Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cotecna and Halliburton

An independent panel investigating the U.N. Oil for Food Program corruption has exonerated Kofi Annan of corruption in regards to awarding Cotecna program contracts. The report only criticized Annan for not investigating his son, Kojo’s, ties to Cotecna in 1999, when suspicion arose that the Swiss company was allowing Hussein skim funds off of the U.N. program for personal benefit.

Meanwhile, the panel found Kojo Annan guilty in conspiring with Cotecna in the Oil for Food scandal and being uncooperative with independent investigators. Mr. Annan had also been hiding further connection with the firm after his resignation in 1998; the panel found that he had been collecting benefits from the company until February 2004.

As a result, Republican ideologues have criticized the U.N. and Kofi Annan of blatant corruption and conflict of interest by awarding contracts to corporations that exploit dire situations. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota (R) has called on Mr. Annan to resign, citing Annan’s “lack of leadership” and “lack of responsibility and accountability.”

Touché Mr. Coleman. There seems to be a conflict of interest story right here in the United States Republican leadership. There seems a striking similarity between Bush/Cheney and Kofi/Kojo, between Halliburton and Cotecna.

Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton until running for vice president in 2000. After becoming vice president, he received nearly 400,000 dollars in deferred payment from the company.
Halliburton was founded to overbill more that 6 million dollars on a no-bid contract with the U.S. Government to supply and service U.S. troops in Iraq.

Both Cotecna and Halliburton are guilty of corruption in regards to situations in Iraq, whether stealing from humanitarian aid before the war, or from the U.S. military after the war. Both Cheney and Kojo have invested personal interest to award firms with valuable government contracts. Both Cheney and Kojo have been unclear about their compensation after leaving their respective companies.

Those in the Bush Administration and its constituents should examine their own charges of corruption, “lack of responsibility and accountability” before throwing stones. Should Kofi Annan resign over the Oil for Food Scandal? “Hell no.” Should the administration be so quick to judge him? “Hell no.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

In response to my earlier entry, "Iraqi Security Forces," I am pleased to see that so many Iraqis are rising up for the sake of national democracy. I agreed with many foreign policy experts, Friedman, Brooks, Powell, that true success in Iraq would be mainly won by its citizens, grace a the aid of many in the U.S. armed forces. The New York Times today reports how Iraqi citizens are taking it upon themselves to fight the insurgency.

The story begins with how a carpenter named Dhia fired upon Mujahedeen gunmen, keeping them in check before they could attack his shop. His defiantly stated, "I am waiting for the rest of them to come, and we will show them." Also, the article reported how hundreds of protesters demonstrated in front of the city hall in Hilla to denounce a suicide bombing that happened last month, killing 136 people. Additionally, Newsweek reported last week how women were organizing in Iraq to promote legal and professional equality in the face of being kidnapped.

This is the message of hope for democracy in Iraq, the will of people to fight for their own country and law in the face of hostility. Iraqi people feel that it is in their best long-term interest to move toward progress, away from augmenting the power of leaders and movements who incite violence. This coupled with the heavy voter turnout makes the possibility of democracy to be that much more viable, and eventually a more free and moderate Iraqi voice.

That said, President Bush seems to take much undeserved credit for the "March of Democracy" in Iraq, among other reforms happening in the Middle East. While Iraqi regime change may have been a catalyst for such progressive events to unfold, the causes lied within the Kurdish and Shiite dissatisfaction with Baathist rule. Sistani and Allawi are two figures that weathered the storm of the insurgency to rally both a religious and secular motions respectfully toward democracy. Sistani called for rejection of the insurgency and urgency of the vote to defy opponents of citizen autonomy. Allawi is the strongman who ordered training of security forces and collaboration of intelligence against terrorists.

On the other hand, Bush's reasons for going to war have been disproved (WMDs, Al Queda ties). Though he justifies invasion of Iraq as a means to combat terrorism, protect American securiy. The notion that the spread of Democracy will decrease Islamic fundamentalism is susceptible to Iraqi opinion of the United States. It will rely upon how we support them, our past dealings with them, and American Administrations' past and current support of autocratic leaders to keep oil fields going. Already, Middle Eastern Democracy does not necessarily equal greater American national security. Lebanese waving anti-Syrian flags next to anti-American banners does not mean that America will be less despised when Syria pulls out. Iraqis fighting for the rule of Shariah law or more secular law instead of Baathist autocracy does not mean that Shiites and Sunnis will be more kind to the West.

To put it bluntly, Bush is operating in Damage-Control mode when speaking of the Democracy-Spreading goal. He uses it to give new meaning to U.S. operations in Iraq, portraying himself as a hero of peace after being a "war president." The progressive movements taking place are due to long yearning for moderate and democratic voices, given aid by altruistic efforts of many U.S. Military personnel. The neoconservative ideology, pushing for the beginning of the Iraq war, was merely a catalyst, like the death of Arafat, and the Harriri assassination.