Garrett on the U.N. Oil for Food Scandal
Organization Must Not Continue Under Shroud of Corruption
July 14, 2004 The $100 billion Iraqi Oil for Food program was by far the largest relief operation in the history of the United Nations. By extension, it's rapidly becoming the U.N.'s largest scandal ever. "The promotion of economic and social advancement of all people," is a crucial goal set in the United Nations (U.N.) charter. However, instead of
working towards that goal, through the Iraqi Oil for Food program, the U.N. has done just the opposite. It has acted
unethically by working to line its own pockets to the detriment of advancing the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
A mountain of evidence has now accumulated to suggest the Iraqi people suffered from shortages of quality food and
medicine not because international sanctions were too strict, but because lax or corrupt oversight at U.N. headquarters
allowed Saddam Hussein to exploit the system for his own purposes. In the Oil for Food scandal, the United Nations
was supposed to allow a controlled sale of oil for humanitarian aid by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Instead, under UN auspices only 72 percent of the 68 billion dollars of oil sold by Hussein went to aid the Iraqi people.
During the years that the program ran from 1996 through 2003, it is estimated that over 10 billion dollars was tapped by
Saddam Hussein for his own benefit. He bribed prominent French and Russian executives and politicians to partake in
this crime with this dirty money. It is also becoming likely that Saddam used funds to pay off U.N. employees playing a
part in the scandal, including Benon Sevan, the United Nations official in charge of the program. Mr. Sevan's name appears on a list of individuals, companies and organizations that allegedly received oil allocations or vouchers from
Saddam that could then be sold via middlemen for a significant markup. The list, compiled in Arabic from documents uncovered in Iraq's oil ministry, included many of Saddam's nearest and dearest from some 50 countries.
Despite the blaringly obvious epic proportions of this financial scandal, it has been overlooked, if not, forgotten by the
media all together. At a time when the media has jumped at the reins to report the financial and corporate accounting
scandals of such companies as Enron and Tyco, the unethical financial scandal and smuggling of these kickbacks by
the U.N. on otherwise legitimate contracts have gone largely unnoticed. It is true that a small number of corporate
CEOs did commit crimes against their company shareholders. And, make no mistake, these criminals should be tried
and punished. However, while explaining our anger over their embezzlement, the massive financial scandal within the U.N. and the money that has been stolen from the Iraqi people must also be called to attention.
The same media outlets detailing the fury over the corporate misdeeds are the same media outlets that have left the
incredible sums of money that the UN and Saddam Hussein have stolen from the Iraqi people unreported. We should
not play into the double standard set by these various media outlets and the anti-American left, where America is condemned and the crimes of the U.N. and their aiding of a brutal, cold blooded murderer are left unnoticed and
without condemnation. An organization which makes decisions that affect the entire world must not be allowed to
continue under this shroud of corruption. Where is the outrage?
We have reached an important crossroad in our relationship with the U.N. The U.N. is now helping to take a central
role in the formation of a democratic future for the newly liberated people of Iraq; but before they are able to partake in
this nation building, U.N. employees which have committed these unethical acts must be brought to justice. The future
of the people of Iraq can not and should not otherwise be compromised. Justice must be sough on behalf of all Iraqi
people and for the sake of viability of the U.N. as a global entity. If we are to enhance the power of the U.N. in Iraq and
elsewhere, then we have an obligation to ensure that the world body is both effective and free of corruption.
Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-05) represents portions of northern New Jersey including Bergen, Sussex, Warren and Passaic