Friday, October 28, 2005

Oil-for-Food Scandal.

The credibility of the Bush administration in the world has been severely damaged by the lies and the spin over Iraq and the WMD. It is likely that future (and probably valid) accusations by the US government on the international scene will be called into question; and that's a serious problem

But the recent report on the oil-for-food scandal equally undermines the credibility of those governments so strongly opposed to the war – particularly its most vocal opponents, France.

It is particularly interesting to see that the report shows (something we already guessed with little proof) that most of the contracts went to Russian and French companies and individuals.

Even though there is no direct connection with the French government, it is likely that the word was out among officials that there were “national” interests involved and the pressure for a certain kind of policy must have played a part in the decision to oppose the war.

The scam was so massive that it could not have been ignored by the government. It involved

  • No less than a former French ambassador to the United Nations from 1991 to 1995 (Jean-Bernard Merimee, now detained in Paris and charged with corruption by a French judge).
  • a former French interior minister, Charles Pasqua (he has denied of course – saying : "Someone used my name" just like a schoolboy caught (almost) red-handed )
  • Total, the French oil group
  • even France's BNP Paribas, the bank chosen by the United Nations to handle payments under the program, didn't scrutinize money flows that investigators found were part of the corruption
  • the secretary-general of the French-Iraqi Friendship Association (Imagine that!) and an advocate for the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq, Gilles Munier. (who has the guts to say that he is “paying for his support of the Iraqi people.").

So the French people have also been lied to, both by their government and the media (who have been unwilling to investigate the persistent rumors, even accusing the U.S. of false and unfair charges against France).

Now you may think that French are really really bad, but hold it, there are actually 66 countries involved, including

  • the governor of Italy's Lombardy region and a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.
Many prominent companies such as
  • Volvo of Sweden
  • subsidiaries for Siemens, one of the world's largest electrical engineering and electronics companies.
  • Daimler Chrysler

and a British Member of Parliament named George Galloway, made famous for his opposition to the war and to the Bush administration during Congressional hearings.

ABC also reminded us that the Americans should not rejoice either:

The report found that even firms in countries supportive of the sanctions, such as the United States, found ways to manipulate the system illegally sometimes by using Russian firms as middlemen.

While most of the names of those individuals and companies were known, the extensive involvement of U.S. firms will be embarrassing to the United States government, which has been a leading critic of corruption in oil-for-food.

So what’s next? Well, it seems that it is now up to each country to prosecute their own companies and citizens. France and the U.S. have already started, but let’s hope they’ll finish the job. Let’s also hope that this time, the media will do theirs.

And last, let's hope that people will cnot again uphold their governments out of naivety and ignorance., but that may be wishful thinking.

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