Little Scottie McClellan, yesterday:
Charles Duelfer came to the White House in December; the President took that opportunity to thank him for all the work that he had done. The two discussed how Saddam Hussein’s regime retained the intent and capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, and they also discussed how he was systematically gaming the system to undermine the sanctions that were in place, so that once those sanctions were eliminated — which was something he was trying to do through the U.N. oil-for-food program — then he could begin his weapons programs once again.
And later in the gaggle…
And if you look at the report that was issued by Charles Duelfer, again, it made very clear that the regime retained the intent and capability, that Saddam Hussein was pursuing an aggressive strategy to undermine the U.N. oil-for-food program and bring down the United Nations sanctions through illicit finance and procurement schemes, and that he intended to resume his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction once those sanctions were eliminated.
Gee, we thought Saddam had those WMDs, and we spent $[censored] to find out they did not exist. But we did find out he was gaming the Oil for Food program, so the work of the Iraq Survey Group somewhat justified, right?
Wrong. We knew Saddam was bypassing the restrictions placed on his oil sales. We knew because we helped him.
[A] joint investigation by the Financial Times and Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian business daily, shows that the single largest and boldest smuggling operation in the oil-for-food programme was conducted with the knowledge of the US government.
“Although the financial beneficiaries were Iraqis and Jordanians, the fact remains that the US government participated in a major conspiracy that violated sanctions and enriched Saddam’s cronies,” a former UN official said. “That is exactly what many in the US are now accusing other countries of having done. I think it’s pretty ironic.”
Overall, the operation involved 14 tankers engaged by a Jordanian entity to load at least 7m barrels of oil for a total of no less than $150m (€113m) of illegal profits. About another $50m went to Mr Hussein’s cronies.
In February 2003, when US media first published reports of this smuggling effort, then attributed exclusively to the Iraqis, the US mission to the UN condemned it as “immoral”.
However, FT/Il Sole have evidence that US and UK missions to the UN were informed of the smuggling while it was happening and that they reported it to their respective governments, to no avail.
Oil traders were told informally that the US let the tankers go because Amman needed oil to build up its strategic reserves in expectation of the Iraq war.
Last week Paul Volcker, head of the independent commission created by the UN to investigate failures in the oil-for-food programme, confirmed that Washington allowed violations of the oil sanctions by Jordan in recognition of its national interests.
However, only a fraction of the oil smuggled out of Iraq reached the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Most was sold to the Middle East Oil Refinery, in Alexandria, Egypt; to a refinery in Aden, Yemen; and to Malaysia and China. “This operation was not permitted under the Security Council resolutions dealing with the oil-for-food programme,” said Michel Tellings, one of the two UN inspectors responsible at the time for the implementation of the programme. “The volume of oil was not inspected and payments were not made to the UN escrow account, as required by the programme.”