Monday, 07 March 2005

Volcker’s UN Whitewash

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Paul Volcker“The first and most important point to make about the preliminary report on corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program is that it is not a whitewash.” So declared the Washington Post in a February 5 editorial. The Post was referring, of course, to the “interim report” issued two days earlier by the so-called Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

Not a whitewash? Well, this is one of those many times when one would be wise to read the Post with a big grain of salt. Whitewash is as good a description as any, but others also come to mind: cover-up, diversion, damage control, scapegoating, delaying strategy.

Volcker’s 219-page report pretends to present the results of a no-holds-barred investigation of the multi-billion dollar UN scandal. And the Post pretends to find in the report a vindication of sorts for the UN and its embattled Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Yes, the UN is not perfect and mistakes were made, but in the Post’s words, the report “should not be used as yet another excuse for U.N.-bashing.”

The Post says that the UN “is an organization that is severely limited in its capacity to manage complex financial and political programs.” And this limitation, claims the Post, is largely because of “its lack of funds.” Guess who’s to blame for that: those stingy, UN-bashing American taxpayers. Or so the Post would have us believe.

The Washington Post entitled its editorial “Naming U.N. Names,” implying that Volcker and his IIC cohorts really mean business, since they’ve actually pointed the accusatory finger at a few UN functionaries.

Primarily, the blame has been focused on UN careerist Benon Sevan, Kofi Annan’s assistant, close friend, and the man handpicked by Annan to oversee the oil-for-food scam in Iraq. “The evidence is conclusive,” said Mr. Volcker in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “that Mr. Sevan, in effectively participating in the selection of purchasers of oil under the Program, placed himself in an irreconcilable conflict of interest....”

Now, that’s rich: Volcker pointing to conflicts of interest! Since Mr. Volcker has brought it up, let’s talk about conflict of interest. Certainly one of the most transparent conflicts of interest in this ongoing fiasco was the appointment of Mr. Volcker himself to head the UN’s “independent” investigations. Who appointed him? Kofi Annan did. Where else, except in the twisted moral universe that is the United Nations, does the person or organization being investigated for impropriety get to name his own investigators — and still call it an “independent” inquiry?

That was just for starters. While the following facts do not seem to conflict the conscience of Mr. Volcker, others might find them at least slightly relevant to the issue at hand:

• Paul Volcker is a longtime supporter of the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. and, until recently, was a member of the UNA-USA board of directors and a major financial donor to the organization. It is no secret that the UNA-USA is one of the most militant organizational supporters, promoters, and defenders of the UN.

• Kofi Annan is a regular at UNA soirees, and in its annual report, the UNA-USA proudly quotes Annan’s praise of the organization’s activities on behalf of the UN. As one of the main cheerleaders of this propaganda-and-proselytizing arm for the UN, Volcker can hardly be considered an unbiased bystander.

• Volcker has also served on the board of the Business Council for the UN, a sister organization of the UNA-USA, the primary mission of which is rounding up corporate support for the UN.

• Volcker has ties to the Desmarais family and Power Corporation, the huge Canadian conglomerate at the heart of the oil-for-food scandal. Volcker sat on the international advisory board of Power Corp. with Paul Desmarais, Sr., while Paul Desmarais, Jr. and Andre Desmarais served as co-CEOs. The Desmarais family and other Power Corp. execs and directors are also major players in BNP Paribas, the bank that underwrote most of the oil-for-food scam, and TotalFinaElf, France’s largest oil company and a multi-billion dollar contractor with Saddam’s regime.

• Volcker is also a key Insider in internationalist circles such as the Trilateral Commission (where he is honorary chairman), the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute, and the Bilderberg Group — all of which have been in the vanguard of the movement to transform the UN into a world government.

Thus, it is not surprising to find that Kofi Annan barely even rates a mention in Volcker’s 219-page report, and the UN itself gets praised with faint damnation. Little wonder that Annan’s new chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, characterized the report as “overall good news.... This report says the program overall was apparently well managed.... The problems were limited to the margins.” Unless there is sustained public pressure on Congress really and seriously to uncover the criminality in the oil-for-food program, we can expect Volcker’s fellow internationalists in the House and Senate to turn at least three of the five congressional investigations into similar whitewashes that end with more empty proposals for UN “reform.”

Photo: AP Images