More Wheat 4 Weapons Updates

The revelations, viewpoints and angles on the ‘Wheatgate’/’Wheat for Weapons’/’Blood for Wheat’/’AWB Kickback Scandal’ seem to be as numerous as the different names coined for the saga.

After last week joining those who believe our single-desk system for selling wheat should be scrapped, today John Quiggin asks a question I’d been pondering myself – whose money was it that actually paid the bribes. He suggests “the money was in fact stolen from the UN, which in turn held it on behalf of the Iraqi people, who were supposed to be trading oil for food, bypassing the Saddam regime.”

Tim Dunlop has done a series of posts about the scandal criticising the Howard government, but finds himself appearing mild in comparison to the various thumpings the usually strongly pro-Howard Australian newspaper is handing out (not sure if that makes them “Howard Haters” too, like everyone else who dares express a negative view about any action of the Prime Minister).

Backbench Liberal and John Howard confidante, Bill Heffernan, has been complaining loudly that all the tut-tutting and political attacks about the paying of bribes will just end up harming our wheat farmers. Today he’s been outstripped by his best buddy Barnaby, who says its “an argument for the elites but not for the street“.

In a strange contrast to the repeated insistence of Alexander Downer and John Howard that nobody could have been expected to know that AWB was doing dodgy deals, Barnaby says anyone from a backpacker to an exporter trying to sell into the regime understood that the system was inherently corrupt, and “if you didn’t want to deal with a corrupt system you just wouldn’t trade with them at all. You’ll never get anywhere unless the right people are looked after. That would be the case for Iraq full stop. The only way to get around that would be not to deal with Iraq.”

Speaking of Mr Downer, he excelled even his usual standards with a piece he wrote for The Weekend Australian.

AD: There can be no more serious charge than to suggest the Government was aware of kickbacks and acted to cover them up. Yet this is the claim being made by Labor’s Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd — without any evidence. These men, who aspire to lead this country, are suggesting my colleagues and I are dishonest and corrupt. It is an intemperate and demeaning approach to political debate.

Mr Downer of course has never cast slurs on any of his political opponents. I, on the other hand, have no problem at all in calling him and his colleagues dishonest and corrupt. That has already been established to my satisfaction through their own behaviour on more than one occasion. What hasn’t been established is whether they have acted corruptly in regard to the AWB issue (I think their being dishonest is pretty much a given).

AD: It is astonishing that such an allegation is being peddled by Beazley and Rudd without any supporting evidence. As they well know, written communications are the norm in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Records of conversation, cables and emails detail myriad negotiations, conversations, briefings and instructions from post to post around the world and back to Canberra every day. The Cole inquiry has access to all DFAT’s staff and records.

As plenty of people know (not least Mr Downer, just as much as Beazley and Rudd), written communications in DFAT are often about recording the ‘official’ Sir Humphrey version. That’s the precise reason why they are the norm, to set a paper trail to cover over anything that might be embarrassing.

AD: In 2003, Labor’s advice was that we leave Saddam in power and continue to rely on the UN’s sanction regime to keep him under pressure. In other words, the Labor plan would have seen the corrupted sanctions regime still in operation.

Finally Alexander reveals the real reason why the government had to invade Iraq. It wasn’t the Weapons of Mass destruction, it wasn’t aiding Al-Qaeda, it was to stop AWB paying bribes. And Labor and the rest of us opposed to the war because we were wanting to the wheat trade going at all costs. It finally makes sense!

AD: We should expect more from politicians and commentators than to use the controversy to make unsubstantiated and incendiary allegations. Those who make such claims should have demanded of them some evidence. Otherwise they should be condemned for inflaming a serious issue for base political purposes.

Ah, it makes me feel so inadequate and ashamed to be faced with such pure standards and morality from our upstanding Foreign Minister. Every time he equated opponents of the Iraq invasion with supporting Saddam’s atrocities, it was clearly based on evidence and not at all about inflaming an issue for base political purposes. Now I recognise his unblemished record of of never making unsubstantiated and incendiary allegations about a political opponent, I can see why his standing for righteous and honest behaviour is so high.

