Iraq's interim Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, said it was "standard practice" for Saddam's regime to win favors by offering oil and money bribes. Saddam's oil gifts continued until the eve of the war last spring and were intended to buy overseas friends and influence.
A former ministry official explained how the process worked: Saddam's regime "used to give Arab and other foreign political figures coupons worth millions of barrels of crude oil, which they could sell on the market and almost always make a full profit." The official said the transactions were coordinated by Iraq's State Oil Organization.
There are those who contend that Saddam had no ties to terrorists. Al-Mada's list suggests otherwise. The Palestinian Liberation Organization reportedly received 4 million barrels of Saddam's oil, and Abu Abbas, the mastermind of the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and murderer of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer, who was captured in Iraq by U.S. Special Forces, reportedly received nearly 12 million barrels of oil from Saddam.
The allegations provide further evidence that Saddam was brazenly flouting United Nations resolutions passed after the First Gulf War. When the United Nations agreed in 1996 to permit Iraq to sell oil-for-food, it established a special account so that the oil sales and resulting food and medicine purchases could be monitored for compliance.
Journalists in Baghdad are scrambling to secure a full copy of the list, and to investigate its accuracy. Did supposed "statesmen" and political parties around the world provide cover for Saddam in exchange for oil? Are there more lists to be uncovered? Was the U.N. Oil for Food Program being corrupted by Saddam and his allies? There are a great many questions that need to be answered.
Thanks to George W. Bush, Saddam's records are now open for inspection. When will Kofi Annan open the U.N.'s records on the Oil for Food Program, and what will they show?
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.