WASHINGTON -- December 8 -- Twenty-one Member of Congress, led by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell today in support of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The letter states:
We are writing to express our support of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has recently been under attack by some American lawmakers for the U.N's Oil-for-Food program scandal occurring under his watch. Such an attack on the second-term Secretary-General and Nobel Peace laureate is disgraceful and premature. There has been no hint of impropriety on the part of the Secretary-General, who on numerous occasions has proven his honesty and integrity. Furthermore, we specifically reject all calls for his resignation.
In order to address the allegations of mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food Program, Secretary-General Annan appropriately appointed an independent panel led by Chairman Paul Volcker, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, to investigate the allegations. The panel is comprised of members independent to the U.N. and has unrestricted access to all relevant U.N. records and information, including interviews with all relevant U.N. officials and personnel, regardless of seniority.
Secretary-General Annan made his intentions for complete transparency unmistakably clear on April 15, 2004 when he said, "Transparency is the only way to deal with allegations [like those surrounding the Oil-for-Food Program], and by far the best way to prevent corruption from happening in the first place. That, I believe, will be one of the main lessons we have to learn from this affair, whatever the outcome of the inquiry."
We support the investigation called for by the Secretary-General and headed up by Chairman Volcker and encourage the Administration to support this independent investigation as well.
In the wake of heavy criticism against Secretary General Annan, we want to highlight the shared responsibility by the United States for the alleged fraud and abuse that occurred in the Oil-for-Food Program. The responsibility and enforcement capacity for checking unauthorized oil sales was provided to all UN Member States, of which the United States is one, and in the Gulf area, to the multinational Maritime Interception Force (MIF). The role of oversight for all contracts awarded under the Oil-for-Food Program belonged to the Security Council's 661 Committee, of which the U.S. had a representative for the entire duration of the Program. The UN's Office of Internal Oversight undertook regular program audits and the program's escrow account was audited every six months by external auditors.
It should also be noted that the majority of Saddam's stolen revenues came from illicit oil trade deals outside of the Oil-for-Food Program with Jordan, Syria and Turkey. According to the Duelfer Report, nearly 75 percent of Iraq's illicit income during the sanctions period was generated through oil sales to Iraqi's neighbors. According to Senator Carl Levin, senior democrat on the Permanent Subcommittee to investigate the Oil-for-Food scandal, Iraq's ongoing oil sales to its neighbors were no secret. The United States and the other nations in the United Nations knew of them and deliberately let the trade continue, presumably to maintain the support of Iraq's neighboring countries for the sanctions and to attain other foreign policy objectives.
In 1994, Congress barred U.S. foreign aid to any country violating the Iraqi sanctions unless the President issued a waiver, but both the Clinton and Bush administrations issued waivers year after year to allow Jordan and Turkey to keep getting U.S. foreign aid despite their sending billions to Saddam. The United States also failed to take any meaningful action to stop Syria's illegal trade with Iraq.
The condemnation of Secretary-General Annan and the call for his resignation are inappropriate. We urge the Administration to voice confidence for the Secretary General to help quell premature backlash and to support in good faith the independent investigation carried out by Chairman Volcker.
Joining Kucinich on the letter were Reps. Watson (D-CA), Lee (D-CA), Davis (D-IL), Hinchey (D-NY), Woolsey (D-CA), Solis (D-CA), Brown (D-OH), McDermott (D-WA), Clay (D-MO), Filner (D-CA), Stark (D-CA), Serrano (D-NY), Baldwin (D-WI), Farr (D-CA), Olver (D-MA), Sanders (I-VT), Miller (D-CA), Rodriguez (D-TX), Kleczka (D-WI), and Jackson-Lee (D-TX).