Sunday, April 3, 2005

"Hell, no"

Claudia Rosett, despite being a card-carrying member of the MSM, has a terrific track record of old-fashioned reporting combined with crisp (and often entertaining) prose. She's one of our secret weapons in the cause of freedom.

In a column in the Weekly Standard (registration required), she takes aim at Kofi Annan's recent response at a news conference to a reporter's question about whether he was considering resigning. Her column starts out with a crisp summary:

IN THE EPIC UNITED NATIONS Oil-for-Food scandal, we now have a moment of high farce, with what will surely be remembered as Kofi Annan's "Hell, no" press conference--named for the secretary general's belligerent answer on March 29 to a reporter who, quite appropriately, wondered if Annan shouldn't think about resigning sometime soon. The U.N.-authorized inquiry into Oil-for-Food wrongdoing, led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, clocked in last Tuesday with its second interim report on a program now infamous as the biggest fraud in the history of humanitarian aid. That same afternoon, Annan summoned the media to the blue-curtained U.N. briefing room to announce his great relief at "this exoneration."

What exoneration? Despite its scores of investigators, $30 million budget, and more than 10 months on the job, the Volcker inquiry has addressed only a few narrow issues. The focus of this second interim report was Annan's role in the U.N.'s hiring in 1998 of an Oil-for-Food contractor, Swiss-based Cotecna Inspection, S.A., which employed Kofi Annan's son, Kojo, as a consultant, while bidding on the lucrative U.N. contract to inspect Oil-for-Food imports in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Cotecna, coincident with its U.N. labors, kept paying Kojo Annan from 1999 through early 2004, five years after he had quit. These are intriguing matters. But Volcker has yet to address the bulk of the Oil-for-Food program, and his final report is not expected till mid-summer. It was Annan himself who just last year was urging all and sundry to wait for Volcker's final wordbefore reaching any conclusions.

Now, in his rush to exonerate himself, the secretary general seems to have forgotten that Oil-for-Food was a vast endeavor, running from 1996 to 2003, in which the United Nations, in the name of providing for the sanctions-squeezed people of Iraq, oversaw more than $110 billion worth of Saddam Hussein's oil sales and relief purchases, much of that riddled with billions in graft. All but the first month of this exercise was administered and--in the words of one of Annan's spokesman--"audited to death" by Annan's Secretariat. It was Annan who personally signed off on Saddam's shopping lists, and repeatedly urged the Security Council not only to continue the program, but to expand it in size and scope, which allowed Saddam to rake in yet more illicit billions from oil smuggling.

The column goes on to back up these points with specifics.

We're left with the feeling that Kofi's "Hell, no" required quite a bit of chutzpah...and it just reinforces our previously held position that the world would be much better off without Kofi at the helm of the United Nations. And without the United Nations at all.

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