The Washington Post has put Disney on notice: “Our Mickey Mouse writing puts yours to shame.” In Saturday’s edition, the paper’s editorial board exercised its new vocation of turning fantasy into history and took the kind of delusional liberties that would have embarrassed most second year journalism majors. The Post unabashedly whitewashed Paul Volcker’s criticisms of the United Nations to inoculate that corrupt institution from the shame its actions so richly deserve.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker has begun releasing the results of an investigation probing the UN’s mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program – a humanitarian effort originally designed to aid common Iraqis by counterbalancing harm caused by UN sanctions. The Post editorial begins, “The First and most important point to make about the preliminary report on corruption in the United Nation’s oil-for-food program is that it is not a whitewash.” It then acknowledges (without giving his full title) that then-Assistant UN Secretary General Benon Sevan was found by Volcker to have:
received the rights to purchase millions of barrels of discounted oil from Iraqi officials while he was serving as the director of the oil-for-food program. Suspicions that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, would try to sweep the story under the carpet also have not proven correct.
In the second paragraph it asserts that:
The vast majority of the oil smuggling had nothing to do with the United Nations and everything to do with the Western companies and governments that were benefiting, one way or another, from the Iraqi sanctions.
Question: if it’s a “preliminary report,” how can you conclude that the greatest amount of smuggling wasn’t connected to the UN – it’s preliminary! Unless you took Telepathy 101 at Clairvoyance U, how can such an exonerating determination be made? Additionally, if we are to make assumptions, how can the UN director of the program in question (now shown to have been on the take) be anything but proof of the UN having everything to do with the smuggling? He was the UN!
Equally disquieting is the analysis that Kofi Annan hasn’t been exposed for attempting to hide the story. That revelation happened when Annan promised on the May 2, 2004, edition of “Meet the Press” that everyone under the auspices of the UN involved with Oil-for-Food would submit themselves to the ministrations of Paul Volcker. However, the next day, the Associated Press reported that Annan broke his promise, saying that contractors were off limits to Volcker’s team.
Additional couching of UN complicity in other wrongdoing is found in its pretense to admonish:
It is not an organization that can operate well in war zones such as Bosnia or Congo, or in deeply corrupt countries such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Can’t operate well in places like the Congo? In that already massacre-plagued country, over 150 cases of barbaric rape and traumatizing sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers have been reported in Reuters, the BBC, the New York Sun, and dozens of other news outlets. Girls 12-years-old and younger have been routinely subjected to stolen innocence and lost dignity. Can’t “operate well”? Since when does a critical assessment of any organization’s failures emphasize passive incompetence over proactive cruelty?
In its closing, the Post argued two final points derived from the report: that it should not be used for UN-bashing by governments that have “behaved as least as badly in prewar Iraq,” and that international organizations could not yet replace nation-states. Talk about fictional balance….
Bashing is perfectly permissible, providing the culprit in question has committed a “bash-worthy’ offense. Yes, there were countries that behaved inexcusably while in partnership with the UN’s malfeasance. Why are these two facts mutually exclusive? Those of us wishing to bash the UN are perfectly happy to remind the world that three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council had government officials receiving fiscal incentives from Saddam Hussein in order to help stop the United States from holding Hussein accountable for violating the terms of surrender agreed to at Iraq’s Safwan Airbase on March 3, 1991. These politicos included the Interior Minister of France, the Foreign Minister of Russia, and multiple officials in China.
Yes, there were even some American businessmen, but corporate rogues can never equate with government leaders when determining the culpability of a country’s behavior on the international stage that is the United Nations.
Alan Nathan, a combative centrist, is the nationally syndicated daily talk host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on The Radio America Network.