by Jerry Gordon (Feb. 2009)
Claudia Rossett, intrepid foreign correspondent and investigative journalist, spoke to a Tiger Bay Club audience in Pensacola, Florida in mid-January. She discussed the corruption of the United Nations and its dominance by dictatorships and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The U.N., according to her, embodies the dictum of Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Rossett’s talk demonstrated the U.N. fulfillment of the worst aspects of international corruption.
Rossett received acclaim for her stunning revelations in the pages of the Wall Street Journal about the U.N. Oil for food scandal, one of the largest financial frauds in recent history. Her revelations led to a series of Congressional hearings about UN corruption and two awards: the 2005 Eric Breindel and the Mightier Pen awards.
Asked during the Q+A period what one should do about the UN headquarters on the east side of Manhattan, Rossett suggested that perhaps moving it to Novosibirsk or the Canadian far north might be a useful first step. She noted that the UN was going through a $2 billion renovation of the New York complex, with the implication that the U.S. would be picking up a significant portion of the cost.
Rossett’s career as a foreign correspondent and editor reporting from the former Soviet Union, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America has given her wide ranging exposure and knowledge about the nefarious corruption of the U.N. in its many guises. Ms. Rossett was Wall Street Journal Moscow Bureau chief from 1993 to 1996 and on the publications editorial board from 1997 to 2002. She is a graduate of Yale (B.A. 1976), Columbia (M.A. 1979) and the University of Chicago Graduate Business School (M.B.A 1981). She is currently Journalist in Residence and director at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracy’s Investigative Reporting Project and she writes a weekly column for Forbes.com. Rossett has published widely. Publications in which her articles have appeared include the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Commentary, The New Republic, the Weekly Standard, and Forbes. She also blogs at Pajamas Media-The Rossett Report.
In her Pensacola presentation, Rossett discussed the structure of the UN, the Iraqi Oil for Food scandal, the UN Development Program and “Cash for Kim Jong Il,” the UNRWA program for Palestinian Refugees, the ‘new’ UN Human Rights Commission, and the necessity of taking military action against Iran’s nuclear project aimed at destroying Israel.
Before her presentation, I approached Ms. Rossett to personally thank her for another investigative piece that revealed the extent of Muslim penetration in the Pentagon: the case of Heshem Islam, former Muslim Outreach aide to Bush Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Gordon England. The issue involved reserve Army Major Stephen Coughlin, the lone Pentagon expert on Islamic War Doctrine, who was accused by Islam of being a ‘Christian zealot with a pen” leading to pressures to oust Coughlin from his Joint Staff assignment. Rossett obtained Islam’s official bio from a Pentagon website, vetted it and found that it was “embroidered” raising questions of why Islam should be retained in his post. Islam stayed till the end of the Bush second term and left with his boss, Undersecretary England. Coughlin received a new assignment and was able to continue his valuable work briefing U.S. commanders on the Islamic War Doctrine threat. Rossett’s investigation in this matter may have contributed to Coughlin being retained by the Pentagon.
Why the U.N. Structure abets Corruption.
Rossett started her talk by laying out the structure of the U.N. and its dominance by dictatorships and the 57 member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Her basic thesis is that the structure of the U.N. has “no transparency or accountability and operates with virtual diplomatic immunity.” At the top of the U.N. structure is the Secretariat General. The Secretariat constitutes the world bureaucracy of the U.N. with over 8,900 staff and principle offices including those in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut, Geneva, Nairobi, Santiago and Vienna. It carries out decisions of the UN Security Council, General Assembly and UN Economic and Social Council (UNESCO). It has a current budget of $2 billion for mandated operations. The U.S. finances more than 22 percent of the UN operating budget covering over 170 countries. The current head of the Secretariat is Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon former South Korean Foreign Minister who took office in 2007. The tenure of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, from 1997 to 2007 was blemished with calls for his resignation after the revelations of the Iraqi Oil for Food scandal uncovered by Rossett. Annan’s son Kojo “admitted he was involved in negotiations to sell millions of barrels of Iraqi oil under the auspices of Saddam Hussein." There were calls in the U.S. for Annan’s resignation as Secretary General resulting from the Iraqi Oil for Food program investigations. There are now 192 member states in the UN General Assembly. Rossett drew our attention to the G-77 group comprised of 120 “mostly un-free dictatorships.” Prominent among the G-77 is the 57 member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC has been in the forefront of promoting UN resolutions against so-called Islamophobia and Israel. OIC members have been involved in resolutions adopted at the ‘reformed’ UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva pushing its position to criminalize alleged defamation of Islam. This is a thinly disguised attempt to throttle freedom of speech in the West. We saw that reflected in so-called Human Rights investigations in Canada prompted by Muslim advocacy groups against journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant. Another example is Dutch parliamentarian and Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders, who was recently found by an Amsterdam appeals court to be in criminal violation of Dutch Law for ‘insulting’ Islam with his film “Fitna.” The Security Council consists of 15 members, with five being permanent: the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China. Each has veto power over adoption of U.N. resolutions. The current ten non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council include: Austria, Japan, Burkina Faso, Libya Arab Jamahinya, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Mexico, Croatia and Turkey. The non-permanent members serve for two year terms and cannot be re-elected by the General Assembly. Votes of the Security Council are binding on Member States. Veto power of the Security Council arises from the so-called “rule of great Power unanimity,” that all decisions require nine votes of the members, but unanimity of the five permanent members. This has frequently led to stasis in resolving international disputes.
