Tarnished by Corruption
Scandalous reports have mounted in recent weeks against the United Nations’ oil-for-food program with Iraq. Investigations have exposed collusion between Saddam Hussein and high-ranking officials in countries such as Russia, Syria and France. Evidence suggests that Hussein used billions of dollars—intended for imported food and medicine—to bribe countries to resist sanctions against Iraq.
No wonder these nations opposed the U.S.’s war in Iraq.
Claude Hankes-Drielsma, overseeing the investigation into the scandal, said, “It will not come as a surprise if the oil-for-food program turns out to be one of the world’s most disgraceful scams” (Sunday Times, London, March 28).
The program started in 1997 to provide Iraqi citizens with much-needed food, supplies and medicine to relieve oppression from UN sanctions against their country. The UN allowed Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to pay for the citizens’ humanitarian needs.
This program quickly soured, however, as Hussein finessed the system to serve himself. The UN gave him complete control in deciding who to sell the oil to and for how much. In the process, Hussein pocketed about $4.7 billion. He also bribed leading UN officials—$2 billion divided among select diplomats. Over 270 former cabinet officials, legislators, political activists and journalists in more than 46 countries profited illegally from the program—including Benon Sevan, executive director of the program, and the former French Ambassador to the UN, Jean-Bernard Merimee.
Truly, greed is a major force in global politics. In this case it trumped efforts to provide aid for suffering people.
All this has arisen while Washington is being pressured to hand over control of Iraq to the UN. This scandal has further tarnished the UN’s reputation—and provided more proof of humanity’s ineptitude at governing itself.