- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The more that is disclosed about the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food “humanitarian” efforts the more it seems the United Nations has nothing to do with “humanity” and everything to do with money.

At a hearing before a congressional oversight committee I chair, Rehan Mullick, an employee of the Oil-for-Food program, detailed blatant and visible corruption in the program. Mr. Mullick had the audacity to bring his findings to the attention of his supervisors and even the U.N. leadership in New York. He was promptly demoted and eventually let go. This justifies more than a little skepticism about the U.N. leadership’s claim that it is open and ready for reform.

Mr. Mullick’s testimony is consistent with other reports emerging about the organizational culture at the United Nations. Since the interim Volcker report was issued, it’s clear that the oil-for-food program was not operated properly and may have been the source of outright corruption.

During his tenure in Iraq, Mr. Mullick noticed and tried to expose inconsistencies and shortcomings in the program. He discovered that the humanitarian goods distribution list, provided by Saddam Hussein’s regime, did not reconcile with the lists coming off the ships. Twenty-two percent of the humanitarian supplies were missing. Well, not exactly missing, since much of the inventory could be seen in public view — in fact it was hard to miss. Mr. Mullick described seeing pickup trucks, intended for the humanitarian program, being driven off by members of Saddam’s regime. The gap of undelivered goods equates to about $1 billion a year for over five years: $1 billion a year that went right into the pockets of Saddam and his cohorts while thousands of Iraq’s own children starved to death.

For years, however, America was vilified for demanding economic sanctions and blamed for the suffering of Iraqi children. It’s clear from Mr. Mullick’s testimony that it was Saddam who was holding back food and sustenance from his own people. Even when the program’s oversight committee questioned program faults, the questions were pushed off by administrators and eventually dropped. Mr. Mullick found that the United Nations did not report abuses of the program because it feared more economic sanctions from America and Britain that would come at the cost of the Iraqi people.

The question is what human costs came from the United Nations’ inability to police and reform itself? How many people suffered because of the U.N.’s fear of repercussions? How did Saddam use and manipulate the program to further his regime and terrorize his people? At least these questions point to possible noble intentions of United Nations employees, whereas much of the investigation has led to the conclusion there is very little nobility left at the United Nations.

The most disturbing part of Mr. Mullick’s story is that all levels of the United Nations, from his immediate supervisors to the very top of the organization in New York, refused to hear him. He presented them evidence of mismanagement and fraud and they turned him away. The evidence he presented was not abstract: Humanitarian goods were missing and he had the proof. Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears at the United Nations. The very people charged with the care of humanity coldly turned a blind eye to the suffering of millions. At every level Mr. Mullick was hushed and his accusations swept under the rug.

Why did the United Nations ignore Mr. Mullick’s discoveries? Was there a coordinated effort to bury his findings? If so, why? These are questions that have been added to a long list of questions that have yet to be answered by the United Nations. Unfortunately, the promise of “We’ll do better in the future” doesn’t cut it anymore.

In America, we realize whistleblowers help cleanse the system and correct faults. They humble giants and reform policies. We’ve seen it here with Enron, Arthur Anderson and WorldCom. When an individual comes forward with information that has the potential to right a wrong, we listen and we protect them. For too long the United Nations has considered itself above reproach, and Mr. Mullick, until now, has received no such commendation for his bravery. In fact, the only thing he was shown was the door.

The United Nations has a long road ahead of it in order to restore its credibility. When brave men like Mr. Mullick come forward, they must be embraced, not rejected; heard, not ignored; lauded, not condemned. As this investigation moves forward and we continue to examine the United Nations, not for what it purports itself to be but what it actually is, we must work to prevent these mistakes from happening again and repair the damage that has already been done. The United Nations must demand a higher level of integrity or risk falling into irrelevancy.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, is chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

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