The Palestinian-born wife of George Galloway, the Respect MP, is accused today of receiving $149,980 (about £100,000) derived from the United Nations Iraqi oil-for-food programme.
A report by an investigative committee of the United States Senate says the money was sent to the personal account of Amineh Abu Zayyad in August 2000.
The report includes bank records showing a paper trail from Saddam's ministries to Mrs Galloway. It states that the Iraqis handed several lucrative oil-for-food contracts to the Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, an old friend of the Galloways. A month later, on Aug 3, 2000, Mr Zureikat allegedly paid $150,000 minus a bank commission of $20 from his Citibank account number 500190207 into Mrs Galloway's account at the Arab Bank in Amman.
The senate team also says that a $15,666 payment had been made on the same date to a Bank of Scotland account belonging to Mr Galloway's spokesman, Ron McKay. Last night Mr McKay said he had no recollection of the alleged payment.
The oil-for-food programme was designed to help Iraq's needy but was misused by Saddam to reward friends and allies.
And here's a couple from the BBC:
UN report deals serious damage
Each time Paul Volker delivers one of his interim reports, the United Nations receives another body blow and its tarnished reputation suffers yet again.
This was the third of Mr Volcker's reports and in many ways the most damning yet. Until now there was the strong whiff of scandal, but no direct blame.
This report, though, pointed the finger straight at the former head of the oil-for-food programme, Benon Sevan. It concluded that Mr Sevan "corruptly benefited" from his role with the UN - that he had received kickbacks worth almost $150,000 from a small company called Amep, who he had helped profit from the sale of Iraqi oil.
Mr Sevan denies the allegation and insists he received that money from his aunt.
The Annans: Story of a father and son
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan must have hoped that a March 2005 report into the Iraqi oil-for-food programme would help put his ship back on an even keel - but it turns out there are still squalls ahead.
The report effectively cleared him of corruption, saying there was "no evidence" of "improper influence by the secretary general in the bidding or selection process" under which the Swiss company Cotecna was chosen to run the programme.
But three months later, new memos have surfaced which appear to suggest that a top Cotecna executive not only met Mr Annan days before the firm won the UN contract - but that he told colleagues their firm could "count on the support" of Mr Annan's "entourage".
That may muddy the conclusions drawn by the earlier report, which found that the evidence was "not reasonably sufficient" to show that Mr Annan had known about the Cotecna bid which came when his son, Kojo, was employed by the company.
Even that report found him guilty of complacency. The chairman of the inquiry, Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, said there had been an "inadequate" investigation by Mr Annan's office into the links between Kojo and Cotecna after it was given the contract.
The problem for Mr Annan, the report found, was that his own son did not tell him the truth. It turned out that Kojo's employment by Cotecna as a "consultant" in fact continued after the contract was granted.
Now Galloway may have known nothing about the money, Annan may have known nothing about who his son worked for, and Sevan may have got the money from his aunt.
But why isn’t Michael Moore making a film about this? There’s so much suspicion of corruption, nepotism and whitewashing to hand that he’d barely need to pad it out with the usual insinuation, out-of-context quoting, pointless stunts and bullying interviews with vulnerable/senile/grief-stricken subjects.
Except that isn’t an interesting question. Moore is just a dunce. The interesting question is, why is there a Confederacy of Dunces?
How did it come to be that people will believe any old rubbish so long as it hints at American imperialism or corruption and conspiracy in the black heart of the Bush administration (try this one on your friends: “of course, they only started the war so that McDonald’s could open up a chain in Baghdad”), yet Kofi Annan enjoys the beatific status of a Nelson Mandela, a Mahatma Gandhi or a Princess Diana, while the bodged and fudged pronouncements of the UN, the committee to end all committees, are treated as if they come on tablets of stone from Mount Sinai?
How did it come to be that this year’s recipients of the Nobel prizes for Peace and Literature were respectively the useless but American-baiting head of United Nations nuclear agency Mohamed ElBaradei, and one Harold Pinter?
And above all, how did the belief that the military removal of a genocidal dictator was unjustified and immoral become not only widely held by many otherwise sane people, but passionately, even rabidly, argued, protested and demonstrated about?
Christopher Hitchens poses this question in his barnstorming essay Democratization, Iraq: A War to Be Proud Of:
This state--Saddam's ruined and tortured and collapsing Iraq--had met all the conditions under which a country may be deemed to have sacrificed its own legal sovereignty. To recapitulate: It had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Nations, in this crisis, faced with regular insult to its own resolutions and its own character, had managed to set up a system of sanctions-based mutual corruption. In May 2003, had things gone on as they had been going, Saddam Hussein would have been due to fill Iraq's slot as chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. Meanwhile, every species of gangster from the hero of the Achille Lauro hijacking to Abu Musab al Zarqawi was finding hospitality under Saddam's crumbling roof.
