Reponse-Iraq's oil exports

John Heelan says: "Tim Brown is correct to point up the alleged corruption in the "UN Food for Oil" operation in Iraq and the need to get independent proof of what happened. If corruption is proven, then the UN officials involved should face an appropriate court of law and receive hefty penalties if found guilty.

Of course, they should be joined by the senior management of those companies (US and others) conspiring to divert the money, gaining contracts for military and industrial equipment outside the Food for Oil program, conspiring in the alleged bribery and corruption of UN and other officials. Further, officials of the various US Administrations should also be castigated to turning a blind eye to the illegal sale of oil by Saddam Hussein channelled out of Iraq via Turkey. Further, the senior management of the oil companies receiving and refining the oil should also by charged with conspiracy in the matter and the profits gained sequestrated and returned to Iraq. [The chances of this happening with an oil-President in charge are minimal].

For the record, I do not admire any political or religious organisation. All are at risk to corruption, especially where large value items are being transferred and there is an absence of control and inspection (the Enron, Boeing and Shell sagas are good examples). However if asked to choose between having faith in the UN or the Bush Administration to deal with the long-term good of Iraq in an independent fashion, I would support the UN. The risk of UN inefficiencies are preferable to the risk of Iraq becoming just another virtual satellite of the US.

Gema Martín Muñoz of the Autonomous University of Madrid- a specialist in the sociology of the Arab and Islamic world- in a leading article of El País (4/21/04 ), the currently planned transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi Government is somewhat a sham. The supposed "end of occupation" really means the construction of 14 US military bases housing 110,000 service people (a substantial structure for US control of its "Great Middle East". The "devolution of sovereignty" includes neither the Iraqi Army (which would stay under US military control) nor control of the funds for reconstruction (which would be administered by the 3000 staff of the US Embassy in Baghdad). In her words (my translation) "Many Iraqis, and not only the Shias, are not going to tolerate this fraud".

If she is right, and the US succeeds in its plans for such a "transfer of sovereignty", the Bush Administration will have found an alternative Middle East base to replace those in Saudi Arabia from which it has had to withdraw: it will keep overall military control of Iraq and it will ensure full control by the US of the funds emanating from Iraqi oil sales. As has been seen already, these funds are likely to benefit mainly US corporations, especially those close to the Bush Administration.

Thus in my view, for all its faults the UN is a better bet than US quasi-colonialism in the Middle East".

The issue of the illegal diversion of Iraqi funds by UN officials is being hotly debated. Tim Brown gives his version: "How can using Iraqi money to help Iraq be a "dubious practice?" The categories of expenditures Mr. Hellan mentions are certainly practices. But "dubious", as he insinuates? Why? Wheat to eat, health care, schools, government accountability, ministry budgets are dubious and also line the pockets of supporters of Bush. How? Evidence?

A truly "dubious" practice that is currently under self-investigation with an odor of probable white-wash is the reported misappropriation of billions of dollars worth of Iraqi oil-for-peace money that were allegedly the "practices" of UN officials - the very ones Mr. Hellan wants to put in full charge of Iraq. Allegedly, and apparently the documentary evidence is literally pouring in, UN officials diverted a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there to their own ends, including a few tens of millions to their private bank accounts, while simultaneously looking the other way, if nor actively colluding, with Iraq's dictator in his successful "practice" of diverting other billions to its own benefit. In that case, I agree with Mr. Hellan that the way to find out if this really happened is to "follow the money." Of course there is an excellent possibility that the money trail will lead straight back to very same highly places UN officials Mr. Hellan so admires.

On a more personal level, I once managed an extremely large USAID program ($125 m. or so a year) while also closely observing a large related UN program (ONUCA) that was costing perhaps $40 m. per year as they engaged in activities in Central Americas. AID had what I considered excessively high overhead expenses, but that program was thoroughly audited on a 24/7/365 independent basis for more than a year by GAO, Price-Waterhouse and the AID Inspector general and not a single improper expenditure of funds was found. One employee was fired for engaging outside his work in improper activities, but they did not involve diversion of funds. The UN had to fire several employees, including a couple of Europeans, for malfeasance, bribe taking and the diversion of funds from official activities into private political activities they ideologically favored. While I don't believe this proved that the UN was corrupt, especially since with a little urging it cleaned up its few messes, neither do I believe based on these experiences that the UN is above misusing funds. No human endeavour is".

