Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sort of Pregnant

When the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq following the Persian Gulf War to enforce compliance with Saddam's pledges to disarm and behave, we knew that it would impact Iraqi civilians even though the target was Saddam and his Baath Party cronies. Given that we left Saddam and his cronies in power, this was inevitable. These thugs with guns could take whatever there was to insulate themselves from the losses due to sanctions.

The blessed international community instituted the Oil for Food program to alleviate the hardships on the public. All it did was provide a means for Saddam to extort and steal money from oil contracts while providing a convenient villain for Saddam to blame for the poverty of the people of Iraq.

That awful project is still winding down:

In a letter to the Security Council, Ban said the U.N. will continue to transfer "unencumbered funds" to the Development Fund for Iraq as it continues the process of terminating the oil-for-food program, found to be riddled with corruption.

The program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was aimed at easing Iraqi suffering under U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It allowed Iraq to sell oil provided the bulk of the proceeds were used to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods and pay war reparations.

But an 18-month investigation led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, found massive corruption in the program. Its final report in October 2005 accused more than 2,200 companies from some 40 countries of colluding with Saddam Hussein's regime to bilk the humanitarian program in Iraq of $1.8 billion.

Let this be a lesson to all of us. When you have decided a regime is bad, it is folly to take half measures against it. When you start to take Vienna, and all that, you know?

Perhaps if we had throttled Iraqi imports in 1991 after our armistice the way Britain blockaded Germany after World War I to pressure the Germans to finally capitulate, we could have settled the Saddam issue in a matter of months or a few years. Instead, Saddam was emboldened to believe he would never be punished for anything he did. And so to solve a festering problem the international community made worse, we invaded to take down the Saddam regime and attempt to repair the damage Saddam did to Iraq with the help of Oil for Food.