We live in times when stonewalling is almost chic. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it in pursuit of an enemy who is supposedly worse than you are. Anything is fair game. Anchormen slide by in hundred thousand dollar limousines telling us that black is white. Newspapers report forty year old drug deals that may or may have happened and then repeat again that they may or may not have happened just to be sure you never missed the allegation against their adversary in the first place. College students receive emails warning them they might be drafted when their chances of being drafted are about as great as being hit by an asteroid. In yet more serious, far more grave, matters, men go half way across the planet to help others and end up with their heads, quite literally, on a platter.
Meanwhile, astride this world upside down, sits the Lord of Stonewalls, the slick king of the United Nations whose silver tongue and elegant manners mask a deviousness perhaps unknown even to him. We are in an era when lying to the self about the self has reached global proportions and takes place on a global stage. This man, Mr. Annan, who so many of us revered not so many years ago, now condemns the US action in Iraq while desperately hiding from view the complicitness of the organization he leads, the United Nations, in the horrors of that very dictatorship. Thankfully, Claudia Rosett is here to remind us of The Real World. Too bad more people aren’t paying attention to the Oil-for-Food scandal, because it is the center of it all, the beating heart of global corruption.
Ms. Rosett’s latest report… on the exploitation of baby formula for totalitarian profit… is perhaps her most blood-curdling:
And within that Oil-for-Food sample shopping spree, the baby formula deals were estimated to be even more egregiously overpriced than the average contract for most other staples. Compared to the hundreds of baby food and milk contracts in the overall program (many of those with France and Russia) the Pentagon sample was small. The study looked at four baby formula contracts, two originating in Egypt, one in Tunisia and one in Vietnam–totaling $43 million (which in any normal relief program might actually rank not as a small sample, but as a lot of money). But it seems telling that every single one of those four baby-formula contracts appeared “potentially overpriced” by about 26%, for a total of $11 million in potential overpayments. On the biggest of these sample contracts, a $26 million deal between Saddam and a Vietnamese dairy company–approved by the U.N. in October 2002, in the thick of the U.N. debate over going to war to remove Saddam–the estimated overpricing of 26% worked out to well over $5 million on that contract alone.
Translation: In late 2002, while Mr. Annan was lobbying against U.S.-led removal of Saddam, he was running a U.N. program in which money meant for baby formula, among other goods, was very likely flowing into the pockets of Saddam and his sons and cronies.
And from there who knows where? Al Qaeda?