According to Rossett, “there is little or no interest in defending democracy at the U.N.”
The U.N. Iraqi Oil for Food scandal
The Iraqi Food for Oil program had its origins in the wake of the inconclusive First Gulf War that left Saddam Hussein in power. Economic sanctions were voted in 1990 against Iraq as punishment for the Kuwaiti invasion that triggered the conflict; however, pressures mounted to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq’s beleaguered people. The solution was the Oil for Food Program administered by the U.N. Secretary General. Over seven years, between 1996 and 2003, the U.N. supervised more than $64 billion in transactions under the Oil for Food program. Of that, Saddam Hussein personally skimmed off between $11 to 17 billion. The Oil for Food program became a feeding trough that minted billions for Saddam to curry favor with Russia, China and France and acquire the materials for his Weapons of Mass Destruction development programs. Saddam also employed bribery by selling oil at below market prices. The U.N. administrators were in on the fraud. There was no real transparency and accounting. U.N. officials had the shield of diplomatic immunity. Further, when the scandal reached up to Secretary General Kofi Anan, involving his son Kojo, there was no mechanism in place to remove him from office.
Rossett noted that Iraq’s position as Number Two in world oil reserves fueled the scandal. The Oil for Food program began in 1996 under U.N. supervision to sell Iraqi oil and purchase humanitarian aid in the form of medicines and food. The reality, she noted, was that it left it up to Saddam Hussein to partner with third party countries to supply the humanitarian aid. Rossett estimated that over $110 billion was ‘grafted’ with partners that included Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Lebanon, Libya, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. They supplied such items as baby food, milk, detergent, and even Japanese cars allegedly imported from Russia. All in exchange for selling weapons and brokering the sale of Iraqi oil offered at below world market prices and splitting the profits with Saddam.
In 2003 after the opening stages of the U.S.– led Operation Enduring Freedom, Rossett indicated that ‘an enormous data base’ was uncovered that lead to unraveling of the scandal. She said that the revelations involved prominent politicians in France, Russia and China and detailed evidences of bribes and blackmail. She noted that in the Delta report of the CIA chief weapons inspector, Saddam Hussein bought virtually anything he desired under U.N. auspices and spread money around the world using a French bank to launder it. Rossett indicated that more than $10 billion in funds derived from the Iraqi Oil for Food program was used to reactivate Saddam's WMD programs, fund terrorists and acquire weapons.
If that wasn’t enough Rossett cited the 2.2 % commissions earned by the UN relief program amounted to $1.2 billion in so-called management fees. Note this from a report on Rossett’s U.N. Oil for Food revelations by David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute:
The head of the program received at least US$1.2-million in kickbacks from Saddam. Kofi Annan's son was paid US$195,000 by an oil-for-food contractor. And, Rossett reports, the UN's own inquiry into the scandal discovered that Canada's Maurice Strong, a long-time UN Undersecretary-General, accepted in 1997 a check bankrolled by Saddam in the amount of US$988,885. Strong (who has denied knowing where the money came from) was then serving as chief co-coordinator of UN reform, no less.
Rossett then turned her sights on Paul Volcker, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, who was selected to lead a $34 Million U.N. sponsored Independent Inquiry study into the Iraqi Oil for Food scandal. The Volcker Study findings reads like a veritable ‘who’s who’ of corporate and political grafters at the U.N. France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, U.K. were in on the take:
- Oil surcharges were paid in connection with the contracts of 139 companies and humanitarian kickbacks were paid in connection with the contracts of 2,253 companies. Companies accused of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime include major global corporations such as Daimler-Chrysler AG, Siemens AG, and Volvo.
- The Saddam Hussein regime received illicit income of $1.8 billion under the Oil-for-Food Program. $228.8 million was derived from the payment of surcharges in connection with oil contracts. $1.55 billion came through kickbacks on humanitarian goods.
