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Galloway faces a new smear campaign in Washington
The real crime under oil-for-food

By Elizabeth Schulte | November 4, 2005 | Page 2

ONCE AGAIN, corruption at the United Nations (UN) is the focus of the attention in an investigation of the oil-for-food program in Iraq, when the real scandal all along was barbaric UN-sponsored economic sanctions. And once again, British antiwar leader George Galloway is the focus of allegations of wrongdoing, when the real criminals are the powerful U.S. politicians who accuse him.

Late last month, a panel led by former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker publicized findings from an 18-month investigation into the oil-for-food program.

The report, the last of five to be submitted by Volcker, charged that 2,500 companies from more than 60 countries--fully half of those that did business with Iraq during the program--paid kickbacks and illegal surcharges to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Many of the companies involved are little known, but others are big names--Volvo, Siemens and DaimlerChrysler, for example.

The stated aim of the UN-administered oil-for-food program, begun in 1996, to help Iraqi citizens suffering the effects of sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait that lead to the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq was allowed to begin selling limited amounts of oil in exchange for importing food and other needed supplies. According to the UN, 3.4 billion barrels of Iraqi oil valued at about $65 billion were exported under the program between December 1996 and the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

All money collected from oil sales went into a UN-controlled bank account in New York. Iraq could apply for funds for food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies. Some 30 percent (later decreased to 25 percent) of the money was skimmed off the top of all revenues for the oil-rich monarchy of Kuwait--as reparations for the invasion.

The oil-for-food program fell far short of relieving the devastating impact of sanctions. In 1999, a UNICEF survey reported that in southern and central Iraq--where 85 percent of Iraq's population lives--the death rate for children under five years old more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1,000 live births (from 1984 to 1989) to 131 (from 1994 to 1999).

The impact of the sanctions led UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Denis Halliday to resign in 1998, stating, "We are in the process of destroying an entire society." His successor, Hans von Sponeck, would resign two years later.

Volcker's report--which focuses on corruption on the part of Iraq and the UN, and not the companies that took part in the payoffs--will likely be used to prove why the U.S. has to maintain a hands-on approach in Iraq. "The program left too much initiative with Iraq," stated a letter from the investigative committee to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. "It was, as one past member of the council put it, a compact with the devil, and the devil had means of manipulating the program to his ends."

But while Volcker was conducting his investigation of the oil-for-food program, he ignored the crime of sanctions carried out for more than a decade against the people of Iraq.

While the Clinton administration claimed that sanctions were necessary to rein in Iraq's "rogue regime," the reality was that millions of Iraqi citizens--not officials in the Iraqi government--paid the price.

Volcker's report also ignores the fact that any wrongdoing took place under the eye, not only of UN officials, but the 15-member UN Security Council, in which the U.S. is the most powerful member. So if companies had their hand in the till, they did it under the noses of the U.S.

Buoyed by the new report, right-wing Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) plans to use it to continue his crusade against outspoken antiwar activist and longtime sanctions opponent George Galloway, the newly elected member of parliament for the Respect Coalition.

In May, Coleman brought Galloway to Washington to testify before a Senate subcommittee for homeland security--but it was Coleman who was raked over the coals.

"Have a look at the real oil-for-food scandal," Galloway told Coleman and his subcommittee. "Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer."

Now Coleman claims that he has evidence that Galloway solicited money from the oil-for-food program and lied about it under oath. The committee's new report accuses Galloway of personally soliciting oil deals from the Hussein government between 1999 and 2003 and Galloway's ex-wife of receiving money in connection with Iraqi oil.

The committee says its findings are based on personal interviews with anonymous oil traders and members of Saddam Hussein's regime. They include former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who, through his lawyer, denied ever having implicated Galloway, according to Britain's Independent newspaper.

Galloway denies the charges, and is calling out his accusers. "I am demanding prosecution, I am begging for prosecution," Galloway told Sky News. "I am saying if I have lied under oath in front of the senate, that's a criminal offence. Charge me, and I will head for the airport right now and face them down in court as I faced them down in the senate room."

The pro-war Republican has a lot of nerve accusing an antiwar activist of wrongdoing--as the lies that they used to go to war on Iraq are further exposed every day.

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