August 19, 2005
The Guardian

This Was the Most Glaring Scandal of All

UN sanctions destroyed Iraq but no one will be tried for the crime

by Alain Gresh

The US Congress is incensed about a scandal. From 1996 to 2003 the UN's oil-for-food programme allegedly enabled Saddam Hussein to misappropriate hundreds of millions of dollars. . . .

But one thing needs to be said at the outset: there is a wealth of documentation on the oil-for-food programme since 1996. . . .

No decision could be taken without endorsement by the US, which, with the UK, vetoed contracts worth millions of dollars on the grounds that certain products might be used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction - weapons we now know were a figment of US strategists' imagination. The programme was subject to strict monitoring; if there were breaches, the US bears at least as much responsibility for them as the UN.

Nor should we forget the tens of millions of dollars misappropriated by the international community via the UN compensation committee in Geneva, which was largely manipulated by Washington. On the pretext of compensating those who suffered as a result of the Iraqi invasion, the committee creamed off up to 30% of Iraq's oil revenue to "reimburse" impoverished victims, such as the Kuwaiti Oil Company. A payment of $200m was made as late as April this year, two years after the fall of Saddam, when Iraq was begging for loans.

But no committee of inquiry has been set up to investigate the most glaring scandal of all: the imposition of sanctions on Iraq in August 1990 and above all their maintenance after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. . . .

Despite the inventiveness of Iraqi engineers, the state's infrastructure crumbled. Basic services, ministries, power stations and drinking water all became precarious. Corruption spread throughout society. Crime exploded. The inhabitants of Baghdad, who had never bothered to lock their doors, now barricaded their homes. When the US invaded, Iraq needed only a little push for the worm-eaten state to collapse. . . .

Another factor, which should not be underestimated, is the determination of the US to monopolise reconstruction contracts. . . . But Washington was out to punish Old Europe - and secure juicy contracts for a number of companies that fund the Republican party.

Sanctions caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. What is more, they destabilised one of the key states in the region. Who will be tried for these crimes? What committee will report on these errors? And who will guarantee that the US and the UN will not again choose to impose sanctions on a country and punish all of its people for the crimes of its leaders?


Enver Masud, "AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ," The Wisdom Fund, April 23, 2003

Naomi Klein, "Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of a Neocon Utopia," Harper's Magazine, September 24, 2004

Ed Harriman, "Iraq: Where Has All The Money Gone?," London Review of Books, July 7, 2005

Suzanne Goldenberg, "Annan Says US and UK Allowed Iraqi Oil Scam," Guardian, April 16, 2005

Enver Masud, "Iraq War: 'Supreme International Crime'," The Wisdom Fund, June 29, 2005

[The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars.--Philip Giraldi, "Money for Nothing: Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors' pockets," American Conservative Magazine, October 24, 2005]

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