United Press International recently reported the discovery of documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry that show the Iraqi dictator "used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq."
And according to ABC News, allies of Saddam Hussein profited by pocketing the difference between the price of oil under the U.N.'s "Oil for Food" program and the price of oil on the open market. Some of these allies included "a close political associate and financial backer of French President Jacques Chirac", "Russian political figures" including "the Russian ambassador to Baghdad" and "officials in the office of President Vladimir Putin", "George Galloway, a British member of Parliament", and even some--gasp!--"prominent journalists".
Because the U.N. allowed Saddam Hussein to decide who received contracts under the "Oil for Food" program, he was able to use it as a personal slush fund to pay off his defenders. France and Russia were two of the most stubborn supporters of the Hussein regime, and their friendship was rewarded well: Russian interests got the biggest cut of the loot, while the French came in second. British politician George Galloway, who likes to refer to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice as "the three witches", personally pulled in nearly $10 million while defending Saddam.
In all, some 270 companies, organizations and individuals in 50 countries profited through the arbitrage of Saddam Hussein's oil, the price of which was fixed below market by the United Nations.
Crickets and a Faint Cough
Sounds pretty scandalous, right? Kind of makes you wonder why you're not hearing a little more about it...
Meanwhile, scarcely a day passes without news coverage of our apparent intelligence failures in locating Iraqi weapons. Certainly, we must investigate why we haven't found anything yet, because we desperately need to plug the holes in our intelligence network before a foe like al Qaeda gets its hands on some devastating weapon. We'd damn well better fix our intelligence apparatus before a suitcase nuke is set off in Times Square.
But it isn't exactly news that our intelligence is sorely lacking. If I recall correctly, a certain event in the fall of 2001 demonstrated quite vividly the inadequacies of our intelligence systems.
It is news, however, when our so-called allies are caught stabbing us in the back while patting Saddam Hussein on his. But instead, the nightly newscasts prefer to focus on President Bush's service in the National Guard, something that's been investigated thoroughly in two previous election cycles even though nobody has produced one credible shred of evidence showing that the president failed to serve any of his obligations. You'd think Peter, Tom or Dan could take just one night off that non-story to investigate why our former allies sold us out. At least then we'd be hearing something new on the news.
In Business with Saddam Since long before the start of the war, there was plenty of evidence that Saddam Hussein had many beneficiaries in France, Russia and Germany, the three countries that fought hardest to prevent his removal. Our networks just chose not to cover it:
* Not only did the French help the Iraqi nuclear program as recently as 1990, they actively undermined the U.N. weapons inspection team, and they even kept the Hussein regime informed of discussions between Jacques Chirac and President Bush. And last October, when 40 rockets were fired at an American government office in Baghdad, it appeared that at least half of them were made by France after the U.N. weapons embargo went into effect in the wake of the first Gulf War. In other words, someone was sneaking French weapons to Saddam Hussein after the U.N. declared it illegal. Who would have done that? Could it have been the French?
* In January 2003, two German businessmen were convicted of supplying weapons-making equipment to Saddam Hussein in violation of the U.N. embargo. Apparently, this was just the tip of the iceberg: according to an Iraqi weapons report to the U.N., over 80 German companies were involved in supplying Saddam's military, some of which were still doing so just months before the war. "Of further embarrassment to Germany is that [...] German companies make up more than half of the total number of institutions listed in the [Iraqi weapons] report," the BBC noted.
* Not surprisingly, Russian military hardware also found its way into Saddam's hands despite the U.N. ban. Days after the war started last March, President Bush called Russian leader Vladimir Putin to voice concern over evidence that recently-made Russian military equipment was being used against U.S. forces. If true, it wouldn't be the first time that Russia violated the arms embargo. According to a 1998 article in The Washington Post, "[an] investigation by Russian and American nonproliferation specialists" showed that "top missile experts from Iraq went on a shopping trip to Russia in late 1994 and signed documents to acquire missile engines, technology and services despite the U.N. sanctions against Iraq [...]"
They Were Called Weasels for a Reason
Did Iraqi oil money pay for Russia's opposition to the U.S.? Is it possible that German businesses lobbied their government to go easy on Saddam? Could it be that Saddam's payoffs ensured the French would never have supported taking him out, no matter what the circumstances?
If so, then it's quite a flimsy argument to say that "inept diplomacy" on the part of the Bush Administration is the reason these governments didn't help us rid the world of one of the most brutal men in human history. Yet the Democratic opposition continues to criticize President Bush for not convincing Saddam Hussein's trading partners to get off the gravy train. If a President Kerry would have been any more successful at corralling the weasels, I'd like to know how. Bigger bribes? His wife doesn't have that much money.
Face it: sometimes the interests of other nations are quite different from ours, no matter how much diplomatic hand-shaking and ego-stroking is applied as a lubricant. That's why it's so dangerous to follow politicians who think we should let the rest of the world veto our foreign policy decisions.
The United Nations will not defend you. Nor will the Russians, French or Germans. Only the United States will, and only if we continue to control our own destiny. When you pull the lever next November, keep that in mind.