- In allocating its crude oil, Iraq instituted a preference policy in favor of companies and individuals from countries that, as Tariq Aziz described, were perceived as ‘friendly’ to Iraq, particularly those that were members of the Security Council.
- Russian companies purchased 30 percent of oil sold under the Oil-for-Food Program, worth approximately $19.3 billion. French companies were the second largest purchasers of Iraqi crude oil under the Program overall, contracting for approximately $4.4 billion of oil from Iraq. TOTAL International Limited and SOCAP International Limited contracts accounted for approximately 74 percent of the oil purchased by French companies under the Programme.
- Iraq awarded ‘special allocations’ not only to companies, but also to individuals and their representatives. These individuals were influential in their respective countries, espoused pro-Iraq views, or organized anti-sanctions activities. They included present and former government officials, politicians and persons closely associated with these figures, businessmen and activists involved in anti-sanctions activities.
- Several Russian political parties and politicians received allocations of Iraqi oil, including:
· The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (125.1 million barrels)
· Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (73 million barrels)
· Party of Peace and Unity (55.5 million barrels)
· Alexander Voloshin, Chief of Staff to Russian President Vladimir Putin (4.3 million barrels).
- The Iraqi government, in addition to giving preference to French-based companies, granted oil allocations to individuals based in France who espoused pro-Iraq views. These included:
· Jean-Bernard Merimee, Special Adviser to the United Nations, with the rank of Under-Secretary General (6 million barrels)
· Charles Pasqua, former Minister of the Interior (11 million barrels)
· Claude Kaspereit, businessman and son of French MP Gabriel Kaspereit (over 9.5 million barrels)
· Serge Boidevaix, former Director of the Department for North Africa and the Middle East, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (over 32 million barrels)
· Gilles Munier, Secretary-General of the French-Iraqi Friendship Association (11.8 million barrels).
- British Member of Parliament George Galloway was allocated a total of over 18 million barrels of oil either directly “or in the name of one of his associates, Fawaz Abdullah Zureikat. Nearly two-thirds of the oil was lifted, or loaded by tanker at a port.
- Mr. Zureikat received commissions for handling the sale of approximately 11 million barrels that were allocated in Mr. Galloway’s name.
· “According to Iraqi officials, oil allocations were granted to fund Mr. Galloway’s anti-sanctions activities. Iraqi officials identified Mr. Zureikat as acting on Mr. Galloway’s behalf to conduct the oil transactions in Baghdad.
- Roberto Formigioni, the President of the Lombardy Region of Italy, was granted a total of over 27 million barrels of oil by the Government of Iraq. Over 24.1 million barrels of this oil were lifted.
Rossett commented that Volcker was a “better Fed Chairman than an investigator.” The final Independent Inquiry report, according to her was ‘incomplete and didn’t provide sufficient information.” Volcker never fully accounted for the billions paid to Russian and Chinese companies. The head of the UN Oil for Food program, Benon Sevan, left after being ‘disciplined’ to a comfortable retirement in Cyprus with his ill-gotten gains from oil voucher kickbacks. All this after running one of the biggest U.N. frauds in history.
Iran takes over the UNDP and the “Cash for Kim” scandal
Rossett then turned to what she deemed to be the flagship agency at the UN-the U.N. Development Program (UNDP). As Rossett has written:
It is the U.N.'s lead development agency, the chief coordinator in the field of almost all the others, loaded with money, dispensing high-level advice along with more than $9 billion per year around the globe--some $5 billion of that from its own budget and another $4 billion or so on behalf of other U.N. operations. The UNDP is a vast bureaucracy, blanketed in diplomatic immunity, bankrolled both by U.N. member-state contributions and hundreds of opaque public and private trust funds (the U.S., which gives well over $200 million per year, is among the UNDP's top donors). Boasting a presence in 166 countries, the UNDP moves money, personnel and equipment across borders around the globe with minimal independent oversight.
Rossett accused the UNDP of “collaborating with dictators” in North Korea, Zimbabwe and the Islamic Republic of Iran, where it has a large presence. She quipped that UNDP stands for “UN Dictators Program.” The latest example of this was the election of Iran to the 36 member governing council of the UNDP and of its representative as Chairman. Thus putting Iran, a major state sponsor of terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, in the driver’s seat. Iran is actively pursuing the development of a nuclear weapon in order to “wipe Israel off the map of the world.”
