You all may have noticed today the NYTimes front-page story by Susan Sach & Judith Miller on the Oil-for-food Scandal I’ll talk momentarily about the contents of the article, but the real story is why it’s there at all. For months now, O”Reilly, Safire, and all the bottom feeders on the right have been pushing this story as THE scandal, and complaining mightily that a left-leaning media have avoided it in their preoccupation with beating up the Bush administration for such things as lying to the nation about Iraq and torturing prisoners at Abu-Ghraib. O’Reilly has taken to mentioning “oil-for-food” when anyone so much as asks him the time of day, and when Russert had both him and Krugman on recently, O’Reliable Bullshit Bill brought it up by contrasting the number of articles the Times had run on Abu Ghraib vs. the number on oil-for-food. And so, voila, this story appeareth—ah capitulation, thy name is liberal media.
What’s the goal? First of all changing the subject by charging that the real corruption is not in the White House but in the UN. Equally important, though is discrediting the global antiwar effort in the run up to the election. France and Russia are deeply involved and what the Right has been charging all along is that the reluctance of so-called old Europe to back the war was based on nothing more than that these countries were profiting handsomely from kickbacks from Hussein. This is Bush’s grab for the moral high ground after pursuing and unnecessary and illegal war, and we shouldn’t forget that fact.
As for the story itself: Well, at present Paul Volcker, who’s chairing the panel that’s looking into the issue says that it’ll be at least a year before they determine whether the charges are justified (but that’s not going to matter if the Right gets to prosecute this in the press during the next twelve weeks). And from what’s been reported thus far, it’s pretty clear there were kickbacks galore, but all stemming ultimately from the ill-designed sanctions against Iraq after the first war, which were punishing the Iraqi people and not doing anything to oust Hussein’s regime. The “Oil-For-Food” program was a 1996 compromise, and who’s to say that it wasn’t working at some level given that Hussein appears to have given up his WMD and fewer Iraqi's may have starved than would have otherwise? Be that as it may, however, the real point is that since neither the first Gulf War nor the sanctions following it were part of our agenda, the only dog we have in this fight is the one that keeps biting at the administration for having unjustly led the nation into war