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March 30, 2005

Kofi Break
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

First read Heather's post below on how we put the progressive foreign policy Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Then a few words on Kofi Annan.  Yes, he was formally exonerated, in that the Volcker panel couldn't find any evidence that he knew Cotecna (a Swiss company that had Kofi's son Kojo on its payroll) was bidding for an oil for food contract.  But he doesn't come off looking great - particularly for neglecting to properly look into the matter when allegations first came up in 1999.  Kojo did not get off as easily.  He was found to have used his UN connections to try to advantage his former employer, to have remained on the take from Cotecna for far more money and far longer than he originally admitted, and to have failed to fully cooperate with investigators.

I feel about Annan the way I felt about Bill Clinton during the impeachment scandal.  Both men have enemies who are out for blood and won't listen to reason.  Even though it found no wrongdoing on the Secretary General's part, Senator Norm Coleman used the report as an excuse to repeat his call for Annan to resign.  But both Clinton and Annan knew full well that their ruthless opponents would stop at nothing to try to take them down.   And both took risks that were flat out irresponsible in terms of putting in jeopardy the institutions they were entrusted with, the principles they stood for, and the people that depended on them.   Its hard to imagine that in light of the meetings that took place involving Kojo and Cotecna at the margins of UN business that Annan didn't have some inkling of what his son was up to.   Given the scrutiny attached to Oil for Food since the late 1990s, Annan should have done better than just look the other way.   As with the impeachment, I am of course glad to see Annan cleared of wrongdoing.  But that doesn't mean I don't think he should have behaved differently given what he knew he and the UN were up against.


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