If you leave a fox in charge of the henhouse, don?t expect many eggs.
That nicely sums up the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. It was supposed to feed starving people in Iraq. Instead, a handful of corrupt bureaucrats in Baghdad and at the U.N. (foxes) were in charge of the program and pocketed billions of dollars, while innocent Iraqis starved to death (for a lack of eggs).
Internal U.N. documents describe widespread incompetence and mismanagement in the program, and the U.N. admits it wasted millions of dollars through overpayments to contractors, a lack of oversight and other unjustified spending. Oil-for-Food is the largest financial scandal of our time -- perhaps of all time.
To get to the bottom of the scandal, the United Nations turned to Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Admittedly, he?s no fox himself, but he is a longtime friend and supporter of the United Nations -- and that?s a big problem. After all, it?s impossible to have a credible investigation unless you have investigators with credibility.
That?s why Henry Kissinger and George Mitchell didn?t serve as co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission. Within weeks of being named in Nov. 2002 to head the panel each resigned, citing conflicts of interest.
?Although specific potential conflicts can be resolved,? Kissinger wrote in a letter to President Bush, ?to liquidate Kissinger Associates cannot be accomplished without significantly delaying the beginning of the joint commission?s work. I have, therefore, concluded that I cannot accept the responsibility you have proposed.? For his part, former Senate Majority Leader Mitchell admitted that his law firm had too many ties to too many groups and noted, ?I regret that I will not be able to serve.?
The investigation went ahead, of course, under different leadership. And because the panel mostly managed to avoid other conflicts (some questions did arise about Commissioner Jamie Gorelick?s service in the Clinton Justice Department), the investigation was seen as fair.
When it comes to the U.N., though, Volcker has clear conflicts of interest. As my Heritage Foundation colleague Nile Gardiner recently pointed out, when Volcker was appointed, he was a director of the United Nations Association of the United States of America. That organization?s self-proclaimed mission is to ?greatly expand and contribute to Americans? understanding of the U.N. and its importance to the U.S.?
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