Friday, March 23, 2007

The Foxes that didn't bark-full text

Dogs don't bark for the GOP
American conservatives love to go after the UN, even on the most dubious charges. So why aren't they doing so when a Republican is involved?

March 22, 2007 8:30 PM |
Sherlock Holmes aficionados will remember the story about the dog that did not bark. It sprang to mind this week as I strained to hear the deafening sound of silence from the usual suspects - the Murdoch/Fox hunters - who are so well trained to bay at the first hint of a UN corruption story.

Consider. A senior official of a UN agency that Washington banned for many years because of its alleged corruption and anti-American bias has just resigned, shortly before the auditors closed in with a devastating report. The official is a former legislator from the party currently running his government back home - and currently mired in nepotism and corruption scandals. Nominated by his President, once ensconced in the agency's offices, the official sliced and diced consultancy contracts into segments smaller than $100,000 so that he could award them on a no-bid basis to an influential company back home. To do so, he used funds totaling over $2m earmarked to combat illiteracy in Africa, and even used half a million at one point for a sycophantic reception in honour of the spouse of the president who nominated him. These charges were made in the French press three months ago, and have been circulating among the knowledgeable ever since - even though those who raised questions about the official found themselves transferred from Paris to plum postings like Zimbabwe.

Wow. Are the Foxes hunting? Is the Wall Street Journal op-ed page about to declare war on someone and demand US withdrawal from the UN?

No. The sound of silence is deafening. Why? Elementary, my dear Watson.

The official concerned is former American Republican Congressman Peter Smith, nominated by President George W Bush to go to UNESCO and reform the organization after 19 years of American boycott. UNESCO is based in Paris, and the auditors are those used by the French government.

The company that was the beneficiary of Smith's Halliburtonesque contracting practices was Navigant, a big Washington company whose website, you will notice, does not claim any educational expertise at all.

UNESCO critics claim he transferred over $200,000 from literacy projects in Mauritania, Iraq and Palestine to bankroll the conference hosted by Laura Bush and the White House in September last year, where Ms Bush was feted as the Honorary Ambassador of the United Nations Literacy Decade. The New York caterer was the beneficiaries of the children's loss.

Of course, it is possible that he is entirely innocent. But when you consider the Oil for Food allegations, you have to wonder why some parts of the fourth estate don't show the same restraint before going after foreigners, liberals and globalists of various hues.

Indeed, the relative silence is an interesting contrast to the two year furor over the Oil For Food programme. After hyperbolic talk of billions of dollars improperly diverted, the scandal ended up as a whimper, not a bang: The allegation is now that the former head of the programme, Benon Sevan, received $160,000 over four years, which is claimed to have come from a friend who bought oil from Saddam Hussein. Sevan had declared it on his UN forms, saying it came from his aunt, and denies any connection. (Of course, he is a Cypriot, and spent a lifetime working for the UN, and had no known connection with the GOP - so his guilt has been assumed from the beginning.)

But the silence is also reminiscent of the blanket over the $10bn that the UN Oil for Food programme handed over to US occupation authorities. Congressman Henry Waxman has been trying to find out what happened - and has been quite successful in uncovering the serious incompetence and corruption of the Americans who handled these huge bricks of cash. His efforts have had less than one per cent of the publicity of the unproven and frankly dubious Oil for Food scandal.

The lesson is clear. If you want to be corrupt in the UN, being an influential Republican is as good as ticking the box for no publicity.

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