The new year promises a rich manure of hypocrisy and bad faith. Take the current tumult about the UN high command and the oil-for-food imbroglio, which right-wing columnists are gnawing on with relish. There are no good guys here, just vistas of corruption and bad faith stretching into the distance.
Certainly, weep not for Kofi Annan, whose ductility toward the imperatives of Empire was comically revealed in the very same press conference where a pertinacious journalist extorted from the reluctant Secretary General the grudging admission that the war on Iraq was illegal. Later on, Annan offhandedly invoked “our allies,” a term that should be alien to the lips of any UN Secretary General, but that accurately reflects political realities.
The private dealings of the Annan family may well be fragrant with corruption. But it’s hard to get too excited about alleged skims off the oil-for-food deals against so vivid a backdrop as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, many of them infants, being starved to death or dying for lack of suitable medicines under the UN sanctions commanded by the United States.
On one calculation by Jude Wanniski, if sanctions had been lifted in 1991 Iraq would have collected $126 billion in oil revenues in the fourteen years thereafter, thus paying off its international debts and feeding its population. PR-wise for the United States, the sanctions were dire enough in terms of killing defenseless Iraqis that oil-for-food was installed in 1996, benefiting, among others, the Kurds, who have fine representation in Washington and who were to get a big slice of the oil revenues.
From his side, Saddam was able to organize oil-revenue kickbacks to the Iraqi government from some customers which weren’t filched by the program’s supervisors in New York. So what? Any capable leader in the same situation would have done likewise. But of course the neocon lobby here, through such willing conduits as Senator Norm Coleman, the New York Sun and that diva of drivel from the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page, Claudia Rosett, have hyped the oil-for-food “scandal” as a way of somersaulting the war lobby past the great disaster of 2004, the nondiscovery of WMDs.
The second rule of propaganda is that when the first Big Lie explodes, immediately make up another one. Vigilant students of last October’s report from the Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, on the nonexistence of WMDs noted that Duelfer tried to shift attention from the embarrassment of nonapparent WMDs by suggesting that they were not only eternally immanent but also imminent as long as Saddam Hussein led Iraq, because he might well have used revenues from the oil-for-food program to ramp up his old WMD programs. Of course, the Bush Administration pounced on this morsel, and the neocon press has been chewing on it ever since.