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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Saddam's $2 Million Bribe - Who Else Did He Buy?

Thanks to Outside the Beltway for the link to this UK Telegraph story about another one of Saddam's bribes - this time to a WMD inspector. Rolf Ekeus, a Swedish national who led the UN's efforts to track down Iraq's WMDs from 1991 to 1997, said that he was offered $2 million by Saddam's regime to doctor his reports and give Iraq a clean bill of health.
The news that Iraq attempted to bribe a top UN official is a key piece of evidence for investigators into the scandal surrounding the oil-for-food programme. It proves that Iraq was offering huge sums of cash to influential foreigners in return for political favours.

Nile Gardiner, of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, who has followed the inquiries, said: "It's the tip of the iceberg of what the Iraqis were offering. For every official like Ekeus who turned down a bribe, there are many more who will have been tempted by it."

In addition to the question of why Saddam would attempt to bribe an official unless he had something to hide, I have another question. Why hasn't Ekeus come forward sooner with this information? Given the importance of this information on world opinion, it's surprising that this bribery attempt wasn't documented sooner. It's not as if newspapers wouldn't have published his story.

I would also find it surprising if fellow Swede Hans Blix was not aware of Saddam's attempted bribes. If he was not aware, then Blix is more incompetent than I suspected. But even more damning, if Blix was aware of Saddam's attempted bribe to Ekeus or another UN official (perhaps even himself), then surely he could have thought it possible for someone to actually accept Saddam's bribe. And therein lies the problem. A lifetime defender of the UN, Blix would never offer any information that could harm the image of his favorite organization.