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    Its from the Guardian, so it must be true


    October 12, 2004

    Duelfer and the Demise of the UN

    Joe Mariani

    Since its inception in 1945, the core of the United Nations has been the UN Security Council (UNSC), the body responsible for carrying out the UN's promise to never again allow tyrants like Adolf Hitler to threaten the peace of the world. At the heart of the Council are its five permanent members, each of which gets an irrevocable veto on any proposal that comes up for a vote -- Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom and the USA. The idea that those five nations would cooperate with the ten elected members of the council to defuse any threats to world peace was the glue that held the Council, and the United Nations, together. Each had to trust that the others would act in the best interests of the world. The Council could decide to confront threats posed by rising tyrannies only by working together, and together would act to stop them. Like most fundamentally unworkable ideas, it's a very nice one; there's no doubt about that. In reality, very few nations will subsume their own interests to those of the entire world, if the two are incompatible. Now the trust the UNSC depended on has been shattered, the Council is broken, and the credibility of the United Nations itself is in ruins.

    The Liberals who want to insist that President Bush "lied" about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction will no doubt wave a few paragraphs of Charles DuelferÕs thousand-page final report to the CIA as a victory flag. Any who do so are wrong, since all of the world's intelligence services -- not to mention almost every member of the US government -- warned us that he had them for over ten years. To claim that one man lied because he believed the years of accumulated evidence would be ridiculous. Our intelligence was compiled using the UN's own weapons inspection reports as a baseline; the UN was trusted to determine what Saddam had acquired, verify what he had destroyed, and report what he had not yet accounted for. The UN imposed sanctions on Iraq in order to force Saddam to comply with resolution after resolution demanding that he disarm, but he never did so. Duelfer's report shows that Saddam was only waiting for the sanctions to drop before his WMD programs went right back into operation. As the Washington Times summarised, "Saddam Hussein's goal through the 1990s and until the 2003 U.S. invasion was to end U.N. sanctions on Iraq, while working covertly to restore the country's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction."

    Instead of enforcing those resolutions, the UN chose to create the Oil-For-Food (OFF) program, so that Saddam's intransigence would not bring undue hardship on his people. Unfortunately, that's about the only power sanctions actually have. In a democracy, the people would remove the leader who brought sanctions. In a dictatorship, that's simply not an option. The Duelfer report states that the OFF program actually allowed Saddam to remain in power, in addition to enriching him. "The introduction of the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) in late 1996 was a key turning point for the Regime. OFF rescued BaghdadÕs economy from a terminal decline created by sanctions." The members of the United Nations forced the Iraqi people to suffer for twelve years rather than face up to the responsibilities they assumed in 1945. Why would they do that?

    The Duelfer report proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Saddam Hussein had influenced the votes of three permanent members of the Security Council -- France, Russia and China. "One aspect of SaddamÕs strategy of unhinging the UNÕs sanctions against Iraq, centered on SaddamÕs efforts to influence certain UNSC permanent members, such as Russia, France, and China and some nonpermanent (Syria, Ukraine) members to end UN sanctions. Under SaddamÕs orders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) formulated and implemented a strategy aimed at these UNSC members and international public opinion with the purpose of ending UN sanctions and undermining its subsequent OFF program by diplomatic and economic means. At a minimum, Saddam wanted to divide the five permanent members and foment international public support of Iraq at the UN and throughout the world by a savvy public relations campaign and an extensive diplomatic effort." The three countries were promised lucrative oil deals giving them rights to rich oil fields in return for causing the sanctions to be removed. MSNBC reported, "In 1997, RussiaÕs LUKOIL signed contracts to develop IraqÕs West Qurna oil field. The same year, the China National Petroleum Corporation bought a 50 percent stake in the al-Ahdab oil field. (Both have been barred from developing those reserves by U.N. sanctions.) More recently, FranceÕs TotalFinaElf has reportedly negotiated agreements to develop the much larger Majnoon field, but has not yet signed firm contracts to do so. Over the years, those deals complicated U.S. efforts to win support for tough action against Baghdad in the U.N. Security Council, where France, Russia and China are permanent members." Powerful and influential people in those countries and many more were bought with vouchers for profits on the sale of Iraqi oil. In France alone, individuals named were Charles Pascua, a former French Interior Minister, Patrick Maugein, whom the Iraqis considered a conduit to Chirac, and Michel Grimard, founder of the French-Iraqi Export Club. The oil voucher story is nothing new, having been broken by an independent Iraqi newspaper called al-Mada in January 2004, which I mentioned in February (Oil for Blood: Saddam Bought the Anti-War Movement).

    Duelfer concluded that by 2001, "Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Iraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime, both in terms of oil exports and the trade embargo, by the end of 1999." In 2000, the BBC described Russia, China and France as Saddam's "friends on the Security Council." University of Chicago professor Robert Pape told CNN in 2001, "U.S. policy toward Iraq doesn't have a long-term future due to international concerns over the sanctions from countries like Russia and France and from U.S. political concerns over rising gasoline prices." Now we know why the sanctions were falling apart. Even Benon Sevan, head of the OFF program, and a company associated with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's son Kojo are named as voucher recipients. The UN's toothless internal investigation, though headed by Paul Volcker, is based on voluntary cooperation. It will never yield an answer we can trust.

    Saddam had taken control of the OFF program through the provision that allowed him to choose which contractors supplied him with "allowed" materials. Duelfer reported that "the manipulation of UN OFF contracts emboldened Saddam to pursue his military reconstitution efforts starting in 1997 and peaking in 2001. These efforts covered conventional arms, dual-use goods acquisition, and some WMD-related programs." Saddam was taking kickbacks from the companies to which he awarded contracts, and pocketed over $11 billion between that and outright oil smuggling. However, one reason France, Russia and China had so much trouble getting the sanctions dropped despite their desperate lobbying was that the UN itself was making a 2.2% commission on every single transaction that took place under OFF. The United Nations made $1.2 billion from the continued misery of the Iraqi people, and saw no reason to kill the goose that was laying those golden eggs. But how could they ensure that the sanctions would remain in place?

    The reports of weapons inspectors had a dual effect. On one hand, they assisted Saddam in his determination to convince the world that he retained stockpiles of illegal weapons, while keeping the hated sanctions in place on the other. According to Duelfer, Saddam feared an Iranian invasion, and saw his rumored WMD as the only deterrent. But why would the inspection reports contain such clear details about WMDs that Saddam no longer had? For instance, UNSCOM's 25 January 1999 report listed 19,180 liters of botulinum toxin produced, 10,820 liters used to fill shells, between 499 and 569 liters used in field trials, 118 liters wasted in handling, and between 7,665 and 7,735 liters reported as unilaterally destroyed. This either left 78 liters of this deadly substance missing, suggested the original amount produced was overstated by 62 liters, or something in between. Note that it only takes .09 micrograms -- less than a tenth of a millionth of a gram -- of botulinum to have a 50% chance of killing a 200 pound (90 kg) man. It was precisely this vague accounting that kept Iraq from acquiring the clean bill of health Saddam both desired and feared.

    Is it possible that the UNMOVIC and UNSCOM weapons inspections reports were deliberately written in a vague way to keep the sanctions in force, so that the UN could continue to profit from them? That's a question that needs to be answered, but the UN cannot give us an answer we can trust. There was no chance, no matter how long we waited or how many diplomats we sent, that France, Russia or China would ever have allowed an invasion of Iraq. Their votes in the Security Council belonged to Saddam Hussein. The trust between members of the Council is broken. Who knows what other dictatorships have bought or would buy their votes, now that we know they're for sale? How can any vote ever be unquestioned again?

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