Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NY Times: Sevan's Corruption 'Small-Bore'

My, oh, my, apparently $147,000 isn't what it used to be. The latest big media outlet to downplay the six figure embezzlement of the head of the Oil for Food program, Benon Sevan, is the Gray Lady herself:

If he did take kickbacks, it is still unclear whether the Iraqis thought they were bribing him, rewarding him for being on their side on many issues or simply yielding to his persistence. The report cites instances in which Mr. Sevan argued for easing constraints on Iraq and contends that he knew from personal experience that Iraq was imposing surcharges on recipients of oil allocations yet played down the problem. What's striking is how small-bore the corruption he is accused of looks against the backdrop of a $65 billion oil-for-food program.
The Times Editorial Board (read: Gail Collins) expresses a continued, quite-unjustified faith in the man who should be stopping the buck:

The U.N. clearly needs management reform and closer monitoring to prevent corruption. But neither of these cases sheds much light on what sins, if any, can be attributed to Secretary General Kofi Annan, or on how Saddam Hussein was able to manipulate the program to gain perhaps $2 billion in illicit revenue. For that, we must await next month's report.

Or you could just read Claudia Rosett and find out what's really going on.

Contrast the attitude of the increasingly partisan Times with the well-reasoned, fact-facing response of the Washington Post:
...Mr. Annan's failure to understand that the oil-for-food program was corrupt at its heart -- or perhaps at its head, given the evidence about its director's behavior -- is disturbing. The oil-for-food program -- along with the other forms of sanctions-busting effectively condoned by the United States and others -- was designed to allow Saddam Hussein's government to enrich itself at the expense of Iraq's people. It was a deeply disturbing example of how the United Nations' humanitarian impulse can sometimes go badly wrong. As long as any part of the institution or its defenders continues to believe that the oil-for-food disaster was an insignificant affair dreamed up by U.S. lawmakers and their friends in the media, it's hard to see how any reform, however beautifully structured on paper, will achieve much in practice. Reform begins with an end to self-delusion.

It seems the Post is getting better in direct proportion to the Times getting worse...

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