Monday, December 06, 2004

Some Left Out Facts on UN's Iraq Oil for Food Scandal

Below is a copied and pasted article from The Nation, part of the Daily Outrage section, written by Ali Berman. It is need to know information as the battle between the US and the UN is picking back up.

It often seems like the right-wing media inhabits a different reality from the rest of society, constantly cherry-picking facts to justify disproven conclusions. Its reporting on the oil-for-food scandal at the UN usefully illustrates this delusional tactic.

Earlier this month, when the CIA released the final examination of Iraq's WMD- capabilities, the mainstream media correctly highlighted the Duelfer report's most significant finding--that Saddam Hussein could not have actively resumed a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons program before the war. Why? Because UN sanctions worked, particularly the embargo on oil exports, making it financially impossible to maintain a secret weapons program.

The conservative media all but ignored this major finding in order to save space to inflate a second, smaller point--that Hussein gamed the Oil-for-Food program by bribing the UN, France, Russia and China to the tune of $11 billion.

"Oil-for-Food pretty much was Saddam Hussein's weapons program," Claudia Rossett wrote on National Review Online, of the UN system that allowed Iraq to sell oil in exchange for food and medicine from 1996-2003.

A few days later CNN host Lou Dobbs invited Rossett--a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, whose board of directors comprises Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp and Jeane Kirkpatrick--on his show. "Should the United Nations hold Kofi Annan responsible for the oil-for-food scandal?" Lou's poll asked. Absolutely, Rossett said. "It was dangerous. It corrupted the United Nations. It brought arms into Iraq that may now be killing both Iraqis and our own soldiers." After Lou's one-sided segment, 64 percent of viewers agreed.

But the right-wing blame-the-UN-and-France-first-crowd--which in this case includes Fox News, the Washington Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the Wall Street Journal opinion page and William Safire--ignores one crucial fact. American oil companies also did half a billion dollars worth of business with Saddam in possible violation of sanctions.

Though originally kept anonymous by the Duelfer report (a courtesy not extended to "the weasel" corporations), their identities soon became public in the New York, Los Angeles and Financial Times: Chevron-Texaco, Exxon Mobil, El Paso, Valero, and the Coastal Corp. Why would the Right exclude these companies from criticism? Maybe it's because the five corporations have given at least $8.4 million to Republicans since 2000, and helped underwrite conservative publications and think tanks.

Yes, corruption did exist in the management of Iraqi oil accounts. That's why five Congressional committees, the district attorney of New York, and the UN itself (led by Paul Volcker), are all investigating.

But please, let's at least put this "fiasco" in perspective. To hear conservatives tell it, you'd think it was the UN and France, not the US, who invented the WMD-threat, drafted no-bid contracts, isolated the international community, botched the occupation, fueled the insurgency and tortured prisoners.


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