Rossett cited the so-called “Cash for Kim” scandal involving North Korea, the hermit despotic state ruled by the pompadoured Kim Jong Il. The “Cash for Kim” scandal arose in 2007, when a deputy to former US U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, and the U.S. U.N. Mission Ambassador Martin Wallace, who was a member on the UNDP board raised questions about operations in North Korea. Ambassador Wallace in a Wall Street Journal investigative report cited the following in a letter to UNDP Associate Administrator, Ad Melkert, in early January 2007. The UNDP's program in the North Korean Democratic People's Republic "has for years operated in blatant violation of U.N. rules, served as a steady and large source of hard currency and other resources for the DPRK government with minimal or no assurance that UNDP funds and resources are utilized for legitimate development activities."
Rossett noted the dimensions of the scandal:
It turned out the UNDP's Pyongyang office, in violation of its own rules, had been funneling hard cash to Kim Jong Il's regime, storing counterfeit $100 banknotes in its office safe and, with North Korea then on the UNDP board, was using development funds to buy business class tickets for North Korean officials to attend board meetings in New York.
A report last June from a panel authorized by the UNDP itself finally confirmed--well after the fact--that the UNDP had provided North Korea with scores of dual-use technologies, meaning that equipment shipped in under the U.N. label of "development" could also be turned to military use.
A Senate subcommittee investigation, led by Sens. Norm Coleman and Carl Levin, further discovered, as disclosed in a January 2008 report, that the UNDP in North Korea had transferred funds to North Korean front entities involved in arms and nuclear proliferation networks.
Some of these entities were in Macau. During a trip to the Far East last fall, I dropped by two of the addresses with which, according to the subcommittee's exhibits, the UNDP in Pyongyang had been doing business. One was a basement supermarket, which the clerks said had been in business at that address for years. The other turned out to be a locked apartment in a residential high-rise
And as a reward for the UNDP investigation and revelations in the “Cash for Kim scandal”, they are re-opening the program’s office in Pyongyang. With Iran “wielding the gavel” at the UNDP you can rest assure that corruption will carry on at this UN flagship agency.
The Hamas Enabler-the UNRWA Palestinian Refugee program
Israel’s recent Operation Cast Lead in Gaza aimed at stifling Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket barrages against Southern Israel and the Western Negev featured prominent accusations about ‘targeting’ by the IDF of UN schools used as launching sites. The UN agency involved is the 60 year old, UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). Rossett noted that UNRWA was originally established as a three year ad hoc agency. When the 1949 Armistice between Israel and several invading armies was reached in Rhodes, an estimated 750,000 Palestinian Arabs had fled homes in what is now Israel, at the behest of Palestinian leaders like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini. UNRWA has provided cradle to grave support for three generations of Palestinian refugees estimated at over 4.5 million in a network of camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Rossett deems the UNRWA system as a “veritable welfare enclave for terrorists.” She noted that the UNRWA schools in Gaza, “engaged in teaching children how to become suicide bombers and making Israel a constant anti-Semitic scapegoat marked for destruction.”
Into this system flows an annual UNRWA budget now well above $400 million per year, doled out variously in the form of cash, goods, medical care, schooling, job-training programs and so forth. [The U.S. funds 31 percent of the annual UNRWA budget, while Muslim states fund less than 7 percent.]
To handle these operations, UNRWA employs more than 24,000 staffers [including many members of terrorist groups Hamas and the PIJ]. That's more than any other UN agency, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, which with some 6,300 staffers--about one-quarter the manpower of UNRWA--is responsible for all other refugees worldwide, totaling more than 11 million.
At UNRWA, more than 99% of the staff is local Palestinians. They sit at the many local levels of the UNRWA distribution machinery, which under UNRWA policy takes on the coloration of and yields to the policies of host governments--as UNRWA officials explained to U.S. lawmakers who some years ago challenged the use of anti-Israeli textbooks in UNRWA schools.
The UNRWA system that encourages welfare dependency in Gaza has another untoward consequence. The fecundity of Palestinian refugee women abetted by the UNRWA system generates a so-called “youth bulge” which is reflected in the proportion of young males aged 15-29 in the total Gaza population of over 1.5 million. In a fascinating analysis in the Wall Street Journal “Ending the West’s Proxy War Against Israel”, Professor Heinsohn of the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of Bremen noted:
The reason for Gaza's endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed, clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA. Unlike the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which deals with the rest of the world's refugees and aims to settle them in their respective host countries, UNRWA perpetuates the Palestinian problem by classifying as refugees not only those who originally fled their homes, but all of their descendants as well.
In such "youth bulge" countries, young men tend to eliminate each other or get killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their ambitions and the number of acceptable positions available in their society. In Arab nations such as Lebanon (150,000 dead in the civil war between 1975 and 1990) or Algeria (200,000 dead in the Islamists' war against their own people between 1999 and 2006), the slaughter abated only when the fertility rates in these countries fell from seven children per woman to fewer than two.
