Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Freedom of the press is happening in Iraq according to this article.

His friend, Abbas Ali, concurs. "We used to go to sleep at 10 p.m. Now we stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. because we can't get enough." Still desperate for war news, they tune to CNN, BBC, and what appears to be a local favorite, Fox. They like it, people here say, because it has been the most supportive of the war.

For many here, the only foreign channels they can understand are in Arabic, and they are deeply resentful of the most prominent one, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.

Abu Bakr Mohammed Amin, an elderly man in a red-checkered headdress visiting Salih's television shop, gives them a dismissive flick of the wrist: "They only knew how to support Saddam," he says.


This is beautiful, a must read article with my favorite section here:

Iraq: Should the UN have "a" vital role, as Messrs. Bush and Blair have suggested? Or should it have "the" vital role, as M. Chirac is demanding?

If you want the short answer to that question, consider the matter of whether UN sanctions should now be lifted, so that Iraqis can sell their oil and start rebuilding their country. Here is the official Russian response:

"This decision cannot be automatic," says the Foreign Minister with a straight face. "For the Security Council to take this decision, we need to be certain whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or not."

Got that? Last month, the Russians were opposed to war on the grounds that there was no proof Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This month, the Russians are opposed to lifting sanctions on the grounds that there's no proof Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction.

The bold text really does say it all.
An interesting article on the Oil for Food program, AKA the Oil for Palaces program, AKA the Oil for UN Jobs program.

Interesting quotes:

Oil-for-food was established by the U.N. in 1995. It allowed Iraq to sell oil to finance the purchase of humanitarian goods for its people who were dying from a lack of basic supplies. (This hardship was largely due to the economic sanctions imposed by the U.N. in 1990.) The money from the Iraqi oil went into a U.N. escrow account with the French bank BNP-Paribas, which was then used to buy goods from suppliers. The Security Council had to approve all oil contracts, which gave the U.N. effective control over the second-largest proven reserves of crude oil in the world.

The U.N. richly benefited in several ways. First and foremost was the flood of oil money. One U.N. report reads, "Total [oil] exports for the week [13.2 million barrels] generated estimated revenue of ... $370 million." The U.N. grew in size: oil-funded employees, such as the weapons inspectors, led some to dub the program "Oil-for-U.N. Jobs." Moreover, the individual members of the U.N. Security Council richly benefited. France, Russia and Syria received oil contracts on extremely favorable terms.

But it was not merely the producers of oil who fattened themselves. William Safire writes in the April 24 New York Times: "U.N. Under-Secretary Sevan admits that the French bank BNP Paribas was chosen to issue letters of credit to most of the favored suppliers, but brands as 'inaccuracies' charges ... of secrecy. He cites a hundred audits in five years. But details of which companies in what countries got how much — that's not public." Nevertheless reports should be made available to U.S. members of the U.N. And, as Safire observes, Sen. Arlen Specter of Senate Appropriations wrote to Powell about "reports that these funds are a slush fund," saying, "I urge the State Department to demand an accounting."

What an interesting little "world government" we have.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Some may believe that journalists in Arab countries are fair and not biased. I tend to disagree, not that the one’s in the Western world are all that much better.

Saddam's Cash
From the May 5, 2003 issue: And the journalists and politicians he bought with it.

Choice tidbits for your consumption:

Saddam Hussein has a long history of bribing anyone who could help his regime--businessmen, diplomats, politicians, and journalists. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, Saddam lavished Arab leaders with gifts and contracts in exchange for their support. Shortly before his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, he shipped 100 new Mercedes 200 Series cars to top editors in Egypt and Jordan. Two days before the first attack, he offered Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak $50 million in cash, ostensibly for grain. After the invasion, he sought to buy neutrality or at least complacency by promising Mubarak and other Arab lAs the Galloway affair makes clear, these practices continued throughout the 1990s, despite the increased scrutiny of Iraq's financial dealings by the United Nations. Before the recent conflict, says Tareq al-Mezrem from the Kuwaiti Information Office, the Iraqi regime gave journalists luxury "villas in Jordan, Tunisia, and even Lebanon."
Some of the transactions were straightforward cash payments, often in U.S. dollars, handed out from Iraqi embassies in Arab capitals--luxury cars delivered to top editors, Toyotas for less influential journalists. "This was not secret," says Salama Nimat, a Jordanian journalist who was jailed briefly in 1995 in that nation for highlighting the corruption. "Most of it was done out in the open."
Other transactions were surreptitious or deliberately complex--coveted Iraqi export licenses for family members of politicians, oil kickbacks through third parties, elaborate "scholarship" arrangements. In a region where leaders count their fortunes by the billion and workers by the penny, such payoffs are common. The Saudis, of course, have financed public works throughout the Middle East and Africa. But no one played the game like Saddam Hussein.

Odd that they say that the U.S. was doing the bribing to get allies, now we see who was actually doing the bribing. I wonder if we will trace money to anti-war groups.

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