The WSJ Opinion Journal: What's Illegal?
When U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opined last week to the BBC that the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein had been "illegal," two words came instantly to my mind: baby food.
No, I'm not comparing Mr. Annan's thoughts to pabulum. He is a smart man, adept enough that even in his BBC moment of condemning the U.S. (perhaps mindful that the U.S. is the U.N.'s chief financial backer) he took the trouble to blur responsibility for his own words, amending his use of "I" to the royal "we." Said Mr. Annan: "From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
It's unclear exactly whose collective view Mr. Annan thinks he was authorized to express, or under what terms in the U.N. charter he casts himself on some occasions as the hapless servant of the Security Council, and at other times, such as this, as the outspoken chief judge of world law.
But if Mr. Annan wants to discuss right and wrong in Iraq, which seems to be the real issue, then it is time to talk about baby formula. Why? Because Mr. Annan's preferred means of dealing with Saddam was a mix of U.N. sanctions and the U.N. relief program called Oil-for-Food. And the heart and soul of Oil-for-Food was supposed to be the feeding of sick and hungry Iraqi babies--including the purchase by Saddam, under U.N. auspices, of large amounts of baby formula. When Oil-for-Food was launched in 1996, it was advertised by the U.N. as a response to such horrors as pictures of starving Iraqi children and alarming statistics about infant mortality in Iraq, released by one of the U.N.'s own agencies, Unicef.
It was in service of that U.N. mix of sanctions and humanitarian relief that Mr. Annan after visiting with Saddam in Iraq in 1998 returned to New York to report: "I think I can do business with him."
And oh what a lot of business the U.N. did.
Read the rest.