President George W. Bush was branded a liar, a failure and worse by Democrats like Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.), and progressive media were only too happy to oblige. Bush is making the rounds to promote his new book, and suddenly the ‘Bushisms’ pour forth from leftwingers on social media and on talk shows.
On CNN's Parker Spitzer on Tuesday, one guest was a fashion designer who jumped on Bush's character like a pit bull going after a bunny rabbit. Never mind facts.
But revisiting media accounts of the time period before Bush took office and after the under-emphasized reportage on the Oil for Food scandal raise questions media probably would’ve asked had Bush not been a Republican.
Who benefited from Oil for Food corruption and how did that impact the perception of Bush by the public?
The U.S. was already stymied on Iraq when Bush took office. Allegations about Saddam Hussein’s intent to secretly develop weapons of mass destruction were already in place. Even the stalwart progressive publication The New York Times had concerns. In an editorial published January 27, 2000, The NYT said, “The further the world gets from the gulf war, the more it seems willing to let Mr. Hussein revive his deadly weapons projects.”
That statement was made shortly after allegations about Saddam’s program surfaced in the controversial book Saddam’s Bombmaker.
But what’s intriguing now that analysts have the comfort of hindsight is whether the Oil for Food scandal played a role in the character assassination of a president who, after he finally was able to complete a difficult transition because of Clinton administration tactics, confronted one of the greatest challenges in modern times. What other president has dealt with a direct attack on America’s mainland where thousands of civilians died at the hands of a religious zealot?
Oil for Food was investigated. Sort of. Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. composed Memo #913 for The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Gardiner analyzed the final report on the scandal in November, 2005. By that time, despite a nearly completely non-transparent climate, Paul Volcker had assembled a report that shed light on who, besides Saddam, benefited from Oil for Food.
There’s an eye-popping revelation regarding the scope of the scandal: "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."
Volcker’s investigation determined that companies from Russia, France and Great Britain paid a variety of illicit fees for oil. Gardiner noted, “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.”
A lot of people made a lot of money from Oil for Food, including, said CNN, the son of the UN Secretary General at the time.
Gardiner wrote, “The 500-page report paints an ugly tableau of bribery, kickbacks, corruption, and fraud on a global scale-without a doubt the biggest financial scandal in modern history. It amply demonstrates how the Iraqi dictator generously rewarded those who supported the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq and who paid lip-service to his barbaric regime. Oil-for-Food became a shameless political charade through which Saddam Hussein attempted to manipulate decision-making at the U.N. Security Council by buying the support of influential figures in Russia and France.”
Because so many were receiving lucrative benefits, it’s easy to understand why the world did not want the US to go into Iraq and it’s even easier to understand why a number of politicians were infuriated when Bush made his decision to do so.
By July, 2008, skeptics about Saddam’s weaponry were forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable facts. CNN reported, “The United States secretly shipped out of Iraq more than 500 tons of low-grade uranium dating back to the Saddam Hussein era, the Pentagon said Monday.”
CNN downplayed that report because the uranium was not enriched and the process to do so would have been complicated.
After the mysterious Wikileaks website published official military documents recently, even Wired magazine’s Noah Shachtman had to acknowledge a strange revelation courtesy of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. One can imagine the reluctance Shachtman must have felt as he wrote, “But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.”
Shachtman downplayed the significance of those findings by saying there was no evidence of a “massive program.” His nuanced commentary was attacked anyway by leftwingers who accused their fellow progressive of being “taken over by neocons.”
We already thought Saddam's efforts were under the radar. Most of the information in newspapers and media suggested Saddam located labs in hard-to-find locations in deliberately unremarkable buildings.
What we now know is that many individuals and politicians in 66 countries had skin in Saddam’s game and stood to lose a golden goose if the US took the dictator down.
As Oil for Food ran unabated, the United Nations turned a blind eye.
Reviewing the NYT article from January, 2000, there’s a statement that proved prophetic, though not in the manner that newspaper likely intended. The NYT said, “The United States and its European allies may later regret that they were not more energetic in enforcing Iraq’s disarmament obligations.”
Look what corruption and malfeasance at the UN cost the United States.
Bush’s alleged lie was a political fact partly enabled by Democrat strategists who still lust for another 40-year run on control of the US government. Bush may have been duped but he certainly didn’t lie.
On the other hand, a number of officials and politicians in 66 countries did lie. The UN lied as well.
Had Saddam remained in power, would he have successfully built a WMD complex?
You can see North Korea and Iran from your computer screen.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/Nov. 9, 2010)