Oil for Saddam's Influence Machinery

Views on BG | February 16, 2004, Monday // 00:00

By Oliver North
The Washington Times

Ever since September 11, liberals in the United States and abroad have done their best to undermine the War on Terror by maligning the intentions of the Bush administration.

In a pattern reminiscent of how liberals sought to undermine Ronald Reagan's successful effort in the 1980s against communism, the far-left today is waging an ongoing smear campaign against President George W. Bush's bold actions on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the globe.

From Howard Dean's suggestion President Bush had advance knowledge of September 11, to Sen. Teddy Kennedy's charge that the war was "cooked up" in Texas, to the outrageous claims by Hollywood leftists, liberals just can't accept that the world is a safer and better place without Saddam Hussein.

One of the benefits of a burgeoning democracy is that a free press has access to surviving records of Saddam Hussein's regime. A decade ago the records of former Eastern Bloc regimes provided both a damning indictment of the human rights abuses that occurred under the communist leaders and the names of local collaborators.

The latest revelation to emerge from Iraq is provided by the Baghdad-based newspaper Al-Mada, which recently published the names of more than 200 individuals and organizations in more than 40 countries who are alleged to have received oil payoffs from Saddam Hussein in exchange for their support. It could represent just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of showing how Saddam used his petroleum and cash to purchase friends and favors.

The list of recipients spans four continents and contains the names of prominent politicians as well as political parties, journalists and clergy from such countries as France, Libya, Syria, Indonesia and Russia, among others. Among the disclosures in Al-Mada:

The Bulgarian Socialist Party is reported to have received 12 million barrels of oil in 1998 - worth about $250 million at the time - as a "gift" from Saddam. Current Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, who headed the Socialist Party at the time, denied the charge, terming it "inappropriate black humor."

The Society for Austrian-Arab Relations was named as another beneficiary of Saddam's largess. The organization's executive director denied the charges, blaming it on a translation error. "We received neither gold watches nor money nor barrels of oil," he said.

The Communist Party of Slovakia is another alleged recipient of Iraqi oil "gifts," though the party's leader from 1992-1998, Vladimir Dado, denies it, saying, "It is absolutely false to say the Slovakian Communist Party supported the regime of Saddam Hussein."

Iraq's interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said it was "standard practice" for Saddam's regime to win favors by offering oil and money bribes. Saddam's oil gifts continued until the eve of the war last spring and were intended to buy overseas friends and influence.

A former ministry official explained how the process worked: Saddam's regime "used to give Arab and other foreign political figures coupons worth millions of barrels of crude oil which they could sell on the market and almost always make a full profit." The official said the transactions were coordinated by Iraq's State Oil Organization.

There are those who contend Saddam had no ties to terrorists. Al-Mada's list suggests otherwise. The Palestinian Liberation Organization reportedly received 4 million barrels of Saddam's oil, and Abu Abbas - mastermind of the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and murderer of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer - who was captured in Iraq by U.S. Special Forces, reportedly received nearly 12 million barrels of oil from Saddam.

The allegations provide further evidence Saddam brazenly flouted United Nations resolutions passed after the First Gulf War. When the U.N. agreed in 1996 to permit Iraq to sell oil-for-food, it established a special account so the oil sales and resulting food and medicine purchases could be monitored for compliance.

Journalists in Baghdad are scrambling to secure a full copy of the list, and to investigate its accuracy. Did supposed "statesmen" and political parties around the world provide cover for Saddam in exchange for oil? Are there more lists to be uncovered? Was the U.N. Oil for Food Program being corrupted by Saddam and his allies? There are a great many questions that need answers. Thanks to George W. Bush, Saddam's records are now open for inspection. When will Kofi Annan open the U.N.'s records on the Oil for Food Program, and what will they show?

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