Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Book Recommendation

Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy
by Michael Soussan

Although Soussan can be described as a whistle-blower, his own role in all of this was not entirely innocent. Quite early on, Soussan receives a query from a Swiss magistrate puzzled by the fact that he is being asked to set up a contract for a “front” company (that is, one deliberately created to disguise the identity of the person behind the company) to handle one of the oil-for-food transactions: the use of such front companies was illegal under the terms agreed by the UN's Security Council. The Russians are the biggest beneficiaries of the scamming, profiting to the extent of $500m, some of which went directly to then President Putin's chief of staff (for subsequent disbursement to favoured politicians). Surprise, surprise, the UN official assigned to such legal issues is Russian. He tells Soussan that the Swiss magistrate's conscientious inquiry should be ignored - advice that our author goes along with, albeit with theatrically expressed misgivings.

After that, the use of front companies escalates out of all control. Some of the biggest personal beneficiaries turn out to be French officials attached to that nation's foreign ministry - which may help in retrospect to explain France's wholehearted sabotaging of Bush and Blair's attempt to gain UN support for the removal of Saddam by military means: not only would a switch from the sanctions policy put an end to the French profits from it, but if Saddam's ministries ever did fall to the Americans there might be some extremely embarrassing documents to be found in them.

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