Let's start with the New York Post:
Anyone who pines for genuine international multilateralism would do well to follow the bribes now being uncovered in the United Nations' Oil-for- Food scandal.This causes Instapundit to note:
Why did France and Russia oppose efforts to topple Saddam Hussein's regime? And why did they press constantly, throughout the '90s, for an expansion of Iraqi oil sales? Was it their empathy for the starving children of that impoverished nation? Their desire to stop the United States from arrogantly imposing its vision upon the Middle East?
It now looks like they it was simply because they were on the take. Saddam was their cash cow. If President Bush has suffered some discredit over his apparently false — but not disingenuous — claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the lapse is minor compared to the outright personal selfishness and criminality that appears to have motivated many of those who opposed his efforts to rid the world of one of its worst dictators.
Throughout the '90s, France and Russia badgered the United States and Britain to increase Iraqi oil production. President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair fought them at each step, but then reluctantly gave way. First Iraq was allowed to sell 500,000 barrels daily. Then, on Franco-Russian insistence, it was raised to 1 million, then to 2 million and, finally, to 3 million barrels a day.
Each time, America and Britain — the nations now accused of coveting Iraqi oil — resisted the increases in Iraqi production and urged tighter controls over the program. Each time, the French and the Russians prattled on about the rights of Iraqi sovereignty and the need to feed the children.
Now we know why the French and Russians were so insistent. Iraqi government documents (leaked to the Baghdad newspaper Al Mada) list at least 270 individuals and entities who got vouchers allowing them to sell Iraqi oil — and to keep much of the money. These vouchers, and the promise of instant great wealth they carried with them, bought vital support in the United Nations to let Saddam stay in power. …
The defect of international coalitions is that they include the just and the unjust, the bribed and the honest, the democratic and the autocratic. And their members cannot be trusted equally. The group that stood up and backed the invasion of Iraq was nicknamed "the Coalition of the Willing." Now it appears it was also "the Coalition of the Honest."
The press's relative lack of interest in this colossal scandal — which dwarfs anything involving Enron or Martha Stewart — is hard to explain … this is likely the biggest financial-fraud scandal in history.As for the Wall Street Journal, it lent its editorial page to Claudia Rosett for a very good reason. The result is an article, a longer version of which was published in Commentary.
It's looking more and more as if one of the best reasons to get rid of Saddam Hussein was that it was probably the only way to get rid of Oil-for-Food. The problem wasn't simply that this huge United Nations relief program for Iraq became a gala of graft, theft, fraud, palace-building and global influence-peddling — though all that was quite bad enough. The picture now emerging is that under U.N. management the Oil-for-Food program, which ran from 1996-2003, served as a cover not only for Saddam's regime to cheat the Iraqi people, but to set up a vast and intricate global network of illicit finance.I cannot even start telling you how impressed I am with the French media for their legendary professional behaviour, i.e., their superhuman efforts to get to the bottom of that atrocious scandal: that Bush, Blair, and Aznar are liars and that they knew in no uncertain terms that there were no WMD in Iraq. I can imagine that the Russian press is showing the same signs of stirring valor, brave independence, and acute professionalism. Keep on the good work, les gars. Nous sommes fiers de vous! So proud of you! So proud of your integrity, which is second to none!
And though much debate has focused on the list published this past January in the Iraqi newspaper Al Mada — cataloguing some 270 individuals and entities world-wide alleged to have received illicit oil vouchers worth millions from Saddam — the Al Mada list may be the least of it … Dwarfing the Al Mada list for size, scope and menace was the U.N.-piloted mothership, the entire $111 billion U.N. Oil-for-Food program. Supplied by Iraq's oil wells, the sums involved in Oil-for-Food's transactions were so enormous that even the routine rounding errors of a few hundred million here or there easily rivaled, for example, the $300 million or so in family money believed to have given Osama bin Laden his terrorist start.
In a world beset right now by terrorist threats — which depend on terrorist financing — it's time to acknowledge that the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program was worse than simply a case of grand larceny. Given Saddam's proclivities for deceit and violence, Oil-for-Food was also a menace to security. By letting Saddam pick his own business partners and draw up his own shopping lists, by keeping the details of his contracts and accounts secret, and by then failing abjectly to supervise the process, the U.N. — through a program meant to aid the people of Iraq — enabled Saddam to line his pockets while bankrolling his pals world-wide. …
In tallying various leaked lists, disturbing leads and appalling exposés to date, what becomes ever more clear is that Oil-for-Food quickly became a global maze of middlemen, shell companies, fronts and shadowy connections, all blessed by the U.N. From this labyrinth, via kickbacks on underpriced oil and overpriced goods, Saddam extracted, by conservative estimates of the General Accounting Office, at least $4.4 billion in graft, plus an additional $5.7 billion on oil smuggled out of Iraq. Meanwhile, [Kofi] Annan's Secretariat shrugged and rang up its $1.4 billion in Iraqi oil commissions for supervising the program. Worse, the GAO notes that anywhere from $10 billion to as much as $40 billion may have been socked away in secret by Saddam's regime. The assumption so far has been that most of the illicit money flowed back to Saddam in the form of fancy goods and illicit arms.
But no one really knows right now just how much of those billions went where — or what portion of that kickback cash Saddam might have forwarded to whatever he deemed a worthy cause. A look at one of the secret U.N. lists of clients authorized by the U.N. to buy from Saddam is not reassuring. It includes more than 1,000 companies, scattered from Liberia to South Africa to oil-rich Russia. … would Mr. Annan care to explain why the U.N. authorized Saddam to sell oil to at least 70 companies in the petroleum-soaked United Arab Emirates?
In Oil-for-Food, "Every contract tells a story," says John Fawcett, a financial investigator with the New York law firm of Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, which has sued the financial sponsors of Sept. 11 on behalf of the victims and their families. In an interview, Mr. Fawcett and his colleague, Christine Negroni, run down the lists of Oil-for-Food authorized oil buyers and relief suppliers, pointing out likely terrorist connections. One authorized oil buyer, they note, was a remnant of the defunct global criminal bank, BCCI. Another was close to the Taliban while Osama bin Laden was on the rise in Afghanistan; a third was linked to a bank in the Bahamas involved in al Qaeda's financial network; a fourth had a close connection to one of Saddam's would-be nuclear-bomb makers.
U.N. secrecy — in deference to the privacy of Saddam and his former clientele — makes it extremely difficult to confirm the many whiffs of sleazy and sinister dealings in these lists. … Basically, Oil-for-Food was Saddam — just slightly harder to spot, swaddled as he was in that blue U.N. flag.