Lessons from Oil for Food

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The final independent audit report on the UN’s Oil for Food program was released yesterday—Abu Aardvark has a summary. The report found that Benon Sevan, the administrator in charge, was incompetent and likely corrupt. Secretary General Kofi Annan, meanwhile, gets some heat for his poor oversight, but the inquiry doesn’t find enough evidence to definitively tie him to his son Kojo’s shady dealings.

Saddam Hussein’s regime did skim off a fair bit of money by manipulating Oil for Food—but only about one-seventh as much as it did through outright smuggling, most of which was done through American allies, especially Turkey and Jordan. (And the United States prevented the UN subcommittee responsible for monitoring abuses from dealing with this matter.) And in the case of Oil for Food contract abuses, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. At the insistence of the United States, Iraq was allowed to designate the contractors with which it wanted to do business. If the companies chosen were willing to be corrupt, well, that’s their fault too

Right-wing commentators have relished using the Oil for Food investigation as an anti-U.N. battering ram. But the program, troubled as it was, undoubtedly saved many, many lives. Those concerned about alleviating suffering under sanctions regimes shouldn’t immediately discard Oil for Food as model for future attempts. If, as a consequence of the Iraq mess, the US becomes more averse to intervening militarrily, sanctions will again become a major foreign policy tool. Finding ways to lessen their impact on the citizens of targeted nations is too important a goal to give up on.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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