Oil for Corruption

Article excerpt


The cover-up is always worse than the crime, they say. But that doesn't necessarily hold true when you're dealing with the crime of the century - in fact, two centuries. And the U.N. Oil-for-Food program is among the largest criminal enterprises in history.

Over the course of several years, the U.S. General Accounting Office estimates Saddam Hussein's Iraqi dictatorship generated more than $10 billion in illegal revenues by exploiting Oil-for-Food.

Members of the United Nations seem to have been deeply involved in the scandal. For example, Benon Sevan, once the executive director of Oil-for-Food, was included on an Iraqi Oil Ministry listing of hundreds of people who allegedly received oil vouchers as bribes from Saddam's regime.

As such details have dribbled out, the U.N. has reacted predictably - by trying to sweep Oil-for-Food under the rug or change the subject. For example, the U.N.'s commission of inquiry, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, has been at work for almost six months. But it doesn't seem to be making progress.

And that's not surprising - the commission seems to have been set up to fail. As Heritage Foundation experts Nile Gardiner and James Phillips reported recently, it has "no subpoena power and is clearly open to U.N. manipulation. It bears no enforcement authority (such as contempt) to compel compliance with its requests for information and has no authority to discipline or punish any wrongdoing it discovers."

The Volcker Commission's operations are shrouded in secrecy. We know who the top-level investigators are, for example, but there are some 40 other officials who remain unidentified. These are the people who will be handling documents, interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. In other words, those doing the real work. These people must be independent - but since we don't know who they are, we don't know whether any (or all) of them have close U.N. ties.

One key commission official already has resigned because serious doubts were raised about her fair-mindedness. Mr. Volcker's spokeswoman, Anna Di Lellio, stepped down on Sept. …