News Release

Oil-for-Food: The Real Scandal


Gordon has written extensively on the Oil-for-Food program, including articles in Harper’s Magazine and Le Monde Diplomatique. She said today: “The Volcker Committee’s final report focuses a great deal on improprieties that had little impact on the Oil-for-Food program. Where it adds up the actual money involved, it finds that the amount of money that went into Iraq illicitly through the program totaled $1.8 billion over the seven-year history of the program. This is far less than had been claimed in earlier CIA and GAO reports, and by contrast it is much much less than the amount of Iraqi funds that were mismanaged by the U.S. or disappeared altogether during its occupation of Iraq — in just a 14-month period. Just one example, according to the audit reports that have been released, was that no information could be provided about what happened to $8.8 billion of Iraqi funds sent to ministries under U.S. control. The Volcker reports’ claims of financial improprieties are minor compared to the magnitude and the speed with which Iraq’s funds disappeared once they were in the hands of the U.S. occupation.”
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Author of the book The U.N. For Beginners, Williams said today: “The Volcker Report lacks a sense of proportion, although it grudgingly admitted that the U.N. Oil-For-Food program was a success and saved untold Iraqi lives from the ravages of sanctions. … It is time for other U.N. members to realize that when the Bush administration talks about ‘reform,’ it means beating the U.N. into subservience. Other members should stop worrying about consensus on the Sixtieth Anniversary Statement, vote for its contents in the General Assembly and work to implement them, with or without Bolton or Bush’s assent.”
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Active for years with the humanitarian group Voices in the Wilderness, Sacks was fined by the U.S. government after going to Iraq and distributing medicine. He said today: “The real scandal with Oil-for-Food is that $64 billion of Iraq’s own wealth was all that was permitted by the U.S. through the U.N. Security Council. After war reparations and other deductions were made, this came to less than a dollar a day for each of 20 million Iraqis in the South-Central regions for all their needs — food, water, electricity, medicine, everything. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children died because the limit of a dollar a day was ‘woefully inadequate’ to meet their needs — and the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council knew that. That’s the real scandal.”
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Kelly is co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness. This August, U.S. Federal District Judge John Bates ordered payment of a $20,000 fine against the group for violating the sanctions on Iraq. She said today: “The Oil-for-Food program was intended to ease the crippling effects of economic sanctions which primarily punished Iraqi civilians. By supplying 27 million Iraqis with food and medicine in exchange for letting Saddam Hussein export oil, the program saved many lives, but it was always too little and too late. … Voices in the Wilderness broke the sanctions at least 70 times. We brought donated medicines to children and families in Iraq, from 1996-2002. … Our group was fined $20,000 for bringing this medicine. The judge agreed that it was lawful and proper for the U.S. government to deny needed drugs and medical supplies to Iraq’s most vulnerable citizens, despite the evidence that several hundred thousand innocent children were dying because of brutal economic sanctions. … Voices will not pay a penny of this fine.” Kelly’s recently-released book is titled Other Lands Have Dreams: From Baghdad to Pekin Prison.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020l; or David Zupan, (541)484-9167