The spin-doctors are working furiously to present the newly released Volcker Report as a “vindication” for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The majority of headlines reporting this second part of the three-part Volcker Report reflect those like that of the Boston Globe, “Report Clears U.N. Chief of Corruption Allegations.” Or that of the Indianapolis Star, “Annan Cleared in Iraq Inquiry.”
Amazingly, Kofi Annan seems to have convinced himself that the media headlines are true. When asked by a reporter after the release of the Volcker Report if he would resign, he snorted with all the audacity of an offended innocent, “Hell, no!”
“As I had always hoped and firmly believed, the inquiry has cleared me of any wrongdoing,” he declared. To paraphrase former president Bill Clinton, it all depends on how one defines “wrongdoing.”
The report clearly castigates the “Oil-for-Food” program invented and personally overseen by Kofi Annan. While Annan notes that the report did not find “reasonably sufficient” evidence of criminal conduct by the secretary general personally, being unable to find “reasonably sufficient” evidence is not the same as finding no evidence at all. And only that would qualify as a “vindication.” The Volcker Report was about as personally vindicating as was O.J. Simpson’s “not guilty” verdict. Less, actually.
And it has just been revealed by “Fox News” that Kofi Anan’s personal assistant shredded numerous “Oil-for-Food” program documents from Anan’s office. Anan’s personal assistant ordered this done on April 22, 2004. This was the time when the Volcker investigation began and ordered all documents related to the “Oil-for-Food” program to be preserved.
Cotecna executives left no doubt that Kojo Annan was hired at the tender age of 22 because “of his perceived business connections and standing.” His father knew about the job, but was kept in the dark or misled about his son’s activities, including his subsequent intentions to do business with Iraq, according to the Volcker Report.
While the elder Annan denies his connections had anything to do with Cotecna getting the $10 million “Oil-for-Food” contract, Cotecna sent Kojo to U.N. headquarters in New York to lobby for them. And Cotecna undeniably was successful in landing it. Kojo, fresh out of school and hired as a six-month probationary trainee, was so successful that when he quit, Cotecna continued to pay him – as much as $400,000 for doing nothing. It is difficult to see this as a vindication of either the senior Annan’s honor or his administration.
Annan used the “Oil-for-Food” program as his personal piggy bank, going so far as to pay co-conspirator Benon Sevan’s legal fees out of the Iraqi funds. Far from it being a vindication, consider this. Had Kofi Annan run the “Oil-for-Food” program as designed, while maintaining the sanctions, and used the money only for food and medicine and other relief for Iraqis under strict U.N. supervision, Saddam would have gone broke.
His army and security apparatus would have suffered, and it is likely he would have been far less belligerent when confronted by the U.S. administration. Saddam may even have backed down altogether without the need for war. Tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in damages might have been saved.
We’ll never know the whole story. The most generous thing that could be said about Annan’s handling of the “Oil-for-Food” program was that it was hopelessly bungled from the start. The most accurate thing that could be said is that it was corrupt to the core. And it is only slightly speculative to say that Annan’s administration is more directly responsible for the 2003 Gulf War than is the Bush administration.
“Vindication”? Only if it means something different in another language than it does in English.