It's time for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign.
- It's time for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to resign.
By NORM COLEMAN
Over the past seven months, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations, which I chair, has conducted an exhaustive,
bipartisan investigation into the scandal surrounding the U.N. Oil-
for-Food program. That noble program was established by the U.N. to
ease the suffering of the Iraqi people, then languishing under Saddam
Hussein's ironfisted rule, as well as the economic sanctions imposed
on Iraq by the U.N. after the first Gulf War. While sanctions were
designed to instigate the removal of Saddam from power, or at least
render him impotent, the Oil-for-Food program was designed to support
the Iraqi people with food and other humanitarian aid under the
watchful eye of the U.N.
Our Investigative Subcommittee has gathered overwhelming evidence
that Saddam turned this program on its head. Rather than erode his
grip on power, the program was manipulated by Saddam to line his own
pockets and actually strengthen his position at the expense of the
Iraqi people. At our hearing on Nov. 15, we presented evidence that
Saddam accumulated more than $21 billion through abuses of the Oil-
for-Food program and U.N. sanctions. We continue to amass evidence
that he used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such
as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials,
companies and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the
program to his advantage. We have obtained evidence that indicates
that Saddam doled out lucrative oil allotments to foreign officials,
sympathetic journalists and even one senior U.N. official, in order
to undermine international support for sanctions. In addition, we are
gathering evidence that Saddam gave hundreds of thousands -- maybe
even millions -- of Oil-for-Food dollars to terrorists and terrorist
organizations. All of this occurred under the supposedly vigilant eye
of the U.N.
* * *
While many questions concerning Oil-for-Food remain unanswered, one
conclusion has become abundantly clear: Kofi Annan should resign. The
decision to call for his resignation does not come easily, but I have
arrived at this conclusion because the most extensive fraud in the
history of the U.N. occurred on his watch. In addition, and perhaps
more importantly, as long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world
will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes, kickbacks
and under-the-table payments that took place under the U.N.'s
Mr. Annan was at the helm of the U.N. for all but a few days of the
Oil-for-Food program, and he must, therefore, be held accountable for
the U.N.'s utter failure to detect or stop Saddam's abuses. The
consequences of the U.N.'s ineptitude cannot be overstated: Saddam
was empowered to withstand the sanctions regime, remain in power, and
even rebuild his military. Needless to say, he made the Iraqi people
suffer even more by importing substandard food and medicine under the
Oil-for-Food program and pawning it off as first-rate humanitarian
Since it was never likely that the U.N. Security Council, some of
whose permanent members were awash in Saddam's favors, would ever
call for Saddam's removal, the U.S. and its coalition partners were
forced to put troops in harm's way to oust him by force. Today, money
swindled from Oil-for-Food may be funding the insurgency against
coalition troops in Iraq and other terrorist activities against U.S.
interests. Simply put, the troops would probably not have been placed
in such danger if the U.N. had done its job in administering
sanctions and Oil-for-Food.
This systemic failure of the U.N. and Oil-for-Food is exacerbated by
evidence that at least one senior U.N. official -- Benon Sevan, Mr.
Annan's hand-picked director of the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food oversight
agency -- reportedly received bribes from Saddam. According to
documents from the Iraqi oil ministry that were obtained by us, Mr.
Sevan received several allotments of oil under Oil-for-Food, each of
which was worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
To make matters worse, the actions of Mr. Annan's own son have been
called into question. Specifically, the U.N. recently admitted that
Kojo Annan received more money than previously disclosed from a Swiss
company named Cotecna, which was hired by the U.N. to monitor Iraq's
imports under Oil-for-Food. Recently, there are growing, albeit
unproven, allegations that Kofi Annan himself not only understands
his son's role in this scandal -- but that he has been less than
forthcoming in what he knew, and when he knew it.
As a former prosecutor, I believe in the presumption of innocence.
Such revelations, however, cast a dark cloud over Mr. Annan's ability
to address the U.N.'s quagmire. Mr. Annan has named the esteemed Paul
Volcker to investigate Oil-for-Food-related allegations, but the
latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no
authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from
anyone outside the U.N. Nor does it possess the power to punish those
who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. It
must rely entirely on the goodwill of the very people and entities it
is investigating. We must also recognize that Mr. Volcker's effort is
wholly funded by the U.N., at Mr. Annan's control. Moreover, Mr.
Volcker must issue his final report directly to the secretary
general, who will then decide what, if anything, is released to the
Therefore, while I have faith in Mr. Volcker's integrity and
abilities, it is clear the U.N. simply cannot root out its own
corruption while Mr. Annan is in charge: To get to the bottom of the
murk, it's clear that there needs to be a change at the top. In
addition, a scandal of this magnitude requires a truly independent
examination to ensure complete transparency, and to restore the
credibility of the U.N. To that end, I reiterate our request for
access to internal U.N. documents, and for access to U.N. personnel
who were involved in the Oil-for-Food program.
All of this adds up to one conclusion: It's time for Kofi Annan to
step down. The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If
this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate
organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long
ago, in disgrace. Why is the U.N. different?
Sen. Coleman is chairman of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on
Investigations, and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations