The General Assembly of the United Nations gave Kofi Annan a standing ovation on December 8, 2004. Only the US delegation remained still during the thunder of the long applause. Diplomats from 190 delegations displayed their support for the Secretary General who had been subjected to a slanderous media campaign demanding his resignation.

It all began on January 25 when the Iraqi daily Al Mada affirmed that Saddam Hussein had misappropriated money from the "Oil for Food" programme in order to buy off 270 personalities across the world, in order to obtain their support on the international stage, and in order to attempt to obtain the materials necessary for the construction of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Those who opposed the war were no more than "clients" of the tyrant of Baghdad. We have demonstrated the absurdity of these allegations in these pages [1]. Our investigation was largely taken up by the international press [2].

A month later, the neo-conservative journalist Claudia Rosett, writing in the Wall Street Journal, accused Kofi Annan of complicity [3]. The Secretary General of the UN supposedly allowed Saddam Hussein to make off with considerable amounts from the "Oil for Food" programme, and it was this money that was given to the individuals identified by Al Mada. Mrs Rosett is, by the way, paid by Richard Perle’s Hudson Institute (while Perle was the chairman of the Pentagon Defence Commission) and by James Woolsey’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Woolsey is a former director of the CIA.

On February 29, the New York Times published a long investigation, based upon documents furnished by the Provisional Authority of the Coalition and the Treasury Department, and corroborated by witnesses that attested to the misappropriation of funds [4]. On March 3, Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a friend of Ahmed Chalabi and consultant for the Council of the Iraqi government, the body that had been cited as the likely informant for Al Mada, ordered an audit from KPMG International. A week later, audit leaks, published by Claudia Rosett in the National Review, revealed that Kojo Annan, the Secretary General’s son, received a salary from Cotecna, a company in the "Oil for Food" programme [5]. Kofi Annan was therefore not only an incompetent bureaucrat, he was himself corrupt.

On March 18, the US House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations got involved [6]. Confronted with this campaign, Mr. Annan ordered an internal investigation. He did so with serentity because the programme was not under his jurisdiction, but was under the authority of the Security Council and a Sanctions Committee named by the former.

The affair came back into the headlines on April 7 with the hearings organized by Richard G. Lugar before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations [7]. The honourable Senator accused the UN of having, through either negligence or corruption, increased the suffering of the Iraqi people, of having financed arms purchases by Iraq, and finally, of having increased US losses during the "liberation" of Iraq. The director of the General Accounting Office (GAO) deposited a report that established that, from 1997 to 2002, Iraq had received 5.7 billion dollars in illegal oil sales and 4.4 billion dollars in overbilling, for a total of 10.1 billion dollars [8]. The GAO claimed to have obtained this information its study of contracts transmitted to the Provisional Authority of the Coalition (represented at the hearings). The report gave no precise indication on the modalities of this misappropriation nor on the use that was made of this money.

Claudia Rosett

On April 16, Commentary, the magazine of the American Jewish Committee, published a long study by Claudia Rosett presenting the neo-conservative version of the affair [9]. In spite of the obvious errors in its analysis, this work became the neo-conservative reference. It was not the object of discussions but rather an object of developments.

The same day, Kofi Annan made public the composition of the independent inquiry commission. It was chaired by a former boss of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volker. Then, on April 21, the US House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations organized new hearing, not so much to throw light on the events but rather to confuse things by trying to prove that foreign leaders who opposed the invasion had been bought off by Saddam Hussein [10]. Other than US officials (such as ambassador John Negroponte), the Congressmen heard from the inevitable Claudia Rosett, as well as Dr. Raphaeli from MEMRI (a propaganda outlet created by officers of Tsahal and which had distributed the articles published by Al Mada), Nile Gariner of the Heritage Foundation, and Dr. Edward C. Luck of Columbia University’s Center for the Study of International Organisations [11].

It so happens that some of the Iraqi documents cited during the hearings had been published by the Daily Telegraph of London, owned by Hollinger Group on whose Board we find Richard Perle (employer of Claudia Rosett at the Hudson Institute). They asserted that the Labour MP George Galloway, leader of the anti-war movement, had been bought off by Saddam Hussein for at least 375,000 pounds sterling. Other documents from the same source had been published in the Christian Science Monitor, also throwing suspicion on George Galloway who was immediately suspended from the Labour Party. He claimed he was innocent and that there was a plot to get him [12].

On July 8, 2004, it was the US House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality that opened new hearings, once more with Claudia Rosett [13]. The GAO used the occasion to depose another report [14]. The affair was back in the news on September 30 with the publication by the CIA of Charles Duelfer’s report on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction [15]. There we learned that if the weapons didn’t exist, they could have existed because Saddam Hussein tried to procure them with money taken from the "Oil for Food" programme. The cherry on the cake was the CIA’s confirmation and completion of the list originally published in Al Mada. The vice was closing.

On November 17 the US House International Relations Committee narrowed in on the target. It heard representatives from BNPParibas [16]. In fact, according to Ms. Rosett, the French bank managed the programme [17]. Then, the dossier was sent to the US House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations to be finalized [18].

