The UN, what a gang.

The United Nations continues to slide down the moral slope. Now, we're finding out that the "oil-for-food" program was a scam. Not only did the UN itself skim a ton of money off the top (a billion bucks to "administer" the program), but they refuse to say where the money is, what kind of interest is being paid, what banks benefit, what Iraq was allowed to purchase, and what companies sold what goods to Iraq. This article from last Friday's NY Timeshas some interesting stuff:

Since its inception, the program has overseen more than $100 billion in contracts for oil exports and relief imports combined.

According to staff members, the program's bank accounts over the past year have held balances upward of $12 billion... the oil-for-food program has evolved into a bonanza of jobs and commercial clout. Before the war it employed some 1,000 international workers and 3,000 Iraqis. (The Iraqi employees - charged with monitoring Saddam Hussein's imports and distribution of relief goods - of course all had to be approved by the Baath Party.)

Bureaucratic lags notwithstanding, putting a veil of secrecy over tens of billions of dollars in contracts is an invitation to kickbacks, political back-scratching and smuggling done under cover of relief operations.

So, it's easy to see why France and Russia wanted the status quo. They were milking a big, green cash cow named Iraq and they didn't want to see it end. All we know is that they got gobs of cash from the UN, but no one has to say what they provided in return. The UN had every reason to love it too: $1B dollars, 4,000 people, that's $250k per person - somebody did pretty well, since you know they didn't pay those Iraqi's squat. More nasty stuff:

The United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq has little prospect of releasing even $1 billion of its approximately $14 billion for emergency food and medical aid before its authorization runs out on May 12, the program's director said in an interview today.

It has also revived longstanding criticisms over items like its administrative budget, paid for from a 2.2 percent share of all the oil sold under the program, which has totaled more than $1 billion.
Then, there's William Safire asking us to follow the money:

"Sophisticated international blackmail" is what Senator Arlen Specter called it yesterday. Blackmail is the apt word: unless the U.S. and Britain turn over primary control of Iraq to the U.N. - none of this secondary "vital role" stuff - Chiracism threatens to hobble oil sales and prevent recovery.
Of course, not only is this body determined to undermine the US economy and US interests, but it insists that the US pay for the priviledge:

There are 191 member nations, including many with large and powerful economies, but, of course, when it comes to paying the bills, these countries seem to have gone AWOL -- the U.S. continues to pay 25 percent of the entire U.N. budget!

In July 1995, in Srebrenica, Bosnia, a U.N. peace-keeping battalion in a U.N.-declared "free zone" handed over 8,000 Muslim civilians to the Serbs, who promptly slaughtered them all. There was no U.N. inquiry to review that terrible human atrocity. Instead, soon after this massacre, Kofi Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
We have here an organization that can't stand even a glance of scrutiny. Billions of dollars pass through its hands secretly, with no oversight. It's no wonder, then, that when these reports came out over the last few days France, Russia, et al, decided not to press for continued sanctions. There's no way they would be able to stand the heat of media attention on these matters. Only a few days ago, before all of these articles, they had a different opinion (,0,3601328.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines). If the UN is such a Good Thing, with world-wide focus, why do its decisions boil down to what's good and bad for the most powerful individual member states?

All of this should come as no surprise. The UN was all wrong from the start. Why should a country like Antigua and Barbuda, with its population of 67,448 have the same UN representation as China, with its billions? How is that fair? How is it that a medium-sized country like France can have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, able to unilaterally veto anything they please, while a huge country like India has no permanent seat and can veto nothing?

What kind of goofy world organization would treat an illegitimate leader, such as Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus or Jose Dos Santos of Angola the same as a fairly elected leader? Any thug tough enough to take over a country gets to speak in the UN with complete legitimacy. What sense does that make?

What kind of crackpot outfit would put Sudan on its Human Rights Committee, a country who was condemned by that body only recently and who didn't allow envoys from the Committee into the country to investigate? That would be as silly as putting Libya on the committee... D'oh!

Even worse is the lack of accountability and oversight. When a UN employee was accused of participating in the genocide in Rwanda, they declined to even investigate (see When Kofi Anon botched the peacekeeping in Rwanda (sending in a woefully inadequate and under equipped Belgian force) and hundreds of thousands died, he got promoted to Secretary-General. If anyone wants to know the details of the food for oil program in Iraq, such as exactly what goods were allowed, where the money went, accounting details, they're out of luck. The UN doesn't provide those facts to the press. If there has been fraud or error, the UN will be left to police itself.

This isn't a body seriously dedicated to getting the countries of the world to get along and live in peace.

It's a gang.