John Heelan charged that a member of the Iraqi national council backed by the US had a criminal record. Randy Black said: ". Surely Mr. Heelan is not speaking of the kangaroo trial in Jordan years ago brought by Iraq in that foreign court of dubious authority? " John tells us to read a BBC report that identifies the person and states: "The man was seemingly anointed by the hawks in the Pentagon to help shape a post-Saddam Iraq, despite being deeply distrusted by much of the rest of Washington DC's foreign policy establishment. Also a former financier who has been linked to two bank failures in the Middle East and still faces a 22-year jail sentence with hard labour in Iraq's neighbour, Jordan, should he ever return there. Both cases, apparently, are mired in politics as well as finance. Presumably a sentence of 22 years hard labour is some kind of proof of wrongdoing?"

Randy Black says: "I am curious about John Heelan’s comment: “Given the proven financial criminal record of one of Bush's placemen in the INC…” Just what is the “proven criminal record” etc. Surely Mr. Heelan is not speaking of the kangaroo trial in Jordan years ago brought by Iraq in that foreign court of dubious authority? In any event, I can find no record of the gentleman ever serving a day for the alleged crime. I suppose that Mr. Heelan simply cannot accept the fact that the Iraqi oil revenues might go to a good cause despite that the effort is associated with the UN and the USA. Please tell me if I misunderstood Mr. Heelan". RH: I assume that IBC means Iraq's Interim National council. I too wondered to whom John Heelan was referring and with what evidence.

U.S. Military War funds problem

Phyllis Gardner writes: "I have decided to periodically respond to the debate with actual articles and quotes as I see them, not as I try to remember them. Here are some statements to back up my recent claim that the military is over-stretched and the American taxpayer is going to be paying the piper. It would be hard to dispute those claims, but I try to send fresh evidence to back it up.

MILITARY NEEDS MONEY: The Washington Post reports, "Intense combat in Iraq is chewing up military hardware and consuming money at an unanticipated rate -- depleting military coffers, straining defense contractors and putting pressure on Bush administration officials to seek a major boost in war funding ( long before they had hoped." The Army lacks sufficient armor kits to keep soldiers protected, stunningly important in the face of the ongoing violence. And money for the armor is scheduled to run out in September. However, the White House has said it won't request any extra funding until at least January (after the presidential elections). Republican Rep. Curt Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, charged, "the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future." In a scathing critique, he "described the administration's current defense budget request as 'outrageous' and 'immoral." Weldon charged, "There needs to be a supplemental, whether it's a presidential election year or not...The support of our troops has to be the number one priority of this country. . . . Somebody's got to get serious about this."

ALLIES ARE LEAVING; U.S. LEFT HOLDING THE BAG: Yesterday, the Dominican Republic followed the lead of Spain and Honduras and announced it will withdraw its 302 troops in Iraq. And Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said "that he doesn't expect more allies ( to put troops on the ground in Iraq as long as fighting continues, even if the United Nations is given a greater role." As plans for an international force to take the pressure off of U.S. troops dissolves, the NYT reports, the Pentagon is quickly drawing up new plans to bring in even more American reinforcements to Iraq ( . This is the "strongest indication that the recent decision to delay for 90 days the return of 20,000 troops at a time of intense fighting might not be the temporary measure officials had described." And since the majority of the Army's active-duty soldiers are already fighting overseas, any expansion will probably come from Guard and Reserve forces".

RH: New Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was in touch with the presidents of Honduras and the Dominican Republic, apparently to get them to follow the example of Spain. Few reports have appeared on the medical problems of the troops in Iraq, such as leishmaniasis.

The Sufis

Reports from Iraq always mention three groups: the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds. It comes as a surprise to read in The Economist (4/17/04) that "Sufi brotherhoods, who command the loyalty of millions of Sunnis, are creating a military wing". Now we will start paying attention to them. The Financial Times (4/21/04) has a feature article on them titled "Peace-loving Sufis cast vengeful eye on American forces. Islamic sect mobilizing against occupiers".Mohammed Eissawi, a Sufi master who escaped the US siege of Fallujah (which he calls "Itaq's Stalingrad") goes to Baghdad and interrupts a wedding feast in the Sufi takiya or lodge of Hassan the Flying Man, a mystic famed for flying from Baghdad to Turkey in the 14th century. He demands arms for Fallujah, with its 200 mosques and 100 Sufi lodges, "which the Americans are turning into a mass grave". Sufis originated in Iraq in the eleventh century. They search for the inner truth of Islam rather than the literal study of the revealed Islamic texts. Some Sufi mystics seek enlightenment in hashish, wine and dancing. Islamic fundamentalists crucified a 9th century mystic, Hallaj, in Baghdad for proclaiming in a trance that he was the truth. There are more than 2 million Sufis in Iraq, and their relations with other Muslims are strained. When the US attacked Iraq there was talk in Washington of negotiating with the peace-loving Sufis. That scheme has been dropped, one reason being that they have turned to arms against the Americans.

