Debra J. Saunders

 Then, Hussein's regime flagrantly smuggled oil through Iran and even terminated cooperation with U.N. arms inspectors so that the weapons inspectors had to leave Iraq -- and still the U.N. Security Council extended or expanded the oil-for-food program.

 Dujarric hopes Americans won't forget that, the allegations aside, the oil-for-food program helped Iraqi citizens. "The program did feed 27 million Iraqis," he said. "The malnutrition rates went down."

 The problem is, as it was structured, the oil-for-food program couldn't feed people without empowering a murderous regime.

 If the United Nations didn't want Hussein to pocket kickbacks, it should not have allowed his regime to negotiate oil contracts. But it did.

 Once the Security Council determined it would let a "sovereign" Iraq negotiate for itself, the panel could have admitted that Hussein would get a big cut of the pie. Instead, members agreed to the fiction of a $1 billion bureaucracy -- ostensibly to ensure that all the oil revenues went to the Iraqi people and not Hussein -- that was destined to fail.

 Consider this explanation, by U.N. spokesman Dujarric: "So, when we were made aware of these instances of kickbacks, of improprieties, we did inform the Security Council. But we were not mandated to police the contractors; it's not the way the program was set up by the Security Council members."

 Translation: It was never supposed to work. They meant well, but the price of feeding the starving Iraqis was financing Hussein's ruthless oppression of the Iraqi people.

Debra J. Saunders

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