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74 Comments

  1. reply to John Atkinson
    John I harlely think that more evidence of the fact the authoritys WERE infomed of suspicious of kick back to certain people given in 2003 is off track.Nor is the mention that its not just money from wheat that the Australian public are being informed involved in the AWB. How is that off track may I ask?. We are speaking of the same enquiry are we not? Marilyn did not understand the point i was raising when i mentioned that the AWB also purchased Wesfarmers landmark. It was and still is relavant to the enquiry. I have read your comments on the family paying kickbacks. Yes you have a point. The same as I have a point. Back to our mates. I dont think you should be telling people what they can and can not write. So long as its not offensive to others i dont feel its your call.If Marilyn feels that I give too much attention to animal cruelty and not enough to people why should she not be free to say so. I WAS on track and my comments only went back to the link and the funds going to S H. However I was not in a dither because she wanted to express her deep sorrow regarding what she sees as important. I happen to think helping Australians and our own aboriginal people who have been neglected for years is even more important. Woopps I am getting off track sorry. As I was saying I personally contacted the federal government about kick backs to SH and others. My point was they are as guilty as can be. There is no point in saying they did not know. I spoke to deaf ears and people who told me there were NOT interested.That was my point and that is NOT off track. I would say its right on the Mark.Lets face it John there are not many people using the blotter so I would have thought some conversation would be better than none. Even M Geoff and myself. Sorry if we bored you I will let you get back to your earth shattering news.

  2. Geoff

    Your argument basically boils down to the same one used by kids the world over: “Everybody else is doing it so what’s the problem with me doing it too?” The answer is also the same one the kids get. Just because others may be doing it doesn’t make it right, or moral, or acceptable, or excusable.

  3. No it’s not Floss…. look again.
    I don’t actually agree with what the AWB did at all. But I’m not going to go in blindly and carry on like a holier than thou.
    Try to be realistic about things not idealistic.

  4. I wasn’t meaning I thought you agreed with the AWB Geoff – more that in your attempt to be realistic rather than idealistic the argument yoou put forward condones actions which should not be condoned.

    It’s got nothing to do with being holier than thou.

    This is about people (on behalf of Australia) participating in corrupt processes and practices that they know are wrong – and attempting to excuse that by saying it’s OK because others are doing it as well and that’s how the game is played.

    If not wanting to accept that makes me idealistic than so be it.

  5. Geoff, the AWB paid $300 million to Saddam which is 14% of the total and 5 times more than that next country. This was food for starving people that they could no longer afford to buy because if you inflate your prices you get less wheat for your buck.

    They were only allowed to sell a certain amount each year. The fact that no other wheat provider paid the fees speaks for itself and the behaviour of the AWB board is repulsive.

    Lindberg has now quit but he must surely be charged with criminal offences.

    What Geoff fails to grasp is that it was against the law to deal with Saddam let alone give him $100 million a year while Iraqi people were subsisting at starvation level on $180 per year each.

    The statement you just posted at length sounds exactly like a speech made by Alex Downer, the Lord of Baghdad – are you really Alex?

    Wendy I think we have a great deal in common as farmers girls. I remember the sheep ship the Corio – a group connected to the SIEVX tragedy wrote a poem about the plight of the sheep – it was a parody of the children overboard scandal.

    It should still be on the site – we were universally sickened by the treatment of those animals.

    I don’t live on farms anymore simply because I could not abide the slaughter.

    Hopefully all of AWB will be shaken out and the criminals jailed. They should also refund the money to the Iraqi people as a gift, with interest. Should build quite a few schools I think.

  6. Obviously it was not against the law to deal with Iraq (Saddam). Everyone was doing it and Oil-for-Food was a UN initiative.

    You may be a farmer’s daughter (poor man) but you have no idea about international markets.

    How can the AWB refund monies they paid to companies you say were directly linked to Saddam? Whom BTW is the real person you should be taking to task for the neglect of his people. Not those who provided the food. :roll:

  7. Hi M . Hey on another page we could talk about my two cousins who worked doing aid for years. The kids with their new Niki shoes and screens all around while the staff lived with mosseys disease and leaking plumbing downstarirs . Have you checked the clothes and shoes out of some boat people?
    Just asking> And please dont bite my head off. If you dont John Will. Cheers

  8. Geoff, it was illegal to deat with Saddam Hussein under the bloody sanctions regime which is why over 2,000 businesses are in trouble.

    Grow up. They didn’t provide the food – they profiteered. Different thing and you obfuscation makes you worthy of Downer, Vaile and Howard.

    The whole world said it was illegal. Who the hell are you to be so damn stupid.

    Again. This is not about a business deal. It is about giving money to a monster to murder people with.

