Things are going from bad to worse for the United Nations. The latest complication for Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s attempt to control the damage in the Oil for Food scandal is the resignation of Anna Di Lellio, spokeswoman for the Independent Inquiry Commission into the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, for slurs against the president of the United States and the prime minister of Italy. Her departure is welcome. But the question remains: How could someone who believes the president of the United States is a threat to world peace analogous to Osama bin Laden have been appointed to such a sensitive position with the Volcker panel in the first place?
In a research paper published last month, Heritage Foundation policy analysts Nile Gardiner and James Phillips quoted at length from an article Mrs. Di Lellio wrote two years ago in the Guardian newspaper in London. In her September 11, 2002 op-ed essay ( written at a time she was serving as a U.N. administrator in Kosovo) she suggested that President Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi were not all that different from Osama bin Laden.
“I find deeply unsettling both the ascendance of George Bush and his puppeteers to the U.S. government, and the mix of self-serving hypocrisy and incompetence prevailing in European governments,” Mrs. Di Lellio wrote. “I don’t like it that the two nations whose citizenship I hold, Italy and the U.S., have leased their institutions to a couple of families. With defenders like W and Berlusconi, largely unchecked by a sycophantic media, who needs Bin Laden to destroy culture, peronal freedom, respect for other human beings, integrity and the rule of law — all the things that make our lives worthwhile?”
Less than one week after the Heritage paper quoting Mrs. Di Lellio was published, she announced her resignation, which was accepted by Mr. Volcker. Her departure raises disturbing questions: What kind of investigations does the United Nations conduct before making such appointments? Was Mr. Annan or any other senior official aware of the Guardian essay? If not, why not? How does someone with such an unbalanced view of reality get selected to work for a U.N. commission, especially one dealing with an international financial scandal of major proportions? The Volcker panel has faced obstacles from the start (such as a lack of subpoena power) and the commission’s strained relationship with Capitol Hill —stemming from its efforts to limit congressional oversight of the Oil for Food scandal. Given that, the question arises: Did Mrs. Di Lellio slip through the cracks, or was she deliberately placed in such a sensitive position?