Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I love Kofi, I love tea...

Alt. title: On Annan, he just keeps on trying,
and he smiles when he feels like crying,
on and on, on and on, on Annan

Alterman and Buzzflash linked to this already from The Nation, but I felt a need to chime in on a tangential note.

First, Dr. Eric says this:
Did you know that the entire attack on Kofi Annan by the conservative press is wholly manufactured and untrue? Did you know that Annan has not even been accused of any form of wrongdoing? I didn’t, until I read this cover story in The Nation...

...it’s a revelation, not merely about Annan, but once again of the incredible dishonesty and lack of responsibility of the conservative media, most particularly, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and William Safire.
The NYTimes also had this today at the end of a long article in the usual "he said, she said" format outlining many of the administrations criticisms about Annan as if they were, you know, conventional wisdom:
He (John G. Ruggie, assistant secretary general for strategic planning from 1997 to 2001 and now a professor of international relations at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard) continued, "The attackers of the U.N. for too long have had a free ride in exaggerating the magnitude of the problem, sometimes deliberately distorting the facts, escalating their accusations and demands for his resignation, and frankly the response on the part of the U.N. has been inept."
Here's the main thesis of The Nation's piece:
Last June UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said of the media coverage of the so-called Oil for Food Scandal, "It's a bit like lynching, actually." By December the vigilantes were lining up, swinging their ropes. The neoconservative and paleoconservative assault on him and the UN has been like a slightly slower version of the Swift Boat veterans' campaign against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry--right down to the halfhearted and belated disavowals by George W. Bush.

Listening to the cable pundits, you would never suspect that there is no proof at this point that Annan, or indeed anyone else at the UN, did anything wrong. Charges of corruption against UN official Benon Sevan are suspect at best, given that they come via Ahmad Chalabi, who was also the source of the discredited information about Iraq's illusory weapons, as well as the assurances that Iraqis would greet US and British forces as liberators. Nor is there any evidence that Annan used his influence to give Cotecna, a company that employed his son, the job of monitoring contracts under the oil-for-food program, and no proof that Cotecna did anything illegal or corrupt. Although Annan's son certainly let his father down by not telling him of Cotecna's continuing "non-compete" payments to him, paternal resignations in response to the sins of prodigal sons have not been a great American tradition--certainly not under the Bush dynasty

There are real questions about Saddam Hussein's oil sales, both inside and outside the oil-for-food program, but all the serious investigations, such as that by the US Government Accountability Office, make it clear that most of the revenue he raised had nothing to do with the UN, and that the UN did nothing without the explicit or implicit support of the United States acting through the Security Council.

The reality is that the current calls for Annan's head are provoked by his opposition to America's pre-emptive war in Iraq. On December 4 the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the hometown newspaper of Senator Norm Coleman, who has called for Annan's resignation, provided perhaps the most succinct explanation of what lies behind the attacks. Describing Coleman's call as a "sordid move," the editorial explained: "For months before the election, the right-wing constellation of blogs and talk radio was alive with incendiary rhetoric about Annan and the oil-for-food scandal.... This is really all about Annan's refusal to toe the Bush line on Iraq and the administration's generally unilateral approach to foreign affairs. The right-wingers hate Annan and saw in the food-for-oil program a possible chink in his armor. They went after it with a venomous fury."
Kids, this is the morality of the Right. Dissent is not allowed, and facts are fungible. If Der Leader's mouthpieces say that Kofi Annan is a bad dude, then it must be so. As this piece points out, EVERY decision regarding the food-for-oil program was approved by the US as a member of the Security Council. First you're for food-for-oil, then your against it. Flip flop...

To continue:
The idea that the UN has "failed" by not backing the US invasion of Iraq and that everything Saddam did could be laid at its door was very much part of the house philosophy of FDD, whose masthead is a comprehensive list of those who pushed for the invasion of Iraq. The organization itself, as one observer commented, is the Project for the New American Century--the major cheerleader for the Iraq war--in another form. Its board includes Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Lautenberg, Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, not to mention Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer. Tom Barry, policy director of the International Relations Center and historian of the neocon network, says FDD "has suddenly become a major player on the right and among neocon policy institutes, one reason being that it is so richly endowed." As its own website boasts, it is closely connected with the Iraqis around the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi.

Clifford May, FDD president and former RNC spokesman, is eager to admit that "oil for food is something we have been working hard on" but denies "that either Claudia or I have called for [Annan's] resignation." That's not because May admires the UN; he calls it "an institution badly in need of reform, whether it's for the sex scandals in the Congo or for the pretense some people in it have to become a super government for the world, or a world Supreme Court." Asked her opinion about the use others have made of her work, Rosett says, "I have focused on reporting the story, and where I have so far called for changes at the UN, have urged much greater transparency and accountability."

There is indeed a lack of transparency at the UN, but all those contracts were examined by the sanctions committee and the US State Department. Rosett denies "going after" the UN and says that "whatever was done wrong should be brought to light." But she is adamant that the UN is most at fault and she has neglected to give similar attention to US diplomats and other actors.
The real issue here is the message and the process. The MSM, as it increasingly does, takes little nuggets of "news" like this alleged food-for-oil/SwiftBoat Vets/Kerry is a flip-flopper/Bush served nobly in the TANG/Willie Horton raped your mom/Saddam had WMDs/Aristede was victim of a legitimate coup idea and reports it with NO FACT CHECKING! For this, Brokaw/Rather/Jennings get paid millions? I can fire their asses, hire a court stenographer to read and transcribe AP/UP wire copy, and still have money left over to buy a large Carribean island.

Maybe I should buy an island, and start my own government. At least I would tell the truth to myself, because if I didn't I would suffer immediate consequences. Unlike the major news delivery sources in this country, my life depends on dealing with reality and truth. If I'm late home from a job and don't call my wife, I can't dissemble by saying "Some say that being late from work is indicative of greater performance output, thus leading to increased income." Likely she would say "Some say that delay in returning home might be due to death, a condition I would not tolerate well."

So we have on the Right the current "moral" imperatives:

Destroy Kofi Annan

Confirm Alberto Gonzalez, he who wrote the "torture" memos (from Digby)

Write new rules of Ethics for Tom Delay (from Kos)

Privatize Social Security to improve the income of Wall Street (from Krugman)

Aw, hell, I could go on.

And I will, on Annan, and on.