Oil-for-Food bonus track …

Here are some errata that didn't fit into today's piece.

Having poured over maybe three thousand pages of documents - the Duelfer Report, all 379 volumes of the Volcker Report and the rest - I sometimes think my head is going to explode when I read coverage of this "scandal." It is maddening.

When the current report came out, the supposedly "liberal" NPR reported two things: 1) the overwhelming majority of contracts went to French and Russian companies because France and Russia opposed sanctions, and 2) Volcker found that mismanagement at the UN had significantly contributed to the corruption.

Two quick points.

Aside from the fact that, as I point out in today's piece, U.S. and British companies simply used foreign subsidiaries to make deals, there is a level of hypocrisy in this line of reporting that stuns me. We're to believe that the Iraqi government steering contracts to countries that support its policy preferences is sordid, shady and evidence of dark malfeasance.

But that's been our policy as well. Remember this:

Companies from countries opposed to the conflict in Iraq will be barred from bidding for new rebuilding contracts worth $18.6bn, the Pentagon has said.
As for the second point, there wasn't anything in this report about UN mismanagement. It bears repeating: companies complained about the surcharges, the media covered it at the time and it's unclear what more UN oversight might have accomplished. Same for illicit sales.

What we did discover from the latest report is that the only time the smooth surcharge operation ran into difficulties was when a UN official - not John Bolton or James Inhofe -- wrote to all the companies doing business under the program and said that the surcharges violated the sanctions regime. It shut down the whole Iraqi oil industry for a while (I think during phase ten).

Next, a word or two about Gorgeous George Galloway. Norm Coleman - a bloviating jackass if ever there was one - is referring "evidence" that Galloway perjured himself to the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office.

This follows, of course, Galloway's shredding of Coleman and other pro-war Senators during testimony in May (the Brits do rough-and-tumble debates and he made the Repubs look like sniveling little girls).

Coleman's claim is based on the Volcker report and on two anonymous oil traders.

Some on the left have latched onto the fact that the leading source of the claims, former Iraqi VP Tariq Aziz, has since recanted. Aziz's lawyer said, "These are lies, Aziz denies this," and added, "It is part of a media campaign aimed at smearing Galloway's reputation."

The bad news, for fans of Galloway, is that Aziz's testimony was not the only evidence cited by the Committee. They have paperwork: bank records and the like. Also, Galloway's spokesman just admitted receiving some cash from Galloway's associate, Fawaz Zureikat - who allegedly brokered the deals that sent oil allocations in Galloway's direction.

But as far as I can tell from reading the report (especially the footnotes), there's no evidence that Galloway ever personally received any money from the program. It looks to me - I'm no lawyer - that the Iraqi regime threw some money at Galloway's charity, but I haven't seen any evidence that Galloway received any cash personally. However, the charity he formed, Mariam Appeal, sponsored a speaking tour Galloway went on to condemn the sanctions.

As for Galloway having perjured himself, that looks like a non-starter. He admitted that Zureikat - a big honcho trader, in oil and other goods, had donated to Mariam Appeal. He said he posted it on his website. The Volcker Report details Zureikat's deals with the Iraqi regime, many of which had notes like "for Mr. Galloway," but never shows what Galloway kept saying to the Senators: 'show me the money.'

My take, briefly, is that if they had anything on Galloway actually receiving money himself that would have been featured prominently.


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