Saturday, October 29, 2005

Corruption Costs Lives: The U.N. Oil-for-Food Scandal

On Thursday, Paul Volcker, former Fed Chairman and current Chairman of the Independent Inquiry Committee investigating corruption in the U.N. Oil-for-Food program issued an eye-opening, jaw-dropping report that more than 2,200 companies and government agencies, especially from France and Russia, were illegally giving millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein.

These companies, agencies and their leaders and the corrupt officials at the U.N. should be held accountable for their crimes, which likely kept Saddam in power longer than he otherwise would have been able to. The elder Bush and members of the Clinton administration couldn't understand how Saddam stayed in power through the late 90s and early 2000s. Well, this is how.

The illegal kickbacks to Saddam paid for his torture and rape chambers, the countless sins of his sons, his pusuit of WMDs, his funding and promotion for terrorism including payments to families of homicide bombers attacking Israel, his oppression of the Kurds and Shiites, repression of women, etc.

Without the money from these kickbacks, would the War in Iraq have been necessary? Would the insurgency be as well supplied? Would France and Russia have blocked a larger coalition and a unified world response to Saddam's violation of U.N. sanctions? How much of this money was funnelled to terrorists, directly by Saddam or indirectly through his henchmen? Would 2,014 American soldiers and counting have been killed in Iraq?

And, was it coicidence that the U.N. announcement came a day before the CIA leak investigation closed? The U.N. story, which is much larger in terms of global consequence, sure got buried fast. But in the grand scheme of things, we cannot allow such diversions to detract from the evils done through the corruption of the oil-for-food program. Those 2,200 companies should be legally prosecuted, fined, their leadership imprisoned, and their produce boycotted!

Dennis Hastert, two heartbeats away from the Presidency, Launches a Blog

So, Dennis Hastert has started blogging. Kudos to the "old guy" as he calls himself.

But, his blog needs some work.

First, couldn't he find a better picture to use? He looks like a mean, cranky old politician, just the image Republican party is trying to get away from!

And, I have to take issue with him about the oil companies. Here's an e-mail I sent to his office since there's no space for comments on his blog:

Mr. Speaker,

I think it's great that you've started a blog, but would suggest you allow comments to your postings to build a two-way dialog with your engaged constituents. Certainly a staffer could monitor and filter comments for you. I would have preferred to respond that way.

But, I must take issue with something you said on your blog. You said that as oil companies announce record prices, Republicans don't believe in punishing success. I wholeheartedly agree with the principal of not punishing success, but I have deep questions about whether the oil companies record profits represent success or unfair trade practices - such as price gauging.

I know oil companies will claim that the profits will be used to build refineries (and you rightly criticize them for their lack of refinery expansion in 30 years), but such promises sound more like a diversionary tactic to shift attention away from their predatory practices of bilking the American consumer and also fall a day late and probably many dollars short.

As a conservative who is concerned about the direction of our party, I hope you will use your office to counter the growing perception that Republicans are too tightly tied to oil interests and join other on Capitol Hill to lead an investigation into what appears to be a series of improprieties within the American oil industry that stretches from Enron to Oil-for-Food and now apparent price gouging.

At the same time, I hope you will work with the President to increase the pressure for drilling in Alaska, development of more alternative fuel and/or hybrid technologies for automobiles and trucks, improvements in our pipeline infrastructure, drilling off the Florida coast and any other reasonable measure to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.