Meanwhile, The New York Times reported, Sevan sent out an email that criticized pundits "who have never even set foot in Iraq and have never understood Iraq or the Iraqi people." Sevan denies that he received oil vouchers from Hussein. Annan compared said brouhaha to a "lynching, actually."
In May, a former Oil for Food coordinator wrote in The New Republic that he considered it "unlikely" Sevan accepted kickbacks. Michael Soussan's piece nonetheless reports how outrageously ineffective the U.N. program was at stopping the Iraqi regime from skimming money that was supposed to benefit the Iraqi people. "If the system failed to stop the kickbacks, why was the world spending close to $1 billion to fund it?" Soussan asked.
Excellent question. Annan doesn't seem to have an answer. He's more angry at the bad press than the criminal waste of U.N. funds. He complained to PBS, "We had no mandate to stop smuggling." For his part, Sevan blames the Security Council for preventing him from administering the program as billed.
Andrew Apostolou, of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said of Sevan's lament: "It's an absolute pathetic excuse. We all knew about abuses in the oil for food program." Apostolous says, "I am not one of those knee-jerk U.N.-ophobes. ... We need the United Nations and we need the United Nations to work." Still, he added, "In the long run, if we don't reform the United Nations, it is going to whither on the vine."
Reform is a kind word. It says something rotten about the value system at the United Nations that it took this long for Annan to act.