Oil for Food and the Corporate Press
The story of alleged corruption in the U.N. food for oil program has received plenty of mainstream press coverage of late, heaping plenty of criticism on the current U.N. head Kofi Annon. Considering the current administrations disdain for the United Nations and Kofi Annon, it is hardly surprising that the corporate press has picked up the story and run with it. Regardless of the merits of the accusations leveled at Kofi Annon, this story is a smokescreen, a ploy to discredit the U.N. while ignoring the greater crimes committed by the United States both before and after the current occupation of Iraq. The key context missing in the reporting on the oil for food scandal is that oil for food was a weapon used by the U.S. to control and benefit from Iraq’s oil production. According to former U.N. Weapons inspector Scott Ritter:
The oil-for-food programme was derived from the US-sponsored Security Council resolution, passed in April 1995 but not implemented until December 1996. During this time, the CIA sponsored two coup attempts against Saddam, the second, most famously, a joint effort with the British that imploded in June 1996, at the height of the “oil for food” implementation negotiations. The oil-for-food programme was never a sincere humanitarian relief effort, but rather a politically motivated device designed to implement the true policy of the United States – regime change.
Through various control mechanisms, the United States and Great Britain were able to turn on and off the flow of oil as they saw best. In this way, the Americans were able to authorise a $1bn exemption concerning the export of Iraqi oil for Jordan, as well as legitimise the billion-dollar illegal oil smuggling trade over the Turkish border, which benefited NATO ally Turkey as well as fellow regime-change plotters in Kurdistan. At the same time as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was negotiating with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov concerning a Russian-brokered deal to end a stand-off between Iraq and the UN weapons inspectors in October-November 1997, the United States turned a blind eye to the establishment of a Russian oil company set up on Cyprus.
This oil company, run by Primakov’s sister, bought oil from Iraq under “oil for food” at a heavy discount, and then sold it at full market value to primarily US companies, splitting the difference evenly with Primakov and the Iraqis. This US-sponsored deal resulted in profits of hundreds of million of dollars for both the Russians and Iraqis, outside the control of “oil for food”. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the oil illegally smuggled out of Iraq under “oil for food” ended up in the United States.
Also left out of the discussion is the bigger issue of the effect the U.N. sanctions had on Iraq. The sanctions, which in reality were U.S. and U.K. policies forced upon the U.N., led to the unnecessary death of thousands of Iraqis. This far greater crime, which was described by two different U.N. officials in charge of the sanctions regime as “genocide”, has never received the amount of coverage the current oil for food scandal has. Nor has the mainstream media focused much on the fact that the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq for the first year of the occupation, had many recorded and documented instances of corruption and waste, far exceeding the abuses being levied against the U.N. oil for food program.
War Costs Exceed Estimates
On the day that President Bush is reported as considering a freeze or decrease in spending on domestic programs, the Christian Science Monitor is reporting that spending on Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may increase 25 % during the next year. According to the article, total spending on the total cost of the US military ocupations in Afghanistan and Iraq next year will almost certainly surpass $200 billion. Ironically, despite the billions spent on these wars, US troops in Iraq have been complaining of having inadequate armor on their vehicles. These complaints have received mainstream press coverage recently due to troops publicly confronting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during his recent visit to Kuwait.
Iraq Election Articles
With the Iraq “election” less than two months away, the various political players in Iraq have started issuing candidate lists and statements. According to independent journalist Patrick Cockburn, current interim prime minister Allawi has announced that Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as “Chemical Ali”, brutal lieutenant of Saddam Hussein, will be put on trial as a political ploy. Professor Rahul Mahajan, in a recent column, doubts that the upcoming elections will not be democratic in any meaningful sense if the U.S. government has its way. According to Anna Badkhen, the Shiite majority expects to win the upcoming election, regardless of whether of not this is the Bush Administration preference. While the insurgency has been made up of primarily Sunni, the Shiites might join the uprising if the election is postponed or if they do not win.