Friday, October 08, 2004

1300 Oil Vouchers Begin To Tell The Story

The extent of the rot at the center of the UN Oil for Food scandal is just becoming clear with the release of the Duelfer report and the CIA list of individuals, political parties and corporations who accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein. The Washington Post reports:

The immense scope of an Iraqi effort in the late 1990s to curry political support for ending an international trade embargo is reflected in a list of more than 1,300 oil "vouchers" that then-President Saddam Hussein gave to more than a hundred corporations, foreign officials and political parties stretching from North America to Asia, according to a report issued on Wednesday by the CIA's Iraq Survey Group.
The vouchers, which provided selective rights to buy Iraqi oil at a discount and to resell it for a huge profit, were provided to both mainstream and opposition political parties in countries such as Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia; to oil companies in Turkey, Japan, Belgium, Italy, Canada and France; to an arms conglomerate in China; and to individuals in Switzerland, Jordan, the Netherlands, Russia, Malaysia and Burma, among others.

The Iraqi regime used the bribery to exert pressure for the sanctions to be lifted. At the end of the 1990’s the sanctions were crumbling and immense pressure was building to have all sanctions removed. Saddam used his ill-gotten gains to purchase illicit military equipment:

The oil concessions to some countries evidently helped pave the way for imports of prohibited military gear. For example, a Serbian political party run by Mirjana Markovic, the wife of former Serbian president and current war crimes indictee Slobodan Milosevic, received Hussein's authorization to buy millions of barrels of oil and earn millions of dollars in profit, according to the report.
Between 1999 and 2002, government officials in Serbia and Montenegro -- which at the outset made up Yugoslavia -- provided jet engine components to Iraq and negotiated the sale of missile technology and equipment, as well as components for tank guns, according to the report and other sources. The trade was halted under U.S. and allied pressure.
Each of the oil voucher recipients was handpicked by Hussein, based on recommendations from his diplomats and intelligence service, according to the CIA report, which was written by Charles A. Duelfer, a diplomat who helped direct the investigation. Hussein "made all modifications to the list," the CIA report said.
U.N. Security Council members who were alleged to have abetted Hussein in his scheme to thwart the sanctions reacted sharply to the charges in the report, saying they unfairly smeared foreign governments and companies while letting the unnamed U.S. companies off the hook.

Saddam Hussein used money derived from working with UN officials to subvert the UN Oil for Food program. With the money he made he paid off countries and political parties to remove the sanctions that supposedly had him in a “box”.
Yesterday, John Kerry claimed that the sanctions that countries around the world were working to remove so they could line their own pockets with Saddam's oil money were the “fruits of good diplomacy”. John Kerry now says that the war was a mistake, that the United States should have relied on the UN weapons inspectors and the sanctions to contain Saddam. He said this after the revelations about the corruption at the UN and around the world. It is incredible to believe that he still thinks that continuing on the path the world was on would have been preferred to the removal of Saddam Hussein.
This is the choice in this election.

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