10 March 2004



In the growing scandal over the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, which from 1996-2003 supervised relief to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff have excused themselves from any responsibility for the massive corruption involving billions in bribes and kickbacks that went on via more than $100 billion in U.N.-approved contracts for Saddam to sell oil and buy humanitarian supplies. U.N. officials have denied that this tidal wave of graft in any way seeped into their own shop, or that they even had time to notice it was out there. […]

That’s fascinating, not least given the ties of Annan’s own son, Kojo Annan, to the Switzerland-based firm, Cotecna, which from 1999 onward worked on contract for the U.N. monitoring the shipments of Oil-for-food supplies into Iraq. These were the same supplies sent in under terms of those tens of billions of dollars worth of U.N.-approved contracts in which the U.N. says it failed to notice Saddam Hussein’s widespread arrangements to overpay contractors who then shipped overpriced goods to the impoverished people of Iraq and kicked back part of their profits to Saddam’s regime. […]

Even if we assume that everyone on the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food staff, as well as Kofi Annan himself, was indeed ignorant of Kojo Annan’s involvement with Cotecna, it is hard to buy the argument that Kofi, while signing off regularly on the program’s workings, was simply oblivious to the details. Not only was Kofi Annan the boss, but he was directly involved from the beginning. Kofi Annan’s official U.N. biography notes that shortly before his promotion to Secretary-General “he led the first United Nations team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid.”

It was Annan, who in October 1997 brought in as Oil-for-Food’s executive director Benon Sevan, reporting directly to the Secretary-General, to consolidate Oil-for-Food’s operations into the Office of Iraq Program. And it was shortly after Sevan took charge that Oil-for-Food, set up by Kofi Annan’s predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, with at least some transparency on individual deals, began treating as confidential such vital information as the names of specific contractors, quantities of goods, and prices paid. [emphasis added]


But what has to be clear by now is that the U.N. itself was either corrupt, or so stunningly incompetent as to require total overhaul.

I’m sure that there’s an explanation that complete exonerates Annan and the UN that all of the UN booster will buy wholesale (less the 10% kickback fee).

Posted by orbital at 10:21 PM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL

It's because you only feel a need to explore the unknown


The Associated Press reports that it has located a former Alabama Air National Guard officer who remembers serving with George W Bush. The AP confirms that the retired officer, Lt. Col. John “Bill” Calhoun, served in the same unit as Bush. It also tells us:

Calhoun has not made any donations to Bush this election season or during the 2000 season, according to campaign finance records

Hat tip: reader Erik Fortune, who adds:

See? The (associated) press does go look for conflicts of interest … when the person in question supports Bush.

I’ll give them credit for reporting that they didn’t find anything in this case, but the fact that they looked is telling. If the press were half as, um, diligent wrt the 9-11 families, the whole incident would have had a hugely different spin

(Here is an AP story on the 9-11 families criticizing the Bush ads. See? No mention of the subjects’ pre-existing affiliations, some of which were mentioned here)

One claim is that this kind of thing isn’t bias but simply mental laziness as the reporters write the story they already have in their heads rather than the story supported by the facts. Does this mean that the internal story is that all conservatives are venal, easily bought liers? How is that really different from a liberal bias?

Posted by orbital at 7:19 PM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL

Monkey wrenching by the NY Times


THE NEW YORK TIMES is threatening a blogger for putting up this parody NYT corrections page. A Times lawyer writes The National Debate:

Your actions are deliberately designed to confuse people and are clearly illegal.

It’s worth popping over because the blogger has also posted a letter from his ISP citing the DMCA. I don’t blame the ISP much, because that’s the law, but what’s interesting is that it gives the ISP three days to shut down the alledgedly infringing materials, but the ISP won’t re-enable access, even with a counter claim of no infringement, for 10-14 business days. This seems to mean that you can shut down someone’s website for a couple of weeks on basically a whim.

Posted by orbital at 5:07 PM | View 0 TrackBacks | Trackback URL