The Oil-for-Food Scandal

Genocidal Mass Murderers Charge UN with "Fraud"

Iraqi Victims Expose U.S. War Crimes

Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at

The 1991 U.S. war on Iraq. The 2003 U.S. war on Iraq. More than 13 years of UN sanctions--starving the people and shattering the economy. The U.S. destruction of Iraq's water system. All this has killed over one million Iraqi people and left the country in ruins.

Yet today, with Iraq under U.S. occupation, the big "scandal" being whipped up by the U.S. rulers, the source of right-wing "outrage," and the target of at least nine different government investigations, is the UN oil-for-food program. This program was instituted in 1997, after a global outcry over the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis due to sanctions, and was designed to allow Iraq, under tight UN control, to sell some oil to purchase food, medicine, and other needed goods, so that sanctions could be maintained. Now the U.S. imperialists, who are the dominant power in the UN and helped oversee sanctions, are shouting that the Hussein regime "ripped off" the program through smuggling, bribery, and kickbacks and that the UN was complicit.

This past week, Benon V. Sevan, the former director of the oil-for-food program, was accused by a UN investigating committee of taking $150,000 in kickbacks from Iraqi oil sales, and another UN functionary was charged with selling information to potential oil buyers and siphoning off over $1 million in UN funds.

Whether or not these investigations turn up corruption, this whole scandal is a grotesque and hypocritical effort to divert attention from the real source of death and destruction in Iraq--the staggering crimes committed by U.S. imperialism and the UN Security Council over the past decades, the lies and deceptions concocted to justify them, and their inability to control occupied Iraq (in part because of the massive death and destruction they themselves have inflicted). Instead the U.S. wants to focus attention and blame on Saddam Hussein and the UN. This "scandal" is also part of the Bush regime's effort to reshape the UN to better serve its grab for supreme global hegemony.

Germ Warfare--American Style

Republican Ralph Hall began a July 2004 congressional hearing by declaring that "fraud and deception" in the oil-for-food program "probably resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis through malnutrition," adding "We have a name for that in the United States. It's called murder."

Yes, let's talk about murder. Murder by the U.S. destruction of Iraq's civilian infrastructure and 13 years of UN sanctions, controlled by the U.S. and Britain. The murder of at least one to two million Iraqis--mainly children, the sick, and the elderly, since 1990.

After Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the Bush I crew was determined to wage war not merely to expel Iraq from Kuwait, but to usher in a "new world order" of unparalleled U.S. dominance after the Soviet Union's collapse, to crush Iraq as a regional power, and to solidify its imperialist hold on the Middle East. These goals demanded an extremely brutal war, not only against Iraq's military, but against its economy and society as well. One to two hundred thousand Iraqis were slaughtered in Desert Storm, and many more afterward as a result of the bombing of Iraq's water and power infrastructure--a direct violation of Article 54 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits attacks on essential civilian facilities, including drinking water supplies.

U.S. goals also dictated that the war continue, in a different form, even after the 1991 Gulf War formally ended. This war was carried out mainly with UN sanctions that strictly regulated Iraq's imports and exports. For the U.S., sanctions were never merely about disarming Iraq, as claimed; they were designed to prevent Iraq from rebuilding and to make life so miserable Iraqis would rise up (preferably via a military coup) and overthrow Hussein.

Under sanctions, Iraq's annual GDP fell from some $60 billion to $13 billion; imports and foreign investments that could repair Iraq's petroleum sector, its water system, and its power grid were consistently blocked; Iraq received only a fraction of its oil revenues; and Iraqi hospitals were unable to import needed antibiotics, cancer drugs, and many other medications and equipment.

Even if the Hussein regime never took a penny from the oil-for-food program, the amount of money Iraq received was pitiful --approximately $170 per year per person. This is less than half the annual per capita income of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Destroying Iraq's water system, and then preventing its rebuilding was probably the single greatest cause of death and disease in Iraq, where chronic and severe malnutrition and instances of water-borne diseases like diarrhea among Iraqi children soared after 1990.

As Revolution correspondent Larry Everest recounts in his book Oil, Power, and Empire (Common Courage Press), the Director of Iraq's Red Crescent Society said in 1991: "Iraqi children have been exposed to biological warfare, massive biological warfare. When you destroy the infrastructure of a country, sewage with all its germs will flow into the streets; you stop pure water from reaching the children; you give them malnutrition; you prevent medicines from reaching the country. So it's an excellent environment for death and disease."

A 1999 survey by UNICEF and Iraq's Ministry of Health found that the rate of infant mortality had more than doubled and that roughly 5,000 Iraqi children under five were dying each month thanks to U.S. actions--more than a World Trade Center catastrophe every 30 days.

The government and media have systematically tried to bury and distort this truth. Many U.S. reporters who go to Iraq blame the chaos, disrepair, and suffering on Saddam Hussein, but never talk about the U.S. role in all this. They act as if the U.S. never bombed Iraq's electrical grid, and sanctions never existed, and instead blame everything on Saddam's "neglect" or "mismanagement."

They never discuss the fact that sanctions were continued even after Iraq destroyed its WMD (perhaps by the early 1990s)--and that the U.S. knew it. (The whole charade about "intelligence failures" is part of the coverup.)

Right-wing columnist William Safire called the oil-for-food program "the richest rip-off in world history." But meanwhile, the U.S. imperialists are trying to steal the whole country of Iraq by conquest and setting up a neo-colonial client regime. And in the process, theft and corruption are running rampant.

While UN officials are being pilloried over a few thousand dollars, this week alone there were reports that the U.S. occupation authorities "lost" a billion dollars supposedly earmarked for rebuilding Iraq. This comes on top of a report in January by the Coalition Provisional Authority's own inspector general that nearly $9 billion in CPA funds were missing.

Who then are the world's biggest liars, thieves, and murderers?