"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Agreeable Silence

Annan forced to do something...(but what about the rest of them)

"A report to be made public tomorrow on alleged corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food programme is expected to criticise UN secretary general Kofi Annan over money paid to his son by a company involved in contracts between Saddam Hussein and outside contractors."

"The report is expected to show the UN chief's son Koji Annan received up to $400,000 during 1996 to 2004 from Cotecna Inspection Services, a Swiss company that monitored the food contracts under the UN programme. This is more than twice the figure previously disclosed."

Dear Madam,

While Conor O'Clery exposes the nature of corruption in the UN, could one have expected greater insight into the war's true nature, if he were to include the excess of corruption that became the war in Iraq?

Putting aside the media's weekly re-assessment of the war's illegality, corruption is rife, the international scandal that has shadowed all the lives saved by the 'oil-for-food' programme is but the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the raping of Iraq's riches.

Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US federal reserve, reported in Febraury 2005 that “The major source of external financial resources to the Iraqi regime, resulted from sanctions violations outside the [oil-for-food] Programme’s framework.” The report details breaches by both Turkey and Jordan. Their illegal purchase of Iraqi oil was known about by the US and it was considered to be of national interest.(1) The lowest estimate of this crime being approximately $4.5bn.(2)

The present reconstruction project in Iraq is following a similar trend of corruption, the US Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction published a report about the Coalition Provisional Authority in which it is found that $8.8bn designated to the rebuilding of Iraq is disappeared.(3)
Kofi Annan has promised to strip two UN officials, a British diplomat and a Frenchman Benon Sevan, of diplomatic immunity if they are charged with mis-directing Iraqi oil into the hands of "friendly" companies. Will similar charges, however nominal they are, be brought against those who allowed oil to flow into Turkey and Jordan.

In February of this year Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a British adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council, revealed that officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority were demanding bribes of up to $300,000 in return for awarding contracts.(4) In addition approximately $800 million of seized Iraqi money was handed out to US commanders without being counted or even weighed. A further $1.4bn has not been accounted for.(5) The CPA's apparent lack of money management skills was evidenced again in a Pentagon report that alleges, in the course of just one contract, a subsidiary of Halliburton overcharged it for imported fuel by $61m.(6)

As the moves are slowly made towards privatisation of Iraq's oil industry, can we expect that The Irish Times will fulfill it's duty detailed in the Trust of reporting "news that shall be as accurate and as comprehensive as is practicable and be presented fairly" while "giving special consideration to the reasonable representation of [what has become in the mainstream media] minority interests and divergent views," and therefore present a complete representation of the depths to which international corporations and governments are not bothered to go to disguise their corruption.

Alternatively you could simply partake in the 'agreeable silence'.

Yours etc,

1. Paul Volcker, Richard Goldstone and Mark Pieth, 3rd February 2005. Interim Report. Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme. http://www.iic-offp.org/documents

2. Compiled by George Monbiot from (the estimates provided by the Coalition for International Justice) in the table published by Paul Volcker et al, 3rd February 2005. Comparison of Estimates.

3. Stuart W. Bowen, Jr, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, 30th January 2005. Report to Congress.

4. Claude Hankes-Drielsma, 1st February 2005, interviewed on File on 4, BBC Radio 4.
5. File on 4, 1st February 2005. BBC Radio 4.
6. The Defense Contract Audit Agency, cited by Michael Hedges and David Ivanovich, 12th December 2003. Audit: Halliburton overbilled millions. The Houston Chronicle.
7. 'agreeable silence', part of an article by George Monbiot. http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/02

The Irish Times