REVEALING READING

From Investor’s Business Daily Oct. 2004
Forward by BGen Bob Clements, USAF (Ret)

Scandal: A great debate has raged over why so many of the world's major countries suddenly went all weak in the knees when the U.S. went after Saddam Hussein. A new CIA report makes the reason clear, and it isn't pretty.

The report by Charles Duelfer, chief weapons inspector of the Iraq Survey Group, sketches out in plain language what could be the biggest bribery scandal of the last century - one that reaches into the highest political circles. It makes for shocking reading.

It shows how Saddam evaded U.N. sanctions from 1997 to 2003 by illicitly selling oil through other countries and bribing world leaders, up-and-coming politicians, journalists, businesses, even the U.N. itself. In the process he cleared $11 billion in illegal profits.

The report names names. Anyone who could help him regain weapons of mass destruction was a target. He settled on Russia, France and China - three of the five U.N. Security Council members that, with the stroke of a veto pen, could stop the U.N. from going to war or end economic sanctions against his country.

Even more stunning than the fact of the bribery is its scope and depth. The list of those who helped Saddam cheat and got paid for it is long and depressing. It includes Charles Pasqua, France's former interior minister; Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia; and Benon Sevan, former head of the U.N.'s Iraq sanctions program. Also named are a large number of Russian government officials and fixers and the governments of Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and China.

And that's just a few. The list is hundreds of names long.

Saddam's strategy was simple: keep the U.S. off his back. American and British planes were buzzing over Iraq's “no-fly” zones since the 1991 end of the Gulf War, and Saddam was forced to suspend his WMD program due to U.N. inspections.

To get his way, Saddam gave, in the words of the report, “preferential treatment to Russian and French companies hoping for Russian and French support on the UN Security Council.” That is, he bribed them. He wanted U.N. sanctions ended so he could go back to making chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

France proved to be an easy target. So was Russia. In the case of France, Iraqi intelligence “targeted a number of French individuals that Iraq thought had a close relationship to French President Chirac,” the Duelfer report said. Iraq even toyed with the idea of supporting a candidate in the French elections - though there's no evidence Iraq gave Chirac money directly.

Still, a member of the French Parliament, according to a memo sent to Saddam in May 2002, “assured Iraq that France would use its veto in the U.N. Security Council against any American decision to attack Iraq.” That is, once bribed, France would stay bribed.

All in all, a scandal of epic proportions. But what can be made of it? Well, a number of things:

For one, it's a devastating blow to John Kerry's much-ballyhooed “plan” to end the war in Iraq by holding an international conference of nations - including France, Russia and China - to decide Iraq's future. Given what we know of those nations' complicity with Saddam's murderous regime, that's no longer an option.

Also shattered is Kerry's assertion that patient diplomacy might have disarmed Iraq and brought Saddam to heel. French, Russian and Chinese efforts to Subvert U.S. actions against Iraq show they would have opposed us no matter what. They were merely providing the service they were paid for.

Then there's Kerry's assertion that future action in Iraq must pass a “global test.” That, too, now seems ridiculous.

Iraq's cheating on sanctions corrupted a major world forum - the U.N. - along with many of its most influential members. Put bluntly, the U.N. can't be trusted. Nor can France, Russia or China. Despite pretenses, none of them can be counted as a U.S. ally.

Too bad. In coming months, tough decisions will have to be made in Iraq - how much force to use, how to hold elections, how to rebuild. We'll have to make them with our existing coalition. It should have been a broader effort of many nations - one that potentially led to the blossoming of democracy across the Mideast.

Instead, a massive bribery scandal has revealed the rank cynicism and open dishonesty of many nations we used to trust.

We commend the Duelfer report to your attention. It shows clearly we were right to get rid of Saddam. Perhaps more important, it shows just as clearly whom we can still call friends.