One might have thought, therefore, that Bush and Blair's decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs would be hailed, not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda. But such is not the case. An apparent consensus exists, among millions of people in Europe and America, that the whole operation for the demilitarization of Iraq, and the salvage of its traumatized society, was at best a false pretense and at worst an unprovoked aggression. How can this possibly be?
How indeed? In Old Europe, the answer is easy. Anti-Americanism is prevalent enough to be scarcely worth commenting on. In a way, you can hardly blame the French since their media is so overwhelmingly Yankophobic that when the statue of Saddam came toppling down so soon into the campaign there was widespread bewilderment among the French public, who had been continually told that the Coalition was being routed on a daily basis and was being sucked into a ‘quagmire’ to make Vietnam look like a tea-party.
So much for the Europeans, but what about the Not-in-my-name Britons?
In February 2003 a million or so people marched through London in protest against the invasion of Iraq. Why were they protesting against it? Since we already knew what a hell-hole Iraq was, the only conceivable rational arguments could be:
(1) Maintaining the official legal superiority of the UN is more important than any benefits of a military action carried out without the official sanction of the UN;
(2) A war is the worse of two evils, in that the benefits of removing from power a genocidal dictator and introducing democracy to Iraq are outweighed by the blood that will inevitably be shed in a military action that includes bombing and fighting in civilian areas. (This could be further justified by a claim that Saddam could somehow be removed and democracy somehow be given to Iraq peaceably, though nobody seemed to come up with a practical suggestion).
Given this, you might have expected the Great March to be a sombre affair, comprising a set of deeply troubled and deep-thinking people rationally but reluctantly plumping for one bloody evil over another, and supplemented perhaps by a small band of bespectacled legal-technicality nerds swayed by argument (1).
Except it wasn’t. It was a big old jolly face-painted, horn-tooting, whistle-blowing, sing-along street party, led by the usual intellectually-challenged pop stars and made up mostly of Guardian-toting middle-class weekend-warriors too posh to go to the annual May Day riot, and not posh enough to join in with the Countryside Alliance’s jamboree*.
What fun they had, and how indignant they were, how scandalised that Tony Blair barely batted an eyelid at this singular demonstration of the madness of crowds. This is a democracy, why won’t he listen to the people? Bush’s poodle!**
Somehow sane argument got drowned in a Leftist soup of stupidity that has been bubbling up for years. The basic ingredients include a lingering colonial guilt, and more insidiously, a lame-brained cultural relativism that amounts to: “Who are we to judge their culture? Democracy is just a white western construct – these Iraqis are used to tyranny and torture, you know, like wearing burkhas and driving on the other side of the road.” It’s a short hop from the “who are we to say we’re right and they’re wrong?” argument to the “they are right, we’re wrong” one. There’s a certain self-flagellating element in western culture that loves nothing more than to hear that it’s been wicked. Maybe we should blame it on the Fall.
And of course there’s the baggage that comes with Bush: the cringeworthy attempts at public speaking, the little ‘doubleya’ to distinguish him from Daddy, the Born-Again babble. That puke-inducingly predictable gem “my favourite philosopher is Jesus Christ.” And neither he nor Blair can escape blame for the bungled way they presented the case for war, nor for the lack of planning for handling the aftermath. Too much waffle about WMDs, too much banging on about 9/11. It would have been far better to concentrate on the failure of the UN to effectively do anything about this horrible man Saddam and his wrecked country.
Even so, chuck all these things in one side of the scales and it will barely register against the long-term benefits for Iraqis of a Saddam-free world, which should surely have been obvious to anyone with eyes to see.
Despite the doom-saying of the French, the rantings of Galloway, and despite the so-called ‘insurgents’ (‘insurging’ against what? The word is ‘criminals’) continuing to blast pathetically away at the newly-fledged citizens of Iraq, those citizens have nonetheless managed to create in record time a constitution and the basis for a democracy.
Which is how history will remember the great Iraqi adventure: as the imperfect but ultimately successful removal of a bloody tyrant, and the creation of a new democratic state. Sanity usually peeps through in the end. There are still protestors, but ultimately you need something to protest against, and the active ones have dwindled to a bunch of oddballs saying nothing much more than Father Ted’s “Down with this sort of thing”.
There remains however, a massive Left-wing resentment of Bush’s war, and an unhealthy eagerness to portray every setback as a disaster, and every step forward as inadequate. But that is what happens when your television screens and your fashionable politics are controlled by a Confederacy of Dunces.
(*Nothing personal, you understand. Some of my best friends are Guardian-toting weekend-warriors. But madness is madness).
(**Although funnily enough, polls a few days before the invasion found a majority of the British public in favour of the war, as the pull of British patriotism is so strong when the military actually gear up to go, that it overrides even the madness of crowds. A couple of years later, Blair won a general election, with the equally pro-war Tories making gains and the LibDems singularly failing to cash in on their supposed anti-war trump card, but by this time everyone had switched to Making Poverty History anyway).