Wednesday, June 09, 2004

To complicate attempts to internationalize the war in Iraq, both Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan are, because of past behavior, unpopular with Iraqis. Many Shia and Kurds remember that Brahimi remained silent when, as undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Saddam massacred tens of thousands of Shia and Kurds. And Iraqis have not forgotten U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Frebruary 24, 1998, comment, "Can I trust Saddam Hussein? I think I can do business with him." Iraqis, like most other peoples, are prickly nationalists.
Distrust of Brahimi and Annan is minor, though, compared to outrage over the oil-for-food scandal. Under the sanctions, the U.N. was authorized to issue vouchers for Iraqi oil sales, and those vouchers were to be used for food and medicine for Iraqis. Apparently Saddam paid off U.N. officials to convert the vouchers into cash, which he kept. Our administration, always skillful at shooting itself in the foot, has expressed outrage over the scandal, but has defunded the Governing Council's investigation of it. Likewise, it seems counterproductive, in the wake of this aid scandal, to prevent the Iraqi government from deciding where international aid will flow in its own country. Iraqis see our control as paternalistic.
If Jewish expressions weren't so disdained in Iraq, I would express my frustration with the whole mess by throwing up my hands and exclaiming, "Oy vez!"


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