During this time, the organization Move America Forward broadcast ads on US television networks calling for the UN to be kicked out of the country [19]. December 1, Senator Norm Coleman came right out and said it: in the Wall Street Journal, he called upon Kofi Annan to resign [20]. According to Coleman, even if the Secretary General is innocent of the suspicions, he should resign during the investigation. Fox News joined in on the campaign. On the air, Bill O’Reilly spoke of a "criminal enterprise" that brought in 20 billion dollars to Saddam Hussein (the double of the amount evaluated by the GAO) [21]. Heritage Foundation analyst Nile Gardiner pushed it up to 21 billion [22]. President Bush declared he was «troubled». Other members of Congress added their support to Coleman’s appeal. Others wrote up a proposed law making US payment of funds to the UN conditional on a clarification of the scandal. The New York City Senate opposed a project for an extension to the UN buildings, this now unwelcome guest.

However, this entire campaign is slanderous. The "Oil for Food" programme was supervised by the Security Council. No operation could have taken place without the knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons. The commissions versed out were done with the backing of the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries themselves designated the beneficiaries which shows that at least a part of the operations were legal. The system didn’t pass uniquely through a single French bank, the BNP, but half of the funds went through the Chase Manhattan Bank. If the integrity of one high-level bureaucrat in the UN, the Chyprian Benon Sevan, is perhaps in doubt, that of Mr. Annan is not. The sums paid to his son were part of a non-competition clause signed when he left the company.

Some of the documents cited are fakes, as the High Court of London admitted when it convicted the Christian Science Monitor and the Daily Telegraph for their accusations against George Galloway. However, it took over a year for the MP to see justice done, and the Anglo-Saxons don’t wish to give this time to Mr. Annan. The campaign has several objectives.

In the first place, to rewrite history. The "Oil for Food" programme was forcibly obtained from the Anglo-Saxons, who didn’t want to lift the embargo, by the international community in order to stave off famine. It was largely insufficient. Maintaining the embargo cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Secondly, to justify the invasion of Iraq a posteriori. Sure, there were no weapons of mass destruction, but Saddam Hussein wanted to buy them by embezzling the money targeted for feeding his people. However, this money wasn’t spent on arms but on goods of primary necessity.

Thirdly, the opportunity was too good to pass up to get rid of a Secretary General who had been elected with the support of Washington and who nonetheless declared the invasion of Iraq "illegal". After having tapped his phones [23] and having vainly attempted to catch him in a scandal, the scandal had to be manufactured. To eliminate Kofi Annan is to put into question the UN itself. It is to affirm that the law of the strongest predominates over international law.

The international community was not fooled by this mystification. States, intergovernmental organizations, and personalities all supported Kofi Annan, leading to the standing ovation at the General Assembly. Immediately, the White House retreated. Ambassador Danforth assured the press that Washington never intended to put pressure on Mr. Annan.

Translated by Signs of the Times

[1« L’Intox des barils irakiens », Voltaire, 30 January 2004.

[2See for example the article by Abdulmajid Attar, former CEO of Sonatrach, published in
Dar Al-Hayat and summarised in Voltaire, 6 February 2004 : « Offrir des barils de
pétrole secrètement ? ! ».

[3« The Real World : Fishy Accounting Over Iraq » by Claudia Rosett, The Wall Street
Journal, 25 February 2004.

[4« Hussein’s Regime Skimmed Billions From Aid Program » under the direction of Susan
Sachs, The New York Times, 29 February 2004.

[5« Kojo and Kofi » by Claudia Rosett, National Review Online, 10 March 2004.

[6The Hunt for Saddam’s Money : U.S. and Foreign Efforts to Recover Iraq’s Stolen Money, US House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, 18 March 2004.

[7A review of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program, US Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations, 7 April 2004.

[8Observations on the Oil for Food Program, Statement of Joseph A. Christoff, Director,
International Affairs and Trade, GAO n° 04-651T, 7 April 2004.

[9« The Oil-for-Food Scam : What Did Kofi Annan Know, and When Did He Know It ? » by Claudia Rosett, Commentary, 16 April 2004.

[10« L’intox des barils, suite et fin ? », Voltaire, 19 April 2004.

[11The Iraq Oil-For-Food program : Straving for Accountability, US House Government
Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, 21 April 2004.

[12« Qui veut la peau de George Galloway ?, Voltaire, 17 July 2003.

[13United Nations Oil For Food Program, US House Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, 8 July 2004.

[14Observations on the Oil for Food Program and areas for Further Investigations, Statement of Joseph A. Christoff, Director International Affairs and Trade, GAO, 8 July

[15Comprehensive Report of the Special Adviser to the Director of the Central
Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, CIA, 30 September 2004.

[16The Oil For Food Program : Tracking the Funds, US House International Relations
Committee, 17 November 2004.

[17« La campagne anti-française de la Chambre des représentants », Voltaire, 18 November 2004.

[18The U.N. Oil for Food Program : Cash Cow Meets Paper Tiger, US House Government
Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, 5 October 2004.

[19«Qui veut bouter l’ONU hors des États-Unis ?», Voltaire, 23 November 2004.

[20« Kofi Annan Must Go » by Norm Coleman, The Wall Street Journal, 1 December 2004. Article summarised in Voltaire 2 December 2004.

[21« The O’Reilly Factor » Fox News, 6 December 2004.

[22« Kofi Annan Must Go » by Nile Gardiner, Human Events, 10 December 2004.

[23« Washington et Londres placent l’ONU sur écoutes », Voltaire, 4 March 2003.