- The Washington Times - Friday, December 19, 2003

In the wake of Saddam Hussein’s capture, Iraqi government officials have become quite open about voicing their displeasure with the United Nations’ failure to help their people during decades of oppression by the deposed Ba’athist dictatorship. After U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a speech to the Security Council on Tuesday ruling out an early return of the United Nations to Iraq, he was sharply criticized by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

“Settling scores with the U.S.-led coalition should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people,” Mr. Zebari stated. “Squabbling over political differences takes a back seat to the daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the rights the U.N. is chartered to uphold.”

Mr. Zebari then proceeded to deliver a powerful indictment of the Security Council’s failure to enforce one of its own resolutions: Resolution 1441, approved on Nov. 8, 2002, which required Iraq to allow weapons inspectors back into the country to oversee its disarmament, and authorized the use of force if Saddam failed to comply. Clearly referring to countries such as France, Germany and Russia — who blocked the Bush administration’s efforts to win support for a second resolution supporting military action despite clear evidence of continued cheating by Saddam — Mr. Zebari was brutally candid.

“One year ago, this Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable,” he told the Security Council. Noting that coalition military forces and Iraqis continue to uncover mass graves containing Saddam’s victims, Mr. Zebari stated that “the United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure.”

Unfortunately, the United Nations continues to fail the people of Iraq. The Iraqi foreign minister went on to suggest that, by refusing to return U.N. staffers to Baghdad after the bombing of its headquarters in August, Mr. Annan was perpetuating this record of failure. “Your help and expertise cannot be effectively delivered from Cyprus or Amman,” he said in response to Mr. Annan’s comment that some U.N. Iraqi aid activities would be conducted from neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, more questions have been raised about the failure of the U.N. oil-for-food program. From 1996-2003, that program, recently dissolved, was supposed to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people while economic sanctions remained in place. Unfortunately, the program, which generated more than $60 billion in revenues for the Iraqi regime, operated without any accountability, allowing Saddam and his cronies to steal billions of dollars in profits from the oil sales. Some of these profits may well be going to finance the current insurgency against coalition military forces in Iraq.

According to David Aufhauser, a former Treasury Department senior official who served as a key player in the Bush administration’s efforts to cut off the flow of money to terrorist organizations, money skimmed from the oil-for-food program “has not been found, and that money is fueling the insurgency that’s going on in Iraq.” U.S. military officials say that anti-American elements in Iraq are paying between $150 and $500 for every attack on American forces. The oil-for-food program “was designed by bureaucrats, not businessmen,” Mr. Aufhauser, who left the Treasury Department earlier this month, said at a meeting held by the Middle East Forum.

“It was easily gamed by Saddam Hussein, and he made it a holiday for graft, kickbacks, schemes and front companies,” he said. The Iraqi dictator, Mr. Aufhauser added, skimmed $6 billion in funds from the oil-for-food program.

Asked about these charges, Ian Steele, a spokesman for the U.N. oil-for-food office, didn’t deny them, but said it really wasn’t the program’s responsibility to stop the corruption from taking place. “Any skimming or kickbacks was outside the framework of the program itself,” he told The Washington Times. “We didn’t have a policing or investigating role.”

In sum, when it comes to helping the Iraqi people and defeating the tyrant who oppressed them for a generation, the United Nations was a miserable failure. This should be kept in mind the next time Mr. Annan or the French decide to lecture the United States and its allies on their responsibilities in Iraq.

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