UNITED NATIONS: by Senator Norm ColemanNews Weekly
Secretary-General Kofi Annan must resign
, December 18, 2004
It's time for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign.
Over the past seven months, the US Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations, which I chair, has conducted an exhaustive, bipartisan investigation into the scandal surrounding the UN oil-for-food program.
That noble program was established by the UN to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people, then languishing under Saddam Hussein's iron-fisted rule, as well as the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN after the first Gulf War. While sanctions were designed to instigate the removal of Hussein from power, or at least render him impotent, the oil-for-food program was designed to support the Iraqi people with food and other humanitarian aid under the watchful eye of the UN.
Our investigative subcommittee has gathered overwhelming evidence that Hussein turned this program on its head. Rather than erode his grip on power, the program was manipulated by Hussein to line his own pockets and actually strengthen his position at the expense of the Iraqi people.Abuses
At our hearing on November 15, we presented evidence that Hussein accumulated more than $US21 billion through abuses of the oil-for-food program and UN sanctions.
We continue to amass evidence that he used the overt support of prominent members of the UN, such as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials, companies and possibly even senior UN officials, to exploit the program to his advantage.
We have obtained evidence that indicates that Hussein doled out lucrative oil allotments to foreign officials, sympathetic journalists and even one senior UN official, in order to undermine international support for sanctions.
In addition, we are gathering evidence that Hussein gave hundreds of thousands - maybe even millions - of oil-for-food dollars to terrorists and terrorist organisations. All of this occurred under the supposedly vigilant eye of the UN.
While many questions concerning oil-for-food remain unanswered, one conclusion has become abundantly clear: Kofi Annan should resign.
The decision to call for his resignation does not come easily, but I have arrived at this conclusion because the most extensive fraud in the history of the UN occurred on his watch.
Annan was at the helm of the UN for all but a few days of the oil-for-food program, and he must, therefore, be held accountable for the UN's utter failure to detect or stop Hussein's abuses. The consequences of the UN's ineptitude cannot be overstated: Hussein was empowered to withstand the sanctions regime, remain in power, and even rebuild his military.
Since it was never likely that the UN Security Council, some of whose permanent members were awash in Hussein's favours, would ever call for Hussein's removal, the US and its coalition partners were forced to put troops in harm's way to oust him by force. Today, money swindled from oil-for-food may be funding the insurgency against coalition troops in Iraq and other terrorist activities against US interests.
To make matters worse, the actions of Annan's own son have been called into question. Specifically, the UN recently admitted that Kojo Annan received more money than previously disclosed from a Swiss company named Cotecna, which was hired by the UN to monitor Iraq's imports under oil-for-food. Recently, there are growing, albeit unproven, allegations that Kofi Annan himself not only understands his son's role in this scandal - but that he has been less than forthcoming in what he knew, and when he knew it.
As a former prosecutor, I believe in the presumption of innocence. Such revelations, however, cast a dark cloud over Annan's ability to address the UN's quagmire. Annan has named the esteemed Paul Volcker to investigate oil-for-food-related allegations, but the latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from anyone outside the UN. Nor does it possess the power to punish those who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. We must also recognise that Volcker's effort is wholly funded by the UN, at Annan's control.
Therefore, while I have faith in Volcker's integrity and abilities, it is clear the UN simply cannot root out its own corruption while Annan is in charge.
All of this adds up to one conclusion: It's time for Kofi Annan to step down. The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organisation around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace. Why is the UN different?
- Republican Senator Coleman is chairman of the US Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations, and a member of the Senate foreign relations committee.