Opinions Sun, 9 May 2004

Is Kofi Annan under attack by United States Conservatives?

Conservatives in the United States do not just have their sights set on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, Ghana's own, United Nation's Secretary General, Kofi Annan is increasingly becoming a favorite target.

In well orchestrated attacks on Annan in the conservative media, the secretary-general has been called relentlessly accused of turning a blind eye to naked corruption in his organization.

The accusations stem from alleged abuses in the United Nations Iraq Oil-For-Food Program because of his alleged failure to stem the tidal wave of corruption involving billions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

That conservatives are pointing an accusing finger at Annan and the UN isn't the least surprising. Given their unilateralism on global issues, and legendary loathing for the world organization, conservatives are eager to divert attention from a war in Iraq that hasn't exactly gone the way they had hoped.

So, who better to beat up on than the United Nations.

To his credit, Annan has created a committee headed by the former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, Paul Volcker, to look thoroughly into the scandal and make recommendations.

The UN created the Oil-for-Food program after the first Gulf War to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraqis. Iraq was to sell its oil, using two-thirds of the proceeds to buy food and medicine, generate electricity, and build homes.

To get a clear picture of how determined conservatives are to soil Annan's pristine image built over almost four decades of serving the world, let's take a cursory look at recent statements by American conservatives.

In a column, titled "Kofi and Kojo, Unbelievable UN stories," on March 10, 2004, in the conservative National Review Online, Claudia Rosett, an arch conservative who once was a member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, literally tore into Annan and his son, Kojo.

Said Rosett on the UN denials about the unfolding scandal: "That is fascinating, not least given the ties of Annan's own son, Kojo Annan, to the Switzerland-based firm, Cotecna, which from 1999 onward worked on contract for the UN monitoring the shipments of Oil-for food supplies into Iraq."

This charge of nepotism hurled at Annan which he firmly rebuffed in an appearance on "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert on Sunday, May 2, 2004, is simply silly and absurd.

"Allegations are allegations, let's wait until the facts come out,'' Annan told Russert.

Here in the US, stories abound of the sons and daughters of prominent politicians getting jobs that would otherwise have gone to others. Honestly, who won't offer their son or daughter a job if they were eminently qualified?

Rosett continued her scathing attacks on Annan and the UN in testimony before the US Congress Committee on International Relations on April 28, 2004, where she essentially called Annan a liar.

"When horrendous exposes were surfacing almost by the week, earlier this year, Secretary- General Kofi Annan stuck rather longer than was remotely appropriate to the carefully hedged line that he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing. He challenged his critics to produce the evidence; he seemed unable to locate any himself, though he has access to the full records of the Secretariat, and we do not."

And, folks, remember the Committee on International Relations is chaired by Henry Hyde, a conservative Republican who thinks the Oil-for-Food program "represents a scandal without precedent in US history." Hyde say he wants Annan's response to be equally unprecedented. Great.

Echoing Rosett's sentiments, Pete Du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, questioned the UN's ability, in light of the corruption charges, to effectively govern Iraq.

"But if Kofi Annan and the UN are responsible for the corruption and the mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food program and the cover-up of its illegality, how can they be trusted to manage the government of Iraq?" Pont asked in an article in the Wall Street Journal.com on April 20, 2004. The column was sarcastically titled, "Oil Is Not Well, Kofi Annan can run, but he can't Hyde." Note the play on the name Hyde.

William Safire, a conservative columnist with the New York Times, occasionally uses his column to excoriate Annan. There is no letting up on the Secretary-general. On the air waves, conservative radio and television talking heads, from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter to Armstrong Williams and Neal Bortez, all take potshots at Annan and his organization.

They have also increased their shrill calls for the United States to sever ties with the United Nations. Fat chance of that ever happening, anyway.

But then, nothing conservatives do ceases to amaze me; after all, these are people who firmly adhere to the notion that they are "superior" to those who hold a different political philosophy.

Columnist: Yahaya, Moses Kofi