Forget all those driverless cars crashing on streets all over the place. The real sign that these are the end times is that columnist Robert Novak, the self-described "prince of darkness" (well, I've heard him call himself that), has an excellent col about the Senate's inquiry into one of the most outrageous and nauseating scandals of late: the United Nations' utterly corrupt Iraqi oil-for-food program:
The scandal is not complicated. Money from Iraqi oil sales permitted by the Saddam Hussein regime under U.N. auspices, supposedly to provide food for Iraqis, was siphoned off to middlemen. Billions intended to purchase food wound up in Saddam's hands for the purpose of buying conventional weapons. The complicity of U.N. member states France and Russia is pointed to by the Senate investigation. The web of corruption deepened when it was revealed that Annan's son, Kojo, was on the payroll of a contractor in the oil-for-food program….
[Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm] Coleman [head of the Senate investigation] is not pursuing a right-wing vendetta against the world organization. He was a born and bred liberal Democrat from Brooklyn before the claustrophobic liberalism of Minnesota's Democratic Farmer Labor Party compelled him to become a Republican in 1996 as the elected Democratic mayor of St. Paul. He had no anti-U.N. mind-set when he embarked on his investigation.
Coleman has been joined in rare bipartisan cooperation by the subcommittee's fiercely liberal ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan. Coleman sent Levin a draft of a tough letter to Annan, and Levin signed it. The bipartisan letter demanded access to U.N. internal audits and key U.N. personnel. It also accused the Volcker committee of ''affirmatively preventing the subcommittee'' from investigating the scandal. A major point of dispute is the U.N.'s flat refusal to permit Lloyd's Register, hired by the U.N. to inspect Iraq's oil-for-food transactions, to provide any documents to the Senate.
The full Novak monty is here.
The latest congressional figures suggest that some $21 billion was illegally skimmed from the program. More here.
It seems like only yesterday that the UN was simply a pathetically ineffective international body, rather than one of the great perpetrators of such heinous crimes.