Friday, February 04, 2005

Judith Miller's been on the UN beat since June of 2004 but still can't grasp the story

Judith Miller (with Warren Hoge's assist) is off the chat circuit (where she attempts to build sympathy) long enough to pick up her axe and go after the UN again with a front page story in this morning's New York Times entitled "Inquiry on Food-for-Oil Plan Cites U.N. Diplomat for Conflict."

We've dealt with Miller's reporting "style" before [see "Parody: Rudith Miller weighs in on journalism and Judith Miller's front page story in this morning's Times"] but let's note something else, Miller's working that rolodex, at least on the Republican side:

Representative Henry J. Hyde, the Illinois Republican who is the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said in a statement that the report painted a picture of "mismanagement, neglect and political manipulation that resulted in significant corruption of the oil-for-food program."
"I am reluctant to conclude that the U.N. is damaged beyond repair," he said, "but these revelations certainly point in this direction."
A similar, but even harsher reaction came from Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican and chairman of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, who called on Mr. Annan to lift Mr. Sevan's diplomatic immunity immediately. "The report shows that he repeatedly lied to investigators, has misled the inquiry about the source of $160,000 in cash deposits and unethically steered oil-for-food contracts to close associates and lied about those relationships to authorities," he said.

But there's a side the Miller and the Times refuse to seriously address (and Miller's been on this beat since June of 2004).

Joy Gordon appearing on Democracy Now! December 3, 2004:

In fact, what's crucial here is to make a distinction about the different entries within the U.N. There's a difference between the Security Council and the Secretariat, and many of the policies that permitted the smuggling and kickback to take place were, cannot be laid at the feet of the Secretary General. They are the policies of the Security Council and the Secretary General has no control over the Security Council. And if we look at the claim that the U.N. failed to catch contracts with pricing irregularities, well again, that goes to the Security Council whose job was to review all of these contracts and if we look at the policies and the failures of, that are now being laid at the feet of the United Nations, many of them, in fact, are due not only to the Security Council but to particular members within the Security Council. For many of these things, the policy for example that allowed the Iraqi government to choose who it would trade with, well that was a Security Council Resolution 986 in combination with a Security Council-approved memorandum of understanding. And the member states, including the United States, were in support of that. If we look at the committees, if we look at the Council's failure to block contracts with pricing irregularities, and it was the Security Council's responsibility, not the Oil-For-Food staff, they did not have the authority to block contracts, only to present information to the Security Council, then in fact what we see is none of the members of the Security Council, including the United States, chose to block contracts where there were obvious price irregularities, even when U.N. staff presented that information with documentation to them.

Key element to the story. One that Miller and the Times don't appear willing to address or even acknowledge.

While you hear from the Republican sources, remember no one in Miller's article is noting what Gordon has "Meanwhile, all of the major policies that allowed the smuggling and kickbacks to occur were those established by the Security Council -- with the approval and participation of the United States. It was the Security Council -- including the U.S.-- that allowed Iraq to choose its trading partners."

And they probably won't note it at the Times. Might upset someone to really go deep into the story. Better to keep it on the playing field dictated by "official sources" that the Times is so fond of.

Gordon's November 18, 2004 "UN Oil for Food 'Scandal'" appeared in The Nation.

Gordon's been covering this beat for some time and also of interest is a 2002 Harper's article entitled "Cool War."

It's a real shame that so much energy must be supplementing the Times and the work of their "star reporter" Miller who, again, has been on the UN beat since June of 2004.