Here's a question. Not a rhetorical question, but a real question.
Over the past several months we've several times discussed the charges that Iraq used oil-for-food money to bribe various international dignitaries and politicians, including Benon Sevan, the head of the UN office that administered the program.
The oil-for-food program was riddled with corruption, as was known long before the invasion. And if these charges are true as well, then heads should roll.
But, as I've noted repeatedly before, I remain skeptical since the documents incriminating these individuals came right out of the Chalabi operation in Baghdad. And, quite suspiciously, he and his assigns have repeatedly refused to hand those documents over to independent investigative authorities to authenticate them. Again and again, silly or nonsensical excuses were proferred for not doing so.
Needless to say, with Mr. Chalabi, ascertaining whether these documents are forgeries or not is hardly an academic exercise.
The story has again resurfaced now -- in large part because the charges are included in the Duelfer Report on Iraqi WMD. Not surprisingly, Vice President Cheney pounced on the story yesterday on the campaign trail. And in a virtual tour de force of inanity, President Bush today suggested that the invasion may well have been justified by Iraq's abuse of the oil-for-food program.
But has any independent observer -- most notably the Volcker Commission -- gotten access to those documents yet? As recently as August 10th, Judith Miller reported in the Times that Volcker still had not been allowed access to the original documents to ascertain whether or not they were forgeries.
This passage in an article in the AP suggests that hasn't happened ...
The lists, parts of which had been published previously, were compiled from 13 secret files maintained by former Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan and the former oil minister, Amir Rashid.
But there was no independent verification. "We name those individuals and entities here in the interest of candor, clarity and thoroughness," the report said, adding that it did not "investigate or judge those non-Iraqi individuals."
Several U.S. firms were on the list but their names were not released because of privacy laws.
There's a separate question about why U.S. firms on the list aren't being identified, only foreigners. But, setting that aside, has any independent body yet reviewed those documents? And if not, why are they being given such credence considering Chalabi's record as a convicted criminal, forger of documents, producer of phony intelligence and, in all likelihood, someone who passed on American intelligence to Iran?