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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"I AM NOT NOW, NOR HAVE I EVER BEEN, AN OIL TRADER!"
George Galloway Kicks Senate Butt

Coleman_before_after_1This week's developments in the so-called Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal  ("OFF") have turned out to be nothing less than a fiasco for the US Senate's Permanent Investigations Subcommittee and its feckless freshman Republican Chairman, Minnesota's Norm Coleman.

2410geob
In the first place, a newly-released minority staff report by Democrats on the Subcommittee shows that Bayoil USA, a Houston-based oil trading company headed by David B. Chalmers, Jr., now under indictment,  was by far the most important single conduit for the illegal surcharges pocketed by Saddam Hussein under the program. 

The report showed that more than half of Iraq's oil sales that generated surcharges for Saddam were made to US buyers during the period September 2000 to September 2002, most of them right under the nose of the Bush Administration and the US Treasury's rather lackadaisical Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Other US companies that have reportedly received subpoenas in the on-going surcharges investigation include ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and Houston's El Paso Corp, as well as prominent Texas oilman Oscar S. Wyatt Jr., who was also deeply involved in supporting and profiting from oil-for-food. Wya_wyatt_136x155_1

Next,  British MP George Galloway, appearing voluntarily before the Subcommittee, deliverered a feisty denial of allegations that he had personally profited from the oil allocations, as well as a withering assault on the last twenty years of US policies toward Iraq.

Meeting little resistance from the badly-outgunned Senators, Galloway made the points that

  • He met with Saddam no more times than Donald Rumsfeld, who had met with Saddam  to sell arms and provide maps, while Galloway met him to seek peace and encourage arms inspections;

  • He had actually opposed Saddam's policies way back in 1990, while the first Bush Adminstration was still making loans and selling arms to Saddam; 
  • He had always opposed the oil-for-food program as a poor substitute for lifting sanctions, which unfairly punished all Iraqis for the sins of its dicator -- especially its children, up to 1 million of whom may have died because of increased infant mortality;
  • The Subcommittee's investigation was a "smokescreen" that distracted attention from far more serious issues -- such as the disappearance of more than $8.8 billion of Iraqi national funds during the first year after the US invasion. 

The combative Scot's  hard-hitting testimony makes compelling viewing.

Meanwhile, we recall that back in June 2003, J. Bryan Williams III -- ExxonMobil's former head of global crude procurements, and the US'  hand-picked UN overseer on the Iraq Sanctions Committee, in charge of making sure that Saddam did not obtain any illicit income from the oil-for-food program -- pled guilty to evading taxes on $7 million,  including a $2 million kickback to help Mobil win business in Kazakhstan's oil dictatorship.

So there is at least some good news here, Senators --  if you want to find big-time corruption in the international oil trade, you don't have to go looking for it in London, Moscow, or Paris.

Jspades_1These developments also help to put Senator Coleman's continual "head-hunting" of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in perspective. While there's no evidence that Kofi profited personally from OFF,  his minions were probably not squeeky-clean.  But the enormous profits earned by Saddam's "fellow travelers" in Houston make them seem like pikers.   

Furthermore, while Kofi is certainly not much of an effective manager,  we now know from the Bolton hearings that administrative skill doesn't count for very much with the Bush Administration.060504

Indeed, it appears that Annan's key fault is that he had the temerity to oppose the Iraq invasion, and even to label the War "illegal" -- once the invasion had already occurred.  With Paul Volcker's final report on the oil-for-food scandal due out soon, and US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (!) likely to arrive as soon as he clears the Senate and adjusts his meds, the outlook for the summer is definitely for more fireworks.

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May 18, 2005 at 01:54 PM | Permalink

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George Galloway Kicks Senate Butt
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Comments

Sanctions-busting by Iraq was well-known to anybody who cared to pick up a newspaper in the 90s. In the oil industry, it was a significant part of supply and yielded vastly more to the Saddam regime than any oil-for-food scams. If this was known to outsiders, it was certainly known in Washington; known, understood and accepted.
The sudden interest in the UN's wickedness does, as you say, reflect the Administration's wish to get rid of Kofi Annan. Anybody with a capacity for independent thinking will be in the same position - a view most eloquently expressed in your clip of John Bolton, in which he explains that the UN is to be tolerated to the extent, and only to the extent, that it directly serves US interests.
What makes the righteous huffing and puffing over Annan peculiarly repulsive is its hypocrisy, the blatancy and the blindness to far worse problems at home. Darleen Druyun diverted more than twice as many of the US tax-payers' dollars than the oil-for-food scam into Boeing's coffers but I've not heard a peep about Rumsfeld's position. Halliburton's depredations haven't loosened Cheney's grip on power. President Bush's widely-praised support of freedom for selected ex-Soviet states seem to stop at the Uzbekistan border... and so on and wearily on.
The rest of the world would take the US claims of good intentions more seriously if it were not for a consistent record, over more than half a century, of support for any oppressive regime that serves US purposes. What has changed that we should change our cynical view of American actions?

Joe Roeber

Posted by: Joe Roeber at May 19, 2005 4:25:36 AM

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