Roger L. Simon

Don't We Live in a Great Country?

The National Review is calling for Kofi Annan’s head in its new subscription edition. “You’re Fired!” says the cover. The article begins:

This has been a wretched year for Kofi Annan. The U.N. secretary general has looked a forlorn figure on the world stage: Hugely overshadowed as a global leader by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, he has appeared weak and clueless in confronting major problems, including terrorism, WMD proliferation in Iran and elsewhere, and genocide in Sudan. At the same time, the massive scandal over the U.N.’s administration of the Iraq Oil for Food program has brought the world body’s reputation to an all-time low. To cap it all, in the wake of a series of internal scandals, the U.N.’s own employee union has just passed a vote of no confidence in the U.N.’s senior management: a thinly veiled protest against Annan himself.

The secretary general is now an embittered spectator of world events, and lets barely a week pass without a sermon on the perils of America’s supposedly unilateralist foreign policy. A spectacular failure, as well as a great mediocrity, Annan is looking increasingly ineffectual and isolated. His attacks on the U.S. over its decision to go to war with Iraq indicate a U.N. in steep, possibly terminal decline, struggling for relevance.

As for the Oil for Food scandal, it is more than just the biggest scandal in the U.N.’s history; it may well be the biggest financial fraud in modern times. Set up in the mid-1990s as a means of providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis, the Oil for Food program was subverted and manipulated by Saddam Hussein’s regime, allegedly with the complicity of U.N. officials, to help prop up the Iraqi dictator. Saddam’s dictatorship was able to siphon an estimated $21.3 billion from the program through oil smuggling and systematic thievery, by demanding illegal payments from companies buying Iraqi oil and kickbacks from those selling goods to Iraq. All this took place under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats: According to the report of U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, Benon Sevan ‚Äî Annan’s appointee as executive director of the Iraq program ‚Äî received from Saddam a voucher for 13 million barrels of oil.

Meanwhile another group of Americans is apologizing to the European profiteers from this same Oil-for-Food scandal for Bush’s victory in our democratically held elections. Obviously, I think these folks are in cloud-cuckoo-land, largely because I would wager very few of them even know what Oil-for-Food is, at least to any serious degree, or have the faintest idea of its ramifications. But, hey, this is a democracy. They’re entitled to apologize to anyone they want to – Bin Laden, Zarqawi, Jacques Chirac or their Danish girl friend – just as long as they do it in their own names, not mine.

And one other thing – when democracy’s in danger, you don’t call Brussels.