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Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2004 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Jill "J.R." Labbe

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Kerry's case for winning allies undercut by oil-for-food shenanigans | John Kerry has been so busy on the campaign trail spouting "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" and trying to woo voters with how he's going to "build alliances" to make Iraq all better that he probably hasn't had time to review the tape of fascinating and frustrating testimony that took place in Washington three days before the second presidential debate.

The House Committee on Government Reform's subcommittee investigating the U.N. oil-for-food program heard disturbing accounts of how our "allies" - some of the same countries that cited moral grounds for refusing to back President Bush's pre-emptive move into Iraq - did a first-class job of sabotaging a sanctions program that might have kept Saddam Hussein in check, eliminating the need to shut him down militarily.

"In terms of being a sanctions regime that stopped Saddam Hussein's attempts from busting it and cheating, and using funds to get prohibited materials, it was not a total success," testified Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the U.S. representative to U.N. Management and Reform.

Kennedy was our guy on the ground in Iraq attempting to monitor the provisions of the oil-for-food (OFF) program that was supposed to give Iraq the ability to buy only food, medicine and essential humanitarian needs in exchange for oil sales.

"When we saw him abusing the system," said the ambassador, "we moved to shore it up but met resistance from other members."

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"Other members" would be our "allies" on the 661 Commission, or the Sanctions Commission, and the U.N. Security Council - you know, the same countries that Kerry is confident will jump to assist in Iraq once he's president.

As the investigations into the OFF program continue, the world is finding out just how successful Saddam was at gaming a system meant to keep him from acquiring materials that could be used for weapons. Oil smuggling, kickbacks, premiums on oil, illegal surcharges - Kennedy described a litany of methods that amounted to continuous abuse of the program, aided and abetted by some of our "allies."

The fact that Saddam would manipulate the United Nations isn't a surprise. The fact that he was facilitated by some of the member nations - the self-same countries that voted on 16 different resolutions meant to hold him in check - well, sadly, that's not surprising either.

When Bush went before the United Nations asking for assistance, members of the international community - Kerry's great hope for a better tomorrow - were either up to their eyebrows in or ignoring sanctions-busting oil trading, some of it even before the OFF program started.

"There was not the political will on the part of nations to impose a sanctions regime that would have stopped the leakage," Kennedy said. "The U.S. government made extensive efforts to get the most teeth into the sanctions that it could and met resistance from the other member states who were unwilling to accept that."

When pressed hard by subcommittee Chairman Christopher Shays to name specific countries, a reluctant Kennedy finally offered up China, France and Russia.

And yet Kerry continues to place faith in "international alliances" to solve the challenges in Iraq.

"The goal of the sanctions wasn't to remove Saddam," Kerry said in the Oct. 8 presidential debate from St. Louis. "If we had used smart diplomacy, we could have removed Saddam and saved $200 billion."

Oh, how one wishes that moderator Charlie Gibson had followed up by asking exactly how Kerry defines "smart diplomacy." The Bush administration did everything it knew how to get the international community to put real penalties into the sanctions against Saddam, and it was thwarted at every turn.

"Our allies who didn't support the embargo were pretty much shaping it," concluded Shays.

Said subcommittee member Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania: "When we asked them for help, nations were acting holier-than-thou about the United States not having hard evidence to go into Iraq in 2001. If they knowingly participated, active or passive, in sending money to Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime and if that ended up being used against our citizen soldiers in the form of bullets, that is disgusting."

In evaluating the actions of this administration before and after its initiation of military activities in Iraq, it is imperative that the American public has a full appreciation of the motivations of Security Council members in deciding not to support President Bush.

Some of our "allies" are likely to end up mighty embarrassed by what the oil-for-food investigations reveal. Can't wait to hear how Kerry explains this away.

The bottom line in this election: Lots of things about the Bush presidency drive hard-core conservatives nuts, but his willingness to put the security of the United States first isn't one of them.

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JWR contributor Jill "J.R." Labbe is senior editorial writer and columnist for the Star-Telegram . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Jill "J.R." Labbe