The warring stopped because no more warriors were being born.
Prior to her Tiger Bay Club presentation in Pensacola, I handed Ms. Rossett this question for response:
New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman has introduced Congressional resolutions to hold UNWRA accountable. Will the Obama Administration, in your view, do anything to rein in this broken refugee system?
In an email exchange with me following her Pensacola talk, Rossett replied:
No, I do not expect the new administration to do anything to reform UNRWA. On the contrary, I think the plans to push more "diplomacy" with Iran are going to make a dangerous situation much worse, and the last thing on the agenda is likely to be genuine reform of anything at the UN. Even John Bolton, who really tried, could barely move that ball.
The ‘new’ UN Commission on Human Rights
Rossett bought up the matter of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that is in thrall to the OIC. Earlier we had noted the OIC’s success at getting ‘anti-Islam’ defamation resolutions introduced. The UNCHR was headed by Libya in 2003, whose excesses allegedly lead to its reconstitution. The UNCHR sponsored the Durban World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in 2001 that was a bully pulpit for PLO advocates to shout "death to the U.S. and Israel."
Coming up in April is Durban II. Rossett in a Forbes.com essay noted this on UN anti-Semitism:
[UN Secretary General] Ban is carrying on a deep-seated UN tradition of bias against Jews and Israel. That is broadly obvious from the UN's torrent of anti-Israel statements, resolutions and so forth, including plans to hold a repeat in Geneva this April of the UN's anti-Israel 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, ostensibly convened to discuss racism.
She cited the presence on the UNCHR board of Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Russia, and members of the OIC like Egypt who will further the demonization of Israel and Jews.
Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute, another long term critic of the U.N., in a recent New York Daily News op ed entitled: “The UN’s Insanity Continues,” laid out the Durban II racist and anti-Semitic agenda:
The United Nations "anti-racism" forum, known as Durban II, is
becoming a more important test for President Obama's multilateralist
ambitions with each passing day. Durban I was the anti-Semitic
hate fest that ended three days before 9/11. Durban II - the UN
equivalent of the Son of Sam - will take place in April in Geneva.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has called on Obama not to
legitimize the meeting, or its message, and not to attend. Canada has
decided to stay away. But Obama has still not decided whether the
United States will go. This Wednesday, however, the stakes got a lot
higher with the UN's release of the latest negotiating text.
Negotiators have now put on the table claims that (1) a homeland for
the Jewish people is racism - a "racially based law of return," (2)
Israel is guilty of "apartheid" and (3) the veracity of the murder of
one-third of the Jewish people during the Holocaust is subject to
question. A reference to Holocaust facts has now been "square-
bracketed" because Iran and Syria have questioned the numbers of Jews
that died and consensus is the only guiding principle governing the
In total, six provisions are dedicated to demonizing Israel as
racist. Not one of the other 191 UN states is mentioned. The
intention is clear: the political defeat of Israel in the same vein
as apartheid South Africa, because repeated attempts at a military
defeat of Israel have failed.
Dealing with sending a U.S. delegation to Durban II, when our neighbor to the north, Canada and even troubled Holland, have resoundingly said ‘no,’ will be one of the first items that Madame Secretary Clinton will face. It will be one of the first foreign policy tests for the Obama Administration. Clinton should take a leaf out of the book of one of her predecessors, General Colin Powell, who withdrew the U.S. delegation from Durban I in 2001. The question is, will she?
What to do about the Iranian Nuclear Threat?
On the Iran nuclear threat, Rossett was trenchant. In her opinion, the UN will not do anything. She pointed to the Islamic Republic’s defiance of five UN Security Council resolutions. After all, two of the UN Security Council permanent members, China and Russia, do business with Iran.
Iran will get its bomb she said and use it to “wipe Israel off the map of the world.”
Rossett concluded, ‘The wisest thing to do is bomb some of the nuclear facilities in Iran. It can’t be done without risks.”
Her final statement on the matter sums her overall opinion about the corrupt UN,
“The UN is a sand trap that will allow Iran to do what it wants.”
The Tiger Bay Club presentation is a dossier presented by Rossett that sends a chilling message to most Americans, that corruption pervades the UN headquarters in Turtle Bay on Manhattan’s East Side.
To comment on this article, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish timely and interesting interviews like this one, please click here.
If you have enjoyed this article by Jerry Gordon and want to read more, please click here.
Jerry Gordon is a also regular contributor to our community blog. To read his entries, please click here.