Iraq and the UN

John Heelan (JH) continues his disagreement with Tim Brown (TB), who said "The UN has never successfully led any nation anywhere out of this sort of a wilderness into prosperous democracy".
JH: "Tim is being less than generous with previous UN Secretaries-general. Further, perhaps he could remind me where the US has "successfully led any nation out of this sort of mess into prosperous democracy"?"
[RH: Germany is a prosperous democracy.]
TB: "There appears here to be a deep and unshakable, as well as unsubstantiated by evidence, belief that, unlike any other institution in the modern world, the UN is uniquely democratic, uniquely independent, and uniquely able to "appoint" from among its stable of supporters cadres of exemplary "above-all-mere-politics" "
JH: "I do not share that belief. However, I do believe that honest debate between the multiplicity of nations involved should, in theory, give a better solution for long-term world peace than the dictates of an isolationist superpower. In this case, the UN's weakness is its strength. Further, in choosing officials to do its bidding, the UN has a far broader palette from which to choose than the restricted set of people to whom a US Administration owes political and other debts".
TB: "May I assume that, before reaching this conclusion, those who are prepared to place their "full faith and allegiance" in the UN have successfully and rightly prejudged the results of the UN's own new investigation into allegedly massive corruption and collusion between and among its own "appointed" bureaucrats and third parties related to the multi-billion dollar Iraqi oil for food sale process".
JH: "No, your assumption is wrong. The UN is as liable to have wrongdoers amongst its ranks as any other large institution, such as the US Administration and the EU in Brussels. The US State Department is apparently concerned about the "accounting practices of the INC" and certain US corporations close to the Bush Administration, have been accused on inflating their Iraq invoices (one case proven so far) and are alleged to have been awarded lucrative contracts without undergoing stringent tendering processes. This is perhaps aided by the regular flow of personnel between jobs in industry and administrative government".
TB: "The only time the UN has been involved in Iraq in an even less demanding role that the one Mr. Heelan proposes, far from promoting "genuine democracy" it aided and abetted the totalitarian and extremely bloody dictatorship of Saddam Hussein",
JH: "As did the United States while using him as a tool against Iran and continues to do so with the dictators of the various ex-USSR "-stans" for US geopolitical energy and strategic military reasons".
TB: " Can anyone can give me an honest and fair example when the UN did what Mr. Heelan wants it to do in a country like Iraq?"
JH: "For once I agree with Tim. The world's nations would have to give clear support (people and funds) so that the UN could have to prove that it is capable of doing the job. However, I suggest that providing such political and people support (perhaps not even the funds) are part of the US long-term strategy. The US cannot afford to create another powerful kid on the block, capable of challenging its superiority world-wide. Further, one possible explanation for the US long-term strategy to control the Middle East (albeit implicitly via satraps) is to deny access to the necessary oil reserves to other potential, future superpowers, such as China and the European Union".
TB: "Are we just to hand the keys to the shop to the UN?"
JH: "Who says that the US owns "the shop" in the Middle East? Other than the US itself, of course".

RH: I suggest that Tim and John take a siesta during the heat of discourse.

Spanish troops leave Iraq

General Sullivan says: "This came from Baghdad. It is one Spanish officer's opinion: "Dear colleagues, it's the time for the Spanish team to say farewell. On behalf of Brigadier General Andreu and the other Spanish Officers who cannot be here, it is an honor to say a few words to you. Since the beginning, all of us, military and civilian experts, have had the chance to enjoy the work in different areas and ministries of the CPA. During all this time we could feel that we were part of this great family, so thanks a lot for your kindness. We have lived intense times with you, some of them happy and others sad, but in all of them we have felt the warmth of your support and friendship, specially in the hardest times when our fighters were killed defending what all of us believe in. We have been working here hand to hand with you, providing security, supporting the reconstruction and giving humanitarian aid in Iraq. The goal was and is to raise a new Iraq, providing it with a new environment of peace, progress and freedom. The new political situation in Spain led to the decision for us to return home. Of course we are soldiers and we will accomplish the order with discipline and elegance. Discipline that has the highest value when you have to do things your heart doesn't want to do. We'll go back to Spain in few days, but our soul will be with you. We are sure you'll have success in your mission, and we wish the best to all of you. !! VIVA ESPAÑA !! Maj. Enrique Tovar, Spanish Team"

RH: I have edited the text, which was a literal translation of a speech given in Spanish. Probably a major was delegated to give the address, since it would have created a problem if General Andreu had said something which might have seemed to be a criticism of the Spanish government. It is likely that the soldiers resent being made to look like quitters, leaving others to complete the job.


Ronald Hilton -