Friday, December 10, 2004

Thoughts on Oil-for-Food

Politics makes strange bedfellows. I think that this comes in part from our tendency to take whatever issue is most important to us and to judge everything else by how it affects that issue.

Hence, Jude Wanniski defends the UN from the oil-for-food scandal charges, primarily, I think, because if the UN is innocent it puts the onus on the US for the damages caused by the sanctions; that is, if corruption didn't cause the failrues of the program, then the balme lies squarely with the sanctions.

While much of what he says is correct, and while the sanctions are still to blame for a lot of Iraqi deaths even if the il-for-food program would have prevented all deaths from the sanctions if administered properly (because there was no oil-for-food program unti l996, so there were about five years of sanctions without a relief program in place), I still think that there has been a lot of corruption going on. If you feel, as I do, that the sanctions were unnecessary, then some of the blame is on the US for imposing them. Nonetheless, anyone who embezzled money from the program is guilty of stealing from the Iraqis.

That is all.

Moreover, even if the program was intended only to help the Kurds the fact is that if it had been administered less corruptly, it would have been more effective for the other groups in Iraq as well - even if the US never intended for the Arabs to be helped, the program could have been used to help the Arabs, and the US would have been relying on UN corruption as the weapon with which to screw the Arabs. And it is not at all clear to me that the US intended to screw the Arabs.

In other words, if the UN had been less corrupt, it would not have mattered the US's intentions, it would have been able to have overcome them in order to assist the Arabs in Iraq, or more importantly, to overcome the US/UK demand for sanctions.

In short, this scandal needs to be investigated and I hold no illusions that the UN is a wonderful pro-humanitarian organization. I don't trust the US government (or any government), and the UN is a possible brake on the more imperialist designs of US foreign policy, but it has its own imperialist designs and would not be a reliable ally for anti-Iraq war conservatives like myself. So I am in no mood to defend it, particularly since I don't think the UN deserves to be defended.

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