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Oil-for-Food as a Weapon of Mass Distraction

Reported by Nancy - October 13, 2004 -

On FNL this morning (10/13) at 10:36am (EDT) Jonathan Hunt filed his usual breathless over-the-top "report" about how the "French are fighting back" over allegations in the Duelfer report. Hunt insinuated that "even Jacques Chirac himself" might be involved in what Fox loves to call the "scandal".

Hunt went on to claim that "Fox has now obtained a copy of a letter from" the French Ambassador to Rep Christopher Shays & quoted snippets from that letter ("accusations without proof", Oil-For-Food did not support smugggling, "outrageous" allegations). But Hunt then insisted that the ISG report "paints a damning picture of French actions" & noted that "We haven't heard directly from Chirac" despite suggestions in ISG report that "a French leader" might have told Saddam Hussein's government that France would veto any US motion about Iraq in the Security Council.

Fox, of course, has been foaming at the mouth about this "simmering scandal" for months, (as have their colleagues from other right-wing outlets like the National Review, the Weekly Standard & the Washington Times, & mouthpieces like Henry Hyde & Norm Coleman). William Safire, in today's NYTimes, is still blathering on about those terrible Frenchies.

While most of the media focused on the WMD issue in last week's Duelfer report, The New York Times (& then others) also noted that it included info on how Saddam Hussein "gamed" the UN's oil-for-food program in order to secretly raise billions of dollars in allegedly corrupt oil deals. The NYTimes, for example, wrote that the report described how Hussein created a web of front companies & used shadowy government-to-government trade agreements with foreign governments, corporations, & officials to amass $11 billion in the decade before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

When the ISG released its report, it listed only foreign companies & individuals that had benefitted from the UN plan. US names were withheld for "privacy reasons", an explanation that made foreign countries named in the report furious. But the US names were included in classified copies of the reports & these copies were shown to the NYTimes, which wrote an article about it on Oct 9:

The 918-page report says that four American oil companies - Chevron, Mobil, Texaco and Bay Oil - and three individuals including Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. of Houston were given vouchers and got 111 million barrels of oil between them from 1996 to 2003. The vouchers allowed them to profit by selling the oil or the right to trade it. ... [S]pokesmen for the oil companies ... said the transactions had been legal. But each confirmed that they had received subpoenas from a federal grand jury in New York.

An astute reader (thanks, Tim!) reminded me that Condoleeza Rice had long-standing & well-known ties to Chevron. So I dug for more info & came up with the following relevant dates in Rice's bio:

7 May 1991 Named a director, Chevron Corporation
1993 Appointed provost, Stanford University
1995 Chevron names their largest oil tanker (136,000 tons) the Condoleezza Rice
1 Jul 1999 Resigns provostship at Stanford to help with GW Bush's campaign
1 Jul 1999 Appointed senior fellow, Hoover Institute
15 Jan 2001 Resigns as a director of Chevron
22 Jan 2001 Appointed National Security Advisor by GW Bush

Note that the UN Oil-for-Food program began in 1996. So Condi's tenure at Chevron overlapped the first 5 years of that program -- the same time frame when Chevron was able to profit from the program.

Disingenuous question: Gee, aren't corporate directors supposed to exercise oversight over corporate activities?

Not-so-disingenuous questions: Why aren't the right-wing in a lather about how US companies raked in billions in profits & simultaneously enabled Hussein's regime to continue in power as long as it did? Why aren't they angry about the money US companies gave Iraq that has (directly or indirectly) now been used to kill & maim "our troops"?