Oil-for-food: Another outrage by the U.N.
President George Bush’s selection of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations triggered some gasps of concern at home and abroad.
Bolton, it was noted, had publicly expressed some unflattering opinions of the U.N. He was seen by some as one who could be harsh in his criticisms, blunt in dealing with co-workers and undiplomatic in his assessments.
He had once unflinchingly referred to North Korea’s Kim Jong Il as a “tyrannical dictator.” Which is precisely what Kim Jong Il is.
But Bolton apparently had performed well in some demanding positions. He has been undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was a key administrator and general counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development and served as assistant secretary of state for international affairs. In these roles he apparently has demanded much of himself — and those around him.
There were those in Washington who felt the U.S. needed in the United Nations a wearer of kid gloves, one soft of voice and condescending of nature. One careful not to tilt windmills.
President George Bush felt otherwise.
There had been too many shenanigans, too much waste, too little of value accomplished at the U.N. For years it had been little more than an international debating society focusing largely on criticizing the United States — which provides fully one-fourth of its financial support.
Among the U.N.’s many incredulous actions was naming a Libyan to head its committee on human rights. This newspaper observed at the time that this was like appointing Adolf Hitler to oversee the well-being of Jews.
After a U.S.-led intervention rolled Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait, the U.N. established an oil-for-food program to help the people of Iraq cope with economic sanctions against their country.
This would allow Iraq to sell oil in order to be able to provide for domestic humanitarian needs.
It was intended as a lifeline for 90 percent of Iraq’s 26 million people.
But the oil-for-food revenues did not go to feed the Iraqi people. A just concluded investigation showed Saddam Hussein and his henchmen pocketed $10.2 billion. The $64 billion program was rife with corruption, waste and mismanagement.
The United Nations, including its Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ignored what the investigating panel called “clear evidence of corruption and waste.”
Annan said of the report, “It was deeply embarrassing to all of us.”
It was embarrassing because the U.N.’s tolerance and complicity in the outrageous handling of the program was exposed.
Findings of the investigation alone fully vindicate President Bush’s determination to name John Bolton as U.N. ambassador.
He is exactly the type of no-nonsense, tough-talking person the world needs at the United Nations. Perhaps Ambassador Bolton can raise the U.N. to a level of credibility and respect.
Published in Editorials on September 9, 2005 9:51 AM