by Austin Bay
April 19, 2005
Last week, a federal prosecutor issued the first indictments in
the United Nations' Oil For Food corruption fiasco.
I chuckled when a correspondent for The Nation magazine quickly
dubbed Oil for Food a "Texas scandal" -- a wisecrack drawn from the decadent
Left's "Bomb Bush Not Baghdad" joke book. It's pop sloganeering designed to
scourge the critic, while denying the central problem
That narrow spin didn't survive one 24-hour news cycle -- the
international facts simply savaged the sophistry. A Texas-based corporation
with Bulgarian and British operatives engaged in a kickback scheme run by
Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Then the prosecutor added South Korean bagman Park
Tongsun. Park -- the central figure in the Koreagate bribery and influence
peddling scheme -- allegedly received up to $2 million from Saddam. The
prosecution has evidence that Park was directed to use the cash to "take
care of one of the U.N. officials with whom Park negotiated."
As yet, the "U.N. officials" are unnamed, though in report after
report former Oil for Food director Benon Sevan's name flashes like a cheap
This complex international sewer of crime and criminals has
splattered Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office. While no evidence has
emerged linking Annan to the crimes, there's no denying the damage to his
reputation and credibility. Allegations that Annan's son, Kojo Annan, and
Kojo's employer, Cotecna, breached ethical rules and tried to illegally
influence an Oil for Food contract still tag the secretary-general.
Though Annan claims Paul Volcker's second "interim report" on
Oil for Food cleared him, the truth is Volcker's investigation reveals -- at
the minimum -- a sad and serious trail of incompetent management.
Which leads to the still-pending Senate vote on John Bolton, the
Bush administration's nominee as America's U.N. ambassador
While Washington's political fencing over Bolton's nomination
has reached the ludicrous -- with Democrats even complaining about Bolton's
haircut -- not all of Bolton's opponents are playing the "scourge the critic
but deny the problem" political game. Honest opponents believe Bolton lacks
the diplomatic finesse to do two things: first, cooperate with the U.N.
agencies that do work (e.g., U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees); and
second, lead the necessary reform process.
Sincere opponents believe Bolton's confrontational style will
increase animosity and political polarization at the United Nations (leading
to further diplomatic difficulties for the United States), and not resolve
the issues of institutional corruption and incompetence they know exist.
I'm a U.N. reformer -- with a long train of paper supporting
that position. If Bolton intends to destroy the United Nations, then he's
not the man for the job,
But I think Bolton's a reformer, and here's the chief indicator:
He's a committed member of the Bush team -- and the Bush team knows its Job
One is winning the War on Terror.
A functioning, accountable United Nations is a U.S. ally in this
war, and would play an extremely useful role in fostering the economic and
political stability truly defeating terror requires.
No bureaucracy moves unless either led or pushed. Kofi Annan is
not providing leadership -- the Volcker report damns him for mismanagement.
That means someone has to push for reform, and Bolton has the guts to push.
Pushing necessarily entails a form of confrontation -- and
Bolton has the rep and spine to handle both the overt and covert ends of
diplomatic jousting. In these circumstances, a tough cop reputation is a
Pushing, however, must have a direction. That's why Bolton needs
to have a plan on hand -- a plan that emphasizes organizational reform based
on holding the United Nations accountable. Accountability punishes
corruption, penalizes incompetence and rewards competence. That should be
Bolton's pitch to sincere U.N. staffers -- Oil for Food didn't feed people,
it fed thugs' pocketbooks. If you want to do the job right, let's do it