

By James Traub

The scandal itself is quite grave. The oil-for-food program was created in the mid-1990s to mitigate the human toll of international sanctions on the Iraqi people, but it was misused from the start. The blithely cynical administration of the program will almost certainly turn out to have been the worst managerial catastrophe in the U.N.'s history.

Saddam Hussein manipulated the program to steal billions of dollars, and there is every reason to believe that he bribed political and business leaders to look the other way. He may even have bribed a leading U.N. official, though that official was not named Kofi Annan.

Investigators have not yet determined who, if anyone, committed criminal acts, nor whether Annan's son, Kojo, traded on the family name to help a company he worked with win a major contract administering the program. Of course, the vigilantes at Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page won't be deterred by that hoary principle known as "innocent until proven guilty." But Kofi Annan's critics are not just jumping the gun; they are barking up the wrong tree.

The oil-for-food program was developed and directed not by U.N. civil servants but by the U.N. Security Council, as are all the organization's sanctions regimes. The diplomats who ran the program worked for the council's member states, including the United States and the four other permanent members. And they ran it according to the interests of those states, with the U.S. and Britain determined to prevent Iraq from importing items that could be used for military purposes and the French, Russians and Chinese equally determined to give the Iraqis the benefit of every doubt. Preventing theft was at the bottom of everyone's to-do list. The U.S. government had dozens of people monitoring the contracts but didn't hold back a single one on the grounds of corruption, price irregularities or kickbacks.

The secretariat deserves some portion of the blame, both for failing to sound the alarm over Iraqi swindling and for a slow and grudging reaction when the allegations first surfaced earlier this year. But the idea that this constitutes a firing offense for the secretary-general — especially when the call is coming from the folks who rallied to Donald Rumsfeld's side after Abu Ghraib — is hard to take seriously. I suspect that Annan's persecutors are after something else: not the man, but the institution itself.

It's not news, of course, that conservatives dislike and distrust the U.N. But the debate over a resolution authorizing force in Iraq was, for many of them, the last straw. Annan himself played only a very small role in this protracted agony; the Bush administration couldn't get the resolution it wanted because it could not persuade even traditional allies on the Security Council that war was necessary.

And that's just the point: It's not about Annan or "the secretariat." Conservatives were infuriated that the Security Council would withhold the stamp of legitimacy from a war they considered self-evidently just. The incident proved to them, as if they needed more proof, that the U.N. was not a place where the U.S. could transact serious business.
Of course, the easiest way to destroy the U.N. is to pretend, with eyes shedding buckets of croccodile tears, that you're really trying to save it. Also, consider who it is who is leading the villagers up the hill to Frankenstein's castle: William Safire, appropriately nicknamed "Safliar" by the blogosphere. The oil-for-food program was horribly mismanaged, but on principle I refuse to believe a word Safire writes.

It's no justification of the oil-for-food scandal to point out that all the wingnuts currently so hysterical with righteous anger about corruption have never said one fucking word about Enron or all of America's corporate scandals. It just points out - as if we needed additional evidence - what filthy fuckpig hypocrites they all are. Same thing with the fact that the scumbags shrieking about the U.N. are the first to line up to minimize Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

The U.N. will pay a heavy price for this. Will anyone else?
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