Next time there is a television newscast of an anti-Iraq war demonstration, imagine a voice saying: "This event is sponsored by Saddam Hussein and the United Nations." According to the latest reports from Baghdad, Washington, and New York, there is a good possibility that this is exactly what is occurring.
The UN-administered Oil-for-Food program, which was originally designed to assist Iraqis who were starving because of the UN imposed economic sanctions of Saddam Hussein, was used as a slush fund by Hussein to bribe UN, French, and Russian officials and to fund groups protesting the American intervention in Iraq. The purpose was to influence the world community to keep Hussein and his Baathist thugs in power. This scandal involves some of the UN's highest officials including Kojo Anan, the son of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The Oil-for-Food program was an exemption from the UN sanctions that allowed Saddam Hussein's government to sell oil to buy food and medicine for Iraqis, and to pay reparations to victims of the 1991 Gulf War. Inexplicably, the program was designed so that Saddam Hussein determined whom the suppliers would be and who could purchase the Iraqi oil. A UN committee administered the contracts.
However, investigators of the United States General Accounting Office, and those hired by the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), have determined that there was a corruption of this humanitarian effort on a massive and unprecedented scale. They have estimated that the Baathists illegally collected $10.1 billion through the program, which they subsequently used for various nefarious purposes. The scheme was that those who received the bribes and kickbacks were paid in coupons for barrels of oil. These coupons could be traded in the world market for cash.
Claude Hankes-Drielsma, who is managing the IGC investigation by forensic accountants of the international accounting firm KPMG, was quoted as saying, "From the evidence I have so far, the report will produce some of the most disturbing information that you have ever seen." He was scheduled to testify at a congressional investigation hearing of this scandal chaired by Congressman Christopher Shays in late April.
In January, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada compiled a list of 270 international figures that had been illegally receiving money from the Oil-for-Food scheme. Among those named as recipients were some who attended a conference in Madrid on March 16th. The conference, sponsored by the Arab Cause Solidarity Committee, was entitled the International Meeting Against the War, and had as one purpose to proclaim "rejection of the United States' determination to attack, invade, and occupy Iraq."
Among the attendees/recipients were:
· George Galloway, the former UK Labour MP who has already been accused of taking bribes from Saddam Hussein. Galloway became the British figurehead of the International antiwar movement. (His American counterpart, the former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, also attended the Madrid summit, although thus far he has not been listed as an Oil-for-Food recipient.)
· Fawaz Zereiqat, who is alleged to be Galloway's go-between for the bribes.
· Basem Qaqish, who received one million barrels of Iraqi oil. Qaqish belongs to the Comité de Solidaridad con la Causa Árabe (Committee for Solidarity with the Arab Cause).
· Shaker Al-Khaffaji, who also received one million barrels. Al-Khaffaji financed former American UN inspector and vociferous war critic Scott Ritter's In Shifting Sands, a documentary that opposed the Iraqi sanctions. He also contributed to the election campaign of Democratic Congressman James McDermott, D-WA, a vocal critic of the war and of President Bush. McDermott is most notable for visiting Baghdad before Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which he claimed President Bush was lying about the war.
In addition to funding the antiwar operation, there is another concern by investigators that some of the Oil-for-Food funds are being used to finance the Baathist guerrillas in Iraq who have been attacking Coalition troops. This is being considered because the French bank BNP, which was used as a trustee for the funds, has not furnished its records to investigators.
There are many questions that now need to be answered because of these revelations. Questions such as:
· Is it possible that Saddam Hussein and his Baathists financed the global antiwar movement and are financing the terrorists in Iraq from the illicit profits made from skimming off of a UN humanitarian program?
· Was the UN program merely laundering funds for Baathist surrogates?
· Were UN officials complicit in perpetuating genocide to enrich themselves?
The American and UN inquiries will have to provide those answers. Meanwhile the next time some vacuous "pacifist" asks why do the Iraqis hate us, you can reply that the only Iraqis who hate us are those who were interrupted from looting billions of dollars intended to help their starving countrymen.