As the U.S. seeks United Nations help in managing a future Iraq, important new evidence has come to light showing that Saddam Hussein used the U.N. “oil for food” program to make bribes and payoffs. We have a new independent newspaper in Baghdad to thank for these revelations. The daily paper Al-Mada obtained lists of companies, organizations, and individuals awarded allocations or vouchers of crude oil by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Prominent among them were individuals from Russia and France, former member of the British Parliament George Galloway, and two Iraqi-Americans, one of whom organized a delegation of Iraqi religious leaders to visit the U.S. and meet with former president Jimmy Carter.
Galloway was on the list to receive 19 million barrels of oil, representing a $90.5 million profit. A critic of the Iraq war who urged British soldiers not to fight in it, he has repeatedly denied profiting from any relationship with Saddam Hussein. But the documents tell the story. They were obtained from the files of the Iraqi Oil Ministry. The paper published some of the names on the list on January 25. Four days later, Brian Ross of ABC News got the document and aired a story about it. The Middle East Media Research Institute has translated the article and has posted it on its website.
In the words of Brian Ross, “some 270 prominent individuals, political parties or corporations in 47 countries were on a list of those given Iraq oil contracts instantly worth millions of dollars.” Financial investigator John Fawcett told ABC, “You are looking at a political slush fund that was buying political support for the regime of Saddam Hussein for the last six or seven years.”
For those who say that Saddam had no connection to terrorism, it is interesting to note that the documents show that the Palestinian Liberation Organization received an oil voucher worth 4 million barrels, while Abu Abbas, a convicted Palestinian terrorist who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, received a contract worth 11.5 million barrels. He was captured in Iraq by U.S. forces.
The Russian names on the list include the Russian Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Russian Committee for Solidarity with Iraq, the head of the Russian Presidential Cabinet, and the Russian Orthodox Church. The French names include a former minister of interior, a businessman, the former French ambassador to the United Nations, and the founder of the French-Iraqi Export Club.
The Al-Mada newspaper commented that it was the United Nations that made this possible. It said the Saddam regime used the “oil for food” program to “finance its clandestine acquisitions of arms, expensive construction materials for the presidential palaces and mosques, and frivolous luxury items. It turned the oil sales agreements into the greatest bribery operation in history, buying souls and pens, and squandering the nation’s resources.” We hope the paper continues to investigate this matter, and that the American media publicize the results.