Robert Novak

 This arrangement does not bother the bulk of UN member nations, who want nothing unpleasant to happen to their friend Kofi. Two permanent Security Council members, France and Russia, profited so much from the oil-for-food scam that they desire no vigorous investigation.

 The question is how rigorous the U.S. government will be toward Annan after the Iraqi election. Powell has a long-standing relationship with Annan, but he is leaving. Powell's successor, Condoleezza Rice, has been characteristically prudent in reacting to the UN scandal. According to Capitol Hill sources, she remained mute after Coleman briefed her on Annan and the scandal.

 Senior senators are similarly silent, partly not to discourage the UN from helping a little in the Iraq elections but also mostly not to look like yahoo isolationists. During a long interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Dec. 19, Tim Russert asked four high-ranking senators whether they "still have confidence" in Kofi Annan. Sen. John Warner, Armed Services Committee chairman, answered that "we've got to wait until the Volcker report." "Anyone disagree?" asked Russert. Nobody did.

 Sen. Carl Levin, who is ranking Democrat on both Armed Services and Coleman's investigations subcommittee, specifically answered that he did not disagree. That contradicted a tough letter last month to Annan co-signed by Coleman and Levin, accusing the Volcker inquiry of obstructing the Senate investigation. Instead, at a Nov. 15 hearing, Levin reverted to partisanship in trying to pin culpability for the scandal on the Bush administration. It seems impossible for Kofi Annan to escape unscathed from this scandal, but peculiar things happen at Turtle Bay.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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