Roger L. Simon

The messenger lives!

Kofi Annan, in his press conference the other day, tried to “kill the messenger” who brought the bad (oil-for-food, Kojo’s Mercedes) news. But the messenger – James Bone – is not dead; he is alive and writing for the Timesonline.

AS A journalist, I expect my share of verbal abuse. But it is not everyday that I have my professionalism impugned by the world’s top diplomat on global TV.

The advantage is that I have not felt as young for years as I do now that Kofi Annan has described me as an “overgrown schoolboy”. The disadvantage – rather more serious – is that the UN Secretary-General continues to refuse to respond to the still-unanswered questions about his role in the Oil-For-Food corruption scandal.

For months journalists were told that the UN could not answer any questions because the scandal was under investigation by the Volcker inquiry. Since the Volcker panel issued its last report in October, the UN has refused to answer any questions because it says the matter has already been investigated. Yet the inquiry raised more questions than it answered, the most important being: what did Kofi Annan know and when did he know it?

The Nixonian echoes are obvious and, as I wrote below, Kofi is in a sense the new Nixon, but he is more than that… considerably more dangerous than that… because Nixon’s (ultimately smaller) actions took place in a state (the USA) that was capable of dealing with the situation, correcting itself and moving on. The United Nations evidently is not. They have used the Volcker Report to erect the mother-of-all-stonewalls around their corrupt practices and therefore resist all but the most cosmetic reform. Here,as quoted by Bone, is the conclusion of their official answer to the press.

As far as the United Nations is concerned, the IIC’s reports are the final word on the management of the Oil-for-Food Programme.

The reports uncovered possible financial wrong-doing by more than 2,500 companies, much of which is the subject of on going national investigations.

The work of the IIC is exhaustive and we have nothing to add to it. For any further questions relating to Mr Kojo Annan and the car referred to in the article, the Secretary-General has directed Mr Bone, and other journalists, to his son’s lawyers.