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
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]