Friday, December 17, 2004

Oil-For-Food, Part Six: What's a Little Corruption Between Friends?

Michael Crowley published a piece at Slate today on Oil-For-Food and predictably equates the uproar with right-wing fanatics who want to undermine the UN's authority (when, of course, we all know that undermining the UN's authority is properly the job of the UN itself). While acknowledging that billions of dollars in humanitarian aid were diverted, Crowley concludes:

...what was the ultimate damage? [Former UN Ambassador] Negroponte has told the Senate that the program largely met its goal of "creating a system to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi civilian population, while maintaining strict sanctions enforcement of items that Saddam Hussein could use to rearm or reconstitute his WMD program." The program did save lives: Average daily calorie intake nearly doubled in Iraq from 1996 to 2002. And Saddam never reconstituted the nuclear weapons program that was the ostensible reason for last year's invasion. The greatest tragedy of the oil-for-food program may be that, for all its Byzantine corruption, we never realized just how effective it was.

What a load of rubbish! What was the ultimate damage???!!! Would Crowley have us believe that the billions of diverted dollars are of no consequence? That money comes from taxpayers in the U.S. and elsewhere, so (1) billions of dollars were stolen from you and me. (I could use a little extra Christmas cash, how about you?) (2) Those billions of dollars were intended to benefit the Iraqi people, not buy Saddam golden toilets. The ultimate damage was every single Iraqi citizen who suffered needlessly because billions of dollars in aid were diverted. How effective it was, Mr. Crowley? You assure us that average daily calorie intake doubled, and that's a good thing, no doubt. How were the hospitals? Did they have the most modern life-saving technology? Can you think of some better uses of those billions of dollars than lining the pockets of Saddam and his cronies?

Again, we see the tiresome pattern of inexcusible behavior being shrugged off because Americans are upset about it, as if our interests are always illegitimate. I don't see this as a conservative or 'progressive' issue, and anyone who doesn't think the UN is actively anti-American and anti-Israel just hasn't been paying attention or is engaging in intellectual dishonesty. Mr. Crowley's defense of the UN is frankly a regurgitation of the UN apologists' talking points.

Tellingly, that creaky ol' liberal relic Mother Jones asks:

Can we really believe a scandal that seems to live on only on the pages of FOX, the [Wall Street] Journal op-ed pages, and various right-wing blogs?

I can't imagine a more effective condemnation of the liberal media's silence...

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