Though it’s only the second of three interim reports you might think, judging by the mini-feeding frenzy in the conservative media, that the latest report on the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food-for-Bribes-for-Weapons scam was Kofi Annan’s death warrant. Forget it, guys. There is a lot in this report that would result in the firing of a mere mortal, but this is the most anti-American and pro-despotism Secretary General in U.N. history. The EUnuchs and all the others who depend on the U.N. to rein in the wild American cowboy can’t imagine letting him go.
When the first Volcker report came out, Kofi Annan’s friend Benon Sevan — hand-picked by Annan to run the Oil for Food program — was castigated for apparently receiving about $160,000 in bribes from either Saddam’s regime or a sick aunt. Annan wasted not a minute in announcing dire warnings that Sevan’s diplomatic immunity could be revoked and the former Friend Of Kofi turned over to New York prosecutors. It was all globaloney, of course. Nothing of the sort happened. But Sevan, like all the FOK’rs, has nothing to fear as long as he obeys the U.N. code of omerta. Sevan’s silence has been purchased redundantly by the U.N. paying his legal fees. Out of the Iraqi oil money it still holds, no less, which is also paying for the multi-million dollar Volckerfest. As Dave Barry used to write, I am not making this up.
Annan and his capos were clearly worried about this report. Last week, U.N. spinmeisters were first saying that the report would clear Annan of all wrongdoing, and likely criticize his management style. Then the violins began to play. The soggiest spin came in the London Times, which reported on Sunday that Annan was “struggling with depression and considering his future.” The Times soap opera report described the soon-to-be Prozac-laden Annan in anguish, saying the new Volcker report might force him to “choose between the secretary generalship and loyalty to his son.” But all their fears were kinda sorta laid to rest because this report only deals with little more than a sideshow: the scam Annan’s son Kojo ran with U.N. oil-for-food inspection contractor Cotectna.
Volcker’s report passes quickly with barely a glance at one big underlying problem: that a year before it won the 1998 U.N. contract, Cotecna had come under investigations for bribing the principal customer reference it gave the U.N.: Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. The interesting part of the Cotecna deal is that it paid young Kojo Annan — who has no visible qualification other than his last name — nearly $500,000 for services between 1995 and 2000. (Kojo was 22 years old when first hired by Cotecna, two years before his father became Secretary General. Volcker’s report said Cotecna hired Kojo because of “his perceived business connections and standing.”)
In the new report Kojo is shown to have suckled at the same breast as Sevan, and Hizzoner the SecGen is declared guilty of nothing more than a father’s love and maybe not being vigilant enough about a possible conflict of interest. In preparation for the release of this report, Kofi was making noises about tossing Kojo over the side. Kojo has nothing to fear, even though — as Volcker reported — Kojo’s story differs materially from that of Cotecna. So long as he remains as faithful to the U.N.’s omerta as Sevan has, he too will remain at large and unscathed. The lad may lack the diplomatic immunity that protects Sevan, but who’s going to extradite Kojo to put him in an orange jumpsuit in Manhattan? (Just in case, Kojo undoubtedly has a French passport.)
But Paul Volcker’s investigation isn’t even attempting to pry the lid off the only important questions: who received the tens of billions of dollars that were stolen from Iraq, what service to Saddam did they perform in order to earn the bribes, and how can the money be recovered and given back to the Iraqi people?
THE VOLCKER INVESTIGATION, AND EVERYTHING else the U.N. is doing about the scandal, is unconcerned with such matters. This report, like the one before it, admits the undeniable and creates the unmistakable impression that the investigation is taking great pains to avoid looking at anything else. It’s also worded artfully: this edition says that the investigation has found no direct wrongdoing by Annan in setting up the program, and no evidence that he benefited personally from the rampant bribery. But that finding — contrary to what the U.N.’s spinmeisters are saying today — is a long way from finding Annan innocent of wrongdoing. It only pushes the ball down the road, and makes it easier for the U.N. to continue to cover its tracks and destroy evidence. Proofs of which comprise one of the very few things in Volckered-2 that qualifies as worthwhile.
Iqbal Riza — who was Kofi Annan’s chief of staff until recently — ok’ed the shredding of all of his “chronological files” for 1997-1999. Riza did this on April 22, 2004: one day after the Security Council passed Resolution 1538, blessing the appointment of the Volcker investigation panel. The destruction of these files continued for almost eight months, until about December 7, 2004. It’s to be expected that Riza’s files were, in fact, Annan’s. A U.N. Secretary General wouldn’t keep his own files: his chief of staff, Riza, would do that for him. So whatever went into Riza’s shredders, for eight months, must have detailed Annan’s actions, conversations, meetings, and memos for the critical period when the Oil-for-Food program was turned into the Oil-for-Food-for-Bribes-for-Weapons scam that stole tens of billions of dollars of oil, bribed men and nations, and corrupted the U.N. to a degree that is utterly historic. No wonder Volcker can’t find a paper trail indicating Annan did anything wrong.
In the real world, Riza’s shredding would be obstruction of justice, a quick ticket to Club Fed. But this is the U.N., and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party has no rules, no accountability, and above all no desire to find the money stolen from Iraq and return it to its rightful owner.
Is Kofi going to lose his job? When asked in a Tuesday afternoon news conference if he’d resign, Annan said, “hell no.” He won’t go, and no one in Washington is can — or should — make him go. Annan has become the Indispensable Man: a perfect personification of what is wrong with the U.N. For those of us who wish to see America leave the U.N. — in the company of the few democracies of the world — Annan is a powerful political symbol. While he remains, more and more people will see the U.N. for what it truly is.
Will Annan’s dream coat of Teflon wear out? Will the EUnuchs toss him over the side to preserve everything else about the U.N.? It would be a smart move for the Turtle Bay crime family. Then, as he’s being led away, Kofi could tell them, “Tell George I always liked him, this was strictly business.”
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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