For news junkies, this will be a hectic week. By its end, Catholics may have a new pope, we may have a new UN ambassador, and both Kofi and his bestest buddy Jacques may suffer nervous breakdowns. Things are looking up because, while Volcker fiddles, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York are burning bad guys. Now all we need to find out are the names of Cooperating Witnesses One and Two, and the high-ranking UN officials whom they bribed for Saddam.
CW1 and CW2 may be the first people who have earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom as a result of plea bargains keeping them out of jail. (CW1 has already pled guilty to being an unregistered agent of the Saddam government and is cooperating with U.S. investigators.) They are unindicted co-conspirators -- credited with helping Saddam bribe the UN into setting up the Oil-for-Food-for-Bribes-for-Weapons scam -- in the indictment of one of our all-time faves, Tongsun Park of Koreagate infamy.
For those joining us since 1976, Mr. Park was indicted back then on 36 counts of bribery, influence peddling, and other usual business on Capitol Hill. The charges were eventually dropped after he testified in Congressional hearings about his involvement with dozens of Congressmen, only three of whom were later reprimanded by the House. (Think of this the next time you hear the caterwauling about Tom DeLay.)
Just because Saddam is evil doesn't mean he's a dummy. He did what any good manager would do if he wanted to pay bribes: he hired an expert. According to the March 21 indictment of Mr. Park unsealed last week, and the affidavit stating it signed by FBI special agent Nicholas Panagakos, Saddam paid bribes to and through Park to Cooperating Witnesses One and Two and to at least two high-ranking UN officials in order to get the UN to create the Oil-for-Food program by Security Council in 1996. Just who were they? Not Benon Sevan, who wasn't yet chosen to run the Oil-for-Food scam. There would have been no reason to bribe him before he was chosen to run the scam. Was Annan himself bribed? How about Iqbal Riza, his chief of staff who later ordered the shredding of UN documents for the 1996-1999 period, when the program was first created and run? Someday soon, we should know.
The bribes apparently continued until 2003 (when Tommy Franks had something to say about Saddam's future plans) to make sure that the program was extended beyond its original expiration date. The indictment says that Park "invested in a company owned by an immediate family member of a high-ranking UN official money paid to him from the Government of Iraq in connection" with the bribe agreement. Park, having agreed to bribe the UN officials for Saddam, got at least $2 million for himself and distributed millions in bribes, both in cash and in oil vouchers entitling the UN officials to collect more millions from the sale of the vouchers. So how does Kofi respond to the new revelations? By trying to pass the blame to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, of course.
Last week the sagging Annan said, "The bulk of the money that Saddam made came out of smuggling outside the oil-for-food program, and it was on the American and British watch." Annan added, "Possibly they were the ones who knew exactly what was going on, and that the countries themselves decided to close their eyes to smuggling to Turkey and Jordan because they were allies." Of course, nothing the UN did was wrong.
If Kofi's week weren't sour enough, Secretary of State Condi Rice added to his agony by saying, "It is no secret to anyone that the United Nations cannot survive as a vital force in international politics if it doesn't reform." Note to Kofi: reform or die. It's a great disappointment that we didn't see the appropriate headline in the New York Daily News, in 64-point type, saying: "Condi to UN: Drop Dead." Something to look forward to. Almost as much as the Bolton confirmation, which may come later this week.
THE LEFTIES HAVE MANAGED to delay, but not stop, the nomination of John Bolton to the UN ambassador's post. Thankfully, and my apologies to Sen. Hagel, even he and Sen. Lincoln Chafee seem to be standing with Bolton. If the Dems can't get either of them to vote against Bolton, or at least abstain, Bolton's nomination should be reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee early this week. On the floor, it will pass easily. For Kofi and the rest of the Turtle Bay crime family, it will be as much fun as passing a kidney stone. Meanwhile back at le domaine, Jacques is apparently sinking in the congenital contrariness of his own countrymen.
Ah, how le ver turns. Just a year ago, it was a sure bet that France -- one of the chief proponents of the European Union -- would easily pass a referendum on the EU constitution. Now, as the May 29 referendum approaches, polls show the French ready to reject it. That led President Chirac to the most desperate measure. Calculating correctly that the worst thing a Frenchman could think to do was to help Uncle Sam, Chirac said that a "no" vote would weaken the EU and benefit the United States. Chirac, in a carefully scripted "town hall" session with young French voters, issued that dire warning last Thursday, with little or no effect. The French may be content with the status quo which, as the Gipper once said, is Latin for "the mess we're in."
Whether the French vote the EU constitution down remains to be seen. It's unlikely that they will reject it because without the EU agriculture subsidy, much of French farming will end. As John Hulsman of the Heritage Foundation once told me, the EU agricultural subsidy is "really a sop from Germany to pay French farmers to sit around, play boule, and do nothing." The French may just be revolting against ten years of Chiracism or just emoting for the press. Once they get enough attention from the rest of Europe, they may pass the EU constitution to keep their subsidies. You see, that's what it's all about. Like Oil-for-Food, the EU is an economic scam. The French have too much to lose if they reject it. And money is what they're all about. Not everyone in the world is concerned solely with money. From U.S. European Command and the Joint Staff comes word of new strides in building the Iraq Coalition.
From a kinda sorta reliable Navy source comes this bulletin from the Joint Staff quoting one of its lieutenant colonels: "Things are looking up for us here. Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any bad Iraqis they kill. We've got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it." Dr. Rice reportedly wants to transform the State Department as Mr. Rumsfeld is doing with the Pentagon. She apparently has a long, hard road ahead.
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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