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Hunt Finally Gets the Doghouse

Reported by Nancy - January 10, 2005 -

On FNL today (1/10), Jonathan Hunt's "report" (I use the term loosely) about the internal audits of the UN Oil-for-Food program that were released over the weekend was so over-the-top -- not an easy task, given that Hunt is routinely rabid -- that I'm putting him in the doghouse. For sheer sliminess, he beat David Asman by barely a hair.

At 11:48am, Asman read a teaser [comment: in that greasy voice he uses to imply something startling!]: "we're gonna explain" about the UN Oil-for-Food investigation.

At 11:52am, with the usual hideous intro music FNC uses for the Oil-for-Food prgram, Asman interviewed Nile Gardner (Heritage Fndtn) & Edward Luck (Columbia Univ). Asman opened with an attack on Kofi Annan, & Gardner followed right along. Luck disagreed, so Asman asked "Does it bother you that he didn't tell the truth about his son & Cotecna?" Luck wasn't particularly effective in pointing out that we don't actually know if there even was a lie, never mind who said it. Asman grudgingly admitted that it "may not point directly to Kofi Annan" but attempted to draw a parallel with Enron, saying that "Ken Lay resigned" & this is exactly like Enron. Gardner pompously said it's a "matter of taking responsibility," & repeated what has become a reactionary mantra ("the biggest financial scandal in the history of the UN") as well as the lie aired regularly on FNC ("the biggest financial scandal in modern times"). Asman stated that "for the good of the UN, Annan should resign." Luck again disagreed, saying "he [Annan] didn't design the system" [comment: I wish Luck had pointed out that it was designed by the US & UK]. Luck almost was able to finish his thought on member states ("no one's pointing the finger at permanent members"), but Asman cut off tne end of Luck;'s last sentence [comment: before Luck was able to point out that the permanent members include the US & UK].

At 12:10pm Jonathan Hunt earned his place in the doghouse. He claimed that the internal audits released over the weekend "confirm many of the worst fears of Congressional investigators." He said that "senior UN officials, perhaps even Kofi Annan himself" allowed "Saddam Hussein to turn it into a $21B ripoff." He added that the UN had been warned repeatedly, from 1996 to 2003, that there were "serious problems", citing overpayments to victims of Gulf War I. Hunt said that "Volcker implies that UN officials did little or nothing to tackle the problems" (reads from doc). Hunt went on to attack one of his favorite stalking targets, "that man, Benon Savan, himself accused of taking bribes." In the best tabloid tradition & his best tabloid voice, Hunt ended with a biased question: "What did Kofi Annan know & when did he know it?" -- implying that Annan actually did "know" something that would reveal vile corruption.

Compare & contrast how the same story is handled by Reuters, as published in the Washington Post:

UN Audits Find Mismanagement in Iraq Oil-Food Deal
Internal U.N. audits of the Iraqi oil-for-food program found large contractors overcharging the world body by several million dollars and said one U.N. agency systematically mishandled funds in the field.

Fifty-eight reports were released on Sunday by Paul Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, who is conducting an independent probe of the $64 billion program. The audits had been demanded by at least five U.S. congressional committees probing wrongdoing in the now-defunct program

The reports from the U.N. watchdog -- the Office of International Oversight Services -- found "no irregular activities" or corruption on the part of U.N. staff.

Nevertheless, they point to lapses in supervising the program, especially in keeping a rein on contractors hired.
Charles Duelfer, a U.S. arms expert for Iraq who did a detailed survey for the CIA, said Saddam earned $1.5 billion through kickbacks from contracts for goods purchased through the oil-for-food program and $229,000 from surcharges on oil sold under the program.

Another $10.9 billion was garnered from selling oil illegally, with the knowledge of Security Council members, including the United States, Duelfer said.

Some U.S. Senators say Saddam pilfered $21 billion from the program but Volcker has said that number is much too high and appears to agree with Duelfer.

Comment: Note the difference in language, starting with the headline. Then note the difference in FACTS & the absence of unfounded speculation in the Reuters article. Then note that both the Duelfer report & the Reuters article mention US involvement in the Oil-for-Food program.