June 18, 2005

Did Kofi Annan Do It?

This week the oil-for-food scandal flared up again. A couple of emails were discovered that seemed to imply that Kofi Annan had influenced the awarding of a oil-for-food contract to Cotecna Inspection Services. The news was full of people talking about how if this was true it would be a terrible blow to Annan because he had alway been seen as such an incorruptable person. The day after the allegations were made, Michael Wilson, a former VP of Cotecna who was the author of the newly discovered emails, denied discussing the contract with Annan.

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan has refused to comment on the charges that he had help award the contract to Cotecna and says that people should wait for the Volcker commission to investigate the allegation.

Nevertheless, the right is already calling for Annan's blood and want to see him gone.

But there are some strange angles about this story that are worth exploring and some questions that a good investigative reporter might want to have answered about this story.

First, guess who "broke" this story. Why it's our old friend and renowned investigative reporter, Judith Miller.

A memo written by someone who was then an executive of a major contractor in the United Nations oil-for-food program states that he briefly discussed the company's effort to win the contract in late 1998 with Secretary General Kofi Annan and his "entourage" and that the executive was told that "we could count on their support."

...Asked for comment, a consultant for the company who is familiar with its role in the oil-for-food program said that on Monday Cotecna provided copies of the e-mail messages and other documents that were recently discovered in company files to investigators of three Congressional committees. The committees have been looking into fraud and abuses in the $65 billion program.

The consultant said the memo was found by accident three weeks ago in a search of company archives as part of an effort to account for all of Cotecna's payments to Kojo Annan.

"No senior Cotecna officials initially had any memory of the e-mail or of such a meeting, and the memo appears to contradict what the company has said," said the company's consultant, who declined to be identified.

A copy of the memo was provided to The New York Times, and the consultant confirmed that it was authentic.

Okay, so Judith gets to push the right wing, anti-UN story again when she scores another scoop from the Congressional committees who are investigating the Oil-For-Food scandal. And the two memos are exposed this week just as the Bush administration is making a final push to get John Bolton's nomination through the Senate declaring he is the solution to "reform" the UN.

That's some coincidence.

So let's summarize the story so far:

  • This week a new report is published with strong support from Kofi Annan on what needs to be done to reform the UN.

  • Cotecna "discovers" emails that implicate the Secretary General and turn them over to the congressional committees investigating the oil-for-food scandal.

  • Someone slips the memos to Judith Miller and the allegations that Annan is corrupt flashes through the world.

  • The chairman of the permanent subcommittee on investigations is none other than that slime, Senator Norm Coleman, who has been gunning for Annan for some time as he attempts to wow the firebreathing right wing.
  • Volcker's committee reopens investigation into Annan.

  • Michael Wilson, the supposed author, denies that he ever met with Annan on this program. Judith Miller writes her next story titled: Contractor Now Denies He Talked With Annan on Oil-for-Food Bid -- note emphasis on the phrase "Now Denies".

  • White House says the UN needs reform and the way to fix things is by supporting John Bolton.

One more thing to consider, not too long ago William Arkin, known for his expertise in reporting on national security, was the victim of a forged document that claimed he had been collaborating with Saddam Hussein. Then there was the forged Niger document that Bush used to justify his war on Iraq. And don't forget the disinformation that has been planted in the press to build a case for war against Saddam.

So, I'm going to take Kofi Annan's advice and wait to see what the Volcker commission finds out. As others have said, when the news comes from Judith, you need to take the message with a grain of salt.

Posted by Mary at June 18, 2005 08:19 AM | Corruption & Graft | Technorati links |