Wednesday, October 26, 2005

US to Detail Oil For Food Corruption

A US report will detail corruption in the pre-war Iraqi Oil for Food program and will show that fully half of the 4500 companies that participated provided kickbacks to Saddam Hussein to the tune of $1.8 billion. (New York Times: U.S. Is to Detail Who Paid Bribes in Iraq Oil Sales). Over 60 nations were involved in the program and virtually all of them were able to skirt UN monetary controls to provide kickbacks to the Iraqi regime and to make money for themselves.

The corruption that ran rampant in the Oil for Food program is one in a long line of UN failures when it comes to providing assistance to impoverished nations. In this case, the program was intended to provide food and medicine to the Iraqi population while strict economic sanctions were in place against Hussein's government.

There is one significant flaw in the concept behind economic sanctions. In order for sanctions to work, there is a basic assumption that the government of the nation under sanction has some measure of concern for the well being of the general population. The problem is, that is hardly ever the case. Hussein couldn't have cared less for the general health of the population. The same is true of virtually all dictators in third-world countries. Of course, if they truly cared about their people, chances are pretty good that they wouldn't be under economic sanctions in the first place.

Equally troubling, of course, is the amount of corruption running rampant among the nations and companies allegedly trying to help. That Over 2300 companies were involved in kickbacks and were spread across 60 nations, speaks volumes to the amount of greed that drives many of these so-called aid programs. Not so coincidentally, the majority of companies came from France and Russia - two of the three most vocal nations arguing against military action. That would certainly explain their reluctance to take action since the war effectively stopped the flow of illicit funds.

Saying the UN is in desperate need of reform would be a vast understatement. UN peacekeeping missions are notorious for prolonging a crisis, their aid programs are rife with corruption, their nuclear proliferation watchdog has been asleep at the wheel for 12 years, and their most visible entity - the Security Council - is an exercise in stagnation, indecision, and weakness. The Oil for Food scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. The entire organization is a textbook case of mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence. Reform the UN? The challenge will be to find parts that are salvageable.


No comments :