    Why don’t we just arm all murderers with the weapons and then blame the murderers? I have 6 generations of wheat farmers behind me as direct family. Which generation should feel sorry that I was in their family?

    The wheat farmers are enraged by the way or didn’t you notice that yet.

  9. Geoff the UN set up the oil for food program. The AWB and 2,250 other businesses stole from it and deprived the Iraqi people of much needed food and medicine.

    Ask any Iraqi today in Australia how they feel about all this – I can tell you for free that all my Iraqi friends are sick and angry.

    It was not up to the UN to write the contracts, they warned the government time and time again and nothing was done.

    I have read the Volker report – I know what happened so why on earth are you defending the indefensible?

    Stop just trying to provoke a response and say something useful.

  10. Wendy what on earth are the clothes of the “boat people” got to do with anything? People don’t have to be destitute to be refugees they have to have a well founded fear of persecution in their own countries.

    Some who came here on the boats were very wealthy goldsmiths from Iran but could not get any documents to travel anywhere. So what? I am as poor as a church mouse but I have a good, sturdy sewing machine to make decent clothes.

    The people who make the Nike’s are exploited by the company and live in squalor but they would be deported if they came here and said they were refugees. Being exploited is repulsive but it is not persecution.

    Now again. Please explain what on earth the clothes worn by “boat people” have to do with the price of wheat?

  11. Maralyin
    I was answering your previous comment. Thats is all . I was more than happy to stick to the AWB enquiry when you came from your angle and mentioned boat people etc. I was pointing out the other side of the sory from real life and i might add family members M. Greg worked for thirty years in this area and while he tells some wonderful stories of beatuful people its well know Ausies are refered to as a bunch of suckers that will swallow any story because of the do godders. no Nothing to do with the AWB enquiry into which i hold a great interest. It was yourself who digressed from that to boat people M. Not to worry i am sure everyone will survive.
    Smile everybody and enjoy life as it comes because we are the lucky ones to live in this wonderful country with good hearted folk.

  12. Honestly Marilyn, why do I bother with you?

    Try digetsing this…

    Notwithstanding the seriousness of the investigation’s findings, it is important to recognize that the Oil-for-Food Programme succeeded in meeting its goals:

    It maintained support for sanctions, which kept Saddam from acquiring weapons of mass destruction;

    It fed 27 million Iraqi residents;

    It provided dependable access to electricity and clean water for the people of Iraq; and
    A portion of the proceeds went to the UN weapons inspection program in Iraq, which was crucial to destroying Saddam’s weapons and preventing him from developing new programs

    …then I’ll consider trying once again toi get you to see sense in other areas. BTW, I’ll not be holding my breath.

  13. Geoff, the bloody sanctions didn’t work in containing Saddam Hussein because companies like the AWB gave him $1.5 billion in bribes.

    The Iraqi people who “lived” on the oil for food program starved to death at the rate of 5,000 per week for the entire program because in the beginning it was $100 per year per person which only ever rose to $180 per week.

    World food program and the UN estimate that 1.3 million people died of hunger in those years that AWB was giving Saddam Hussein $100 million per year.

    Has that penetrated? If that is not bad enough, when Paul Bremmer and the Coalition Provisional Authority took over, which included England and Australia with Flugge and Michael Long, the remaining $11 billion of that program vanished. Just disappeared.

    Was not spent on food or medicine or anything that anyone can find. It vanished.

    $11 billion more stolen from the Iraq people and still they are dying at the rate of 1,000 per week.

    Give me a break Geoff and why don’t you give us all a rest with your bullshit.

  14. Geoff [ I suggest you send you proof to the Cole Enquiry]
    Oh good on you. Have you any idea of how they run these things. I have been in contact of course with the Cloe Enquiry Geoff fyi. Its made so easy for the public to contact them we had to go through the bar assocation. Honestly Geoff you must know that whatever anybody said they would be saying its outside the terms of reference. Those words are the most misused in this country. yep I got through to some second in charge disintereted Shela who had SFB. [ Thats why they employ them]
    Short of actually fronting up with a lawyer and demanding to put forward a S>D> there is not much i can do. However if i go you will be the first to hear about it mate. Look to the front of Margret St for some demos on Blood money Live Exports AWB cover up
    I will give you guys a few weeks to all bash it out and take a break. Remember to be nice to one another if that is possible. Have fun with Andrew but give him credit for his blotter Geoff after all its given you many hours of fun hasnt it[smile]

  15. Well Wendy even the PM as said publically that anyone with evidence should send it to the enquiry… don’t try bluff and bluster with me… put up or shut up.

