The 'Oil-for-Food' Smokescreen

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Are you familiar with the big u201Cshocku201D that neoconservatives have experienced over the financial scandal arising out of the infamous u201Coil-for-foodu201D government program, which was the subject of an investigative report issued Thursday by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker?

The oil-for-food program was the socialist program established in 1995 by U.S. officials and UN officials to alleviate the horrific suffering of the Iraqi people arising out of the brutal system of sanctions that the U.S. government and the UN imposed against the Iraqi people in 1991 and which lasted for more than a decade.

The ostensible goal of the sanctions was to u201Cdisarmu201D Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction that the United States had furnished him during the 1980s. The real reason for the sanctions was to oust Saddam from power and replace his regime with one more palatable to the U.S. government.

After months of investigation, Volker has concluded that the oil-for-food program was u201Criddled with political favoritism and mismanagement,u201D which apparently has shocked and outraged people within neoconservative circles. The neocons are surprised to learn that Saddam Hussein was a corrupt dictator, one who misused the money that U.S. officials and UN officials entrusted to him in the oil-for-food program. They are shocked to learn Saddam actually violated the trust that U.S. officials and UN officials placed in him by misappropriating the oil-for-food monies rather than using them to buy food and medicine for the many children who were dying as a result of the sanctions.

However, there’s an interesting oddity that has recently developed. It turns out that after the U.S. government ousted Saddam Hussein from power in the recent invasion, finally achieving the regime change that the sanctions had failed to achieve, and took over the running of Iraq through what was called the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. government itself brought about the u201Cdisappearanceu201D of some $9 billion in Iraqi monies. Yes, that’s u201Cbillionu201D with a u201Cb.u201D Poof! Gone! Vanished! Nine BILLION dollars! Tell me: How does anyone lose 9 billion dollars?

Yet, for some odd reason, the neocons don’t seem as shocked, outraged, and appalled over the disappearance of that money as they are over Saddam Hussein’s u201Cwaste, fraud, and abuseu201D in the oil-for-food scandal. Why, they even seem to be ignoring the distinct but uncomfortable possibility, if you’ll excuse me for being blunt, that a few of those billions have been used as bribes to line the pockets of U.S.-installed Iraqi officials who are now touting the U.S. military line calling for an indefinite U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

Here’s what the Los Angeles Times reports about the missing $9 billion:

The Coalition Provisional Authority may have paid salaries for thousands of nonexistent employees in Iraqi ministries, issued unauthorized multimillion-dollar contracts and provided little oversight of spending in possibly corrupt ministries, according to the report by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer, the U.S. government man in charge of the CPA u201Cacknowledged that financial systems in Iraq were weaku201D but said that the problem of the missing money arose from the urgency of turning Iraq over to the Iraqis. That’s an explanation for $9 billion in missing Iraqi monies? Not surprisingly, the Pentagon u201Calso disagreed with the report’s conclusions, saying Sunday that the agency had implemented reforms to improve accountability.u201D That explains the $9 billion in missing Iraqi monies?

Pardon me for asking what might be uncomfortable questions, but why is the u201Cwaste, fraud, and abuseu201D under both regimes in Iraq — the Saddam regime and the U.S. government regime — not equally corrupt? Why aren’t U.S. neoconservatives as outraged and upset over the disappearance of large sums of money under the control of U.S. officials as they are with those under Saddam? Isn’t corruption corruption?

Let’s face it: The U.S. government should never have imposed the brutal sanctions system against the Iraqi people as a way to force them to oust their dictator from office or even as a means to persuade their dictator to u201Cdisarmu201D Iraq of the infamous WMD that the U.S. government had furnished him just a few years before to use against the Iranian people. Why should the people of Iraq, who lost hundreds of thousands of children due to the sanctions, have been forced to pay the price for their dictator’s supposed intransigence?

Moreover, when Saddam did disarm in the early 1990s and when it became clear that the use of sanctions to achieve u201Cregime changeu201D had failed, U.S. officials and UN officials should have immediately lifted the sanctions that were continuing to squeeze the life out of Iraqi children rather than implement a socialist oil-for-food program that placed U.S. government trust and oil-for-food money in the hands of what everyone knew was a brutal and untrustworthy dictator.

The truth, albeit painful, is that all the hullabalooh about the u201Cwaste, fraud, and abuseu201D in the infamous oil-for-food program is nothing more than a smokescreen to avoid focusing on the moral culpability for the massive number of deaths of the Iraqi children arising out of the brutal sanctions that the U.S. government and the UN enforced against the Iraqi people for more than ten years and the horrible u201Cblowbacku201D arising from a brutal and morally corrupt U.S. foreign policy.

Jacob Hornberger [send him mail] is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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