Roger L. Simon

Trouble in (Oil-for-Food) Paradise

According to Niles Lathem in the New York Post, two Congressional committees have approached Robert Parton – the recently-resigned UN Oil-for-Food investigator – to elicit testimony, but his former bosses aren’t happy.

But sources said lawyers for the Volcker panel are moving to block Parton from telling his story before the House Government Affairs Subcommittee on National Security, invoking a confidentiality agreement he signed with the commission.

Because the panel was set up by the United Nations, the commission may also invoke “sovereign immunity,” officials close to the probe said. “It’s a complicated situation. We are now studying ways to get around this. We would like to hear what Robert Parton has to say,” said a congressional investigator.

But is Parton willing to talk? If he is truly for UN reform, he would be, but it isn’t particularly encouraging that he has hired Clinton mega-loyalist Lanny Davis as his attorney. As Benny Avni of the NY Sun points out, Davis may soon go against his colleague Gregory Craig in a UN version of the Year of the Long Knives:

Indeed, two former law partners, both of whom served on President Clinton’s defense team during the 1990s impeachment hearings, may soon be pitted against one another: Gregory Craig and Lanny Davis. Mr. Davis now represents a former Volcker committee investigator, Robert Parton, who resigned citing principal differences with others on the team. The disagreements led to the Volcker team softening its conclusions about Secretary-General Annan, who is represented by Mr. Craig.

It’s hard to see how the cause of United Nations reform benefits from all this. (Maybe these people are too cynical anyway to care about kleptocracy.) But not to worry. At least the lawyers will, as always, get theirs. As Avni further reports:

Benon Sevan, who once headed the United Nations’ oil-for-food program, hinted in a recent letter to the U.N. chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, that he would consider retributions against the organization if it refused to reimburse the mounting legal fees he has incurred while attempting to fend off allegations related to the program.

The letter adds to growing tensions among lawyers, the United Nations, and a host of investigators who are investigating the scandals swirling around oil for food. Defense attorneys employed by oil-for-food players now include influential Washington lawyers known for taking on high-profile cases – and demanding fat fees.

Meanwhile, as Tom Friedman assures us, the UN goes about its “good works” in Darfur, Rwanda, etc. It’s time for Mr. Friedman – and the rest of the unexamined conventional liberals – to have another look at this movie.

MORE NOT-TO-WORRY: “Let us not get so focused on the veto,” Don Kofi reminds us, apparently rebuffing the ambition of the world’s largest democracy for a powerful role on the Security Council.

AND: Some related news from Provence. [Where’s your invitation?-ed. I seem to have lost it.]

UPDATE: More about German involvement from their own Der Spiegel.