Some have criticized this blog focusing on minor problems with the Volcker Committee’s second interim report on Oil-for-Food for taking an excessive interest in what may be no more than another case of a misbegotten son making trouble for a famous father. But the tale of Kojo and Kofi demonstrates something more important than “Annan family values.” It is a window onto the culture of the United Nations itself, a culture that allows its own commission on human rights to be populated with dictatorships. With many now calling for reform of the international organization, a full airing of this culture would appear mandatory.
Notably missing from today’s London Times story on the interim report is any mention of the September/October 2002 contacts between Kojo’s former business partner Pierre Mouselli and the Iraqis. According to Mouselli, Saddam’s people (then on the brink of being invaded) suddenly invited the businessman to lunch at their embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. They told him they were extremely interested in locating Kojo Annan for (unspecified) reasons. They said Kojo owed them for (unspecified) favors previously done him and they needed then to speak with Secretary General’s son as soon as possible. They offered Mouselli a visa to Iraq to discuss this with them further.
If anything in Mouselli’s testimony is incendiary material, this is it. Its implications point in many directions. But I have no idea if this testimony was followed up by the committee or by the London Times. It should have been because there is evidence, including the October 24 visa shown here, that Mouselli, despite whatever “instabilities” he may have had, is not just making things up. The offer from the Iraqi ambassador in Abuja came just days before Mousellli moved back from Nigeria to France. Though never used, this visa was picked up there by Mouselli from Nawaf Jassim, the “Conseiller, Iraqi Section” in Paris. Mouselli has given Jassim’s business card to the committee. Was Mr. Jassim contacted by the committee for corroboration or other insights? I don’t know, but given their lax investigation I would bet against it.
I would doubt too that Robert Winnett, the London Times reporter, did much investigation on his own. He did not have time. But I wonder why this important incident was left out of his report. Could it be he was under pressure from lawyers working for one or both of the Annans? Perhaps his newspaper was afraid of litigation in the UK where libel laws are so much more stringent than in the US. I don’t know that either, though I wouldn’t be surprised.
But I do know this. Mouselli had an “identity confidentiality agreement” with the Volcker Committee while it conducted its investigation. One the eve of release of the report (March 25), the Committee asked that he waive it. After being assured that they regarded his testimony as “reliable and credible” and would report it as such, Mouselli agreed to the waiver. Then the Committee slimed him, using ex-Baathist officials to do their dirty work. How shameful.
But then this shame should give us an idea how seriously to take their investigation (if at all) as it goes forward into the operational phases of Oil-for-Food with its ramifications for even more important matters like Security Council votes. The “old pro” Paul Volcker should be paying attention because his reputation is involved. We are in a new Internet era, as Dick Thornburgh learned so belatedly. People are watching these investigations from all over the world. Many of them have illuminating stories to tell. Some of them even know the truth.
UPDATE: While Mouselli was being interviewed by the committee in Paris, he volunteered to phone the Iraqi ambassador (whose name has been withheld from the report for “security reasons”) he had lunch with to discuss Koho and have the committee listen in on his conversation. They did not follow through.