    Marilyn… the UN sanctions are once again different things to the Oil for Food process.

    The failure of the sanctions resulting in hardship for the Iraqi people weas not due to anyone except Hussein, he purposely withheld aid/food etc for his people allowed under the sanctions.

    You keep blaming everyone except those responsible.

    On the AWB… if ships full of grain were in port but Iraqi officials refused to allow it to be unloaded amd threatened to have it turned away with lies about contamination unless “bribes” etc were paid … what would you do???????? :roll:

  16. Geoff, under the sanctions no food was allowed into Iraq so how on earth could Saddam Hussein withhold it it if didn’t exist? Really? The US controlled what the Iraqi people got – you truly are misinformed about almost everything aren’t you? Go and do a bit more reading.

    John Howard told Laurie Oakes today that his spies in the ONA were never, ever informed of any possibility of AWB being rotten.

    Except of course in the detailed cable from Felicity Johnston in New York as stated in answer 11 – in October 2000? The question is why didn’t anyone of those departments do anything more than make a phone call?

    And considering the claim that they didn’t know about all the wheat deals the dates of the deals seems to be remarkably concise.

    Geoff, this is food. It feeds starving people. It is not a sick game for politicians to score points with. And Geoff, the US effectively controls the UNSC, steps outside the rules, doesn’t pay her dues and then blows up entire countries anyway.

    Give me a break. Go to the site and read the evidence being presented. They were like school boys playing in a James Bond movie.

    Question 3
    Outcome 1, Output 1.1.4
    Topic: Australian Wheat Board (AWB)
    Questions taken on notice (Senate Hansard page number indicated after question)
    Senator(s) Faulkner, Hogg, Heffernan and Johnston asked on 3/11/2005:
    (1) Senator Faulkner asked about the dates of the 41 AWB contracts listed in the Volcker Report (page 7).
    (2) Senator Faulkner asked if the UN approvals for the contracts were reported by cable (page 9).
    (3) Senator Faulkner asked when a contract was submitted by fax, was it accompanied by a cable (page 10).
    (4) Senator Faulkner asked if the department could provide a list of the material provided to the Volcker investigation (page 13).
    (5) Senator Faulkner asked if the Volcker investigators examined electronic files (page 13).
    (6) Senator Hogg asked what knowledge DFAT had of the problems confronting the AWB prior to receiving AWB’s letter of 30 October 2000, and what action was taken (page 24).
    (7) Sen Heffernan asked if Cotecna was operating when the AWB letter was written (page 25).
    (8) Sen Heffernan asked if the trucks being used now for US wheat were owned by a US company (page 25).
    (9) Sen Heffernan asked if other countries exporting wheat to Iraq had trouble getting trucks to unload (page 28).
    (10) Senator Faulkner asked at what level in the Australian mission in New York, Felicity Johnston, chief customs expert UNOIP, raised concerns about irregular payments to Iraq, and whether the Ambassador was informed (page 30).
    (11) Senator Faulkner asked who was on the distribution for the cable sent from New York reporting on the meeting with Ms Johnston and, whether the cable could be tabled (pp 31, 35).
    (12) Senator Faulkner asked who authorised the cable from Canberra that conveyed the AWB’s denial of the Canadian allegations, and what level they were (pp 32-33, 36).
    (13) Senator Faulkner asked what DFAT did to put officials in a position to provide AWB’s categorical denial to the UN OIP (page 32).
    (a) Who from DFAT spoke to the AWB about the Canadian/UN OIP concerns? (pp 33, 36).
    (b) What records (paper trail) of these exchanges had DFAT maintained (page 36).
    (14) Senator Johnston asked what form the communication between DFAT and AWB on the Canadian concerns took (page 34).
    Answer:
    (1) 19/12/96, 22/01/97, 02/02/97, 29/04/97, 06/08/97, 26/08/97, 09/09/97, 24/09/97, 24/01/98, 25/01/98, 28/01/98, 25/06/98, 25/06/98, 25/06/98, 24/12/98, 24/12/98, 24/12/98, 24/12/98, 24/12/98, 24/12/98, 14/07/99, 14/07/99, 14/07/99, 14/10/99, 14/10/99, 20/01/00, 20/01/00, 20/01/00, 16/07/00, 16/07/00, 16/07/00, 02/11/00, 02/02/01, 02/02/01, 13/06/01, 13/06/01, 20/12/01, 20/12/01, 15/07/02, 11/12/02, 11/12/02.
    (2) That was not general practice.
    (3) That was not general practice.
    (4) No.
    (5) No.
    (6) We have no other documentary record relating to the AWB’s 30 October letter.
    (7) Yes.
    (8) DFAT has no information on this issue.
    (9) DFAT has no information on this issue.
    (10) Counsellor. We are not aware if the Ambassador was specifically informed.
    (11) Distribution on the cable includes the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Minister’s Office, Trade Minister’s Office, Defence Minister’s Office, Department of Defence, AusAID, Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet, Attorney-General’s Department, Office of National Assessment, and the Defence Intelligence Office; No.
    (12) Cable was sent by the Director of the Middle East Section.
    (13)
    (a) We understand it was the Director of the Middle East Section.
    (b) Records of this contact are through cable exchange.
    (14) We understand it was by telephone.

  17. When I said Oil for Food was a different thing from the sanctions Marilyn…

    On August 6, 1990 the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 661 which imposed stringent economic sanctions on Iraq, providing for a full trade embargo, excluding medical supplies, food and other items of humanitarian necessity, these to be determined by the Security Council sanctions committee.

    I was stating a fact that the sanctions and aid etc, were 2 distinct things, ie; they are not one in the same. Note the excemptions Marilyn….. MEDICAL SUPPLIES, FOOD AND OTHER ITEMS OF HUMANITARIAN NECESSITY

    Excerpts from back in 1998…

    “Humanitarian Aid Under The Sanctions Regime

    From the outset, the UN has provided humanitarian exemptions to the economic sanctions it imposed upon Iraq following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. These exemptions for food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are designed to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people while preserving the integrity of the sanctions regime.

    The sanctions currently in force are necessary to compel Saddam Hussein’s compliance with the terms of the cease-fire which he agreed to following the Gulf War, and which, seven years later, he has still failed to meet. He alone has the power to lift these sanctions by complying with all relevant UN resolutions. ”

    “The Oil-for-Food Program

    The U.S. originally proposed the “oil-for-food” program in 1991, immediately after the Gulf War. This program allows Iraq to export crude oil for the purchase of humanitarian goods under UN supervision. All proceeds from oil sales are deposited into an escrow account controlled by the UN. Iraq may draw from this account to purchase food, medicine and humanitarian supplies through approved contracts only. Deductions are made for war reparations, humanitarian purchases for northern Iraq, and operating expenses.

    Saddam Hussein rebuffed this humanitarian gesture for almost six years in hopes of cynically manipulating the plight of the Iraqi people to gain international sympathy. UNSCR 986 was finally implemented in December 1996, establishing the oil-for-food program with a $2.1 billion ceiling over six months.

    The UN has consistently renewed the oil-for-food program. UNSCR 1111, adopted in June 1997, and UNSCR 1143, adopted in December 1997, each extended the program for six months. Since the program was first implemented, over 6.3 million metric tons of relief has arrived in Iraq. ”

    One more time s l o w l y…. for Marilyn.

    Saddam Hussein rebuffed this humanitarian gesture for almost six years in hopes of cynically manipulating the plight of the Iraqi people to gain international sympathy

    “UNSCR 1153

    In February 1998, the UN voted to further increase the oil-for-food program by adopting UNSCR 1153. The amount of humanitarian aid available to the Iraqi people under UNSCR 1153 represents the most extensive relief effort in the history of the United Nations. The $5.256 billion in oil sales it authorizes over the first six-month period is without precedent. The following comparisons offer a sense of the program’s magnitude:

    — According to UN figures, the amount of aid available under UNSCR 1153 is nearly equivalent to the total amount of worldwide humanitarian assistance provided to all countries targeted by the UN for relief over the past three years combined ($3,887,648,218).

    — The amount of oil exports authorized by UNSCR 1153 is more than double that permitted by previous oil-for-food resolutions. Since 1996, the sanctions committee supervising the oil-for-food program has approved over 2,000 contracts for humanitarian aid to Iraq worth more than $4 billion total, averaging approximately $225 million per month. When UNSCR 1153 is fully implemented, the average amount of aid will exceed $550 million per month for the six months it is in effect.

    As a further indication of its commitment to improve the humanitarian situation, the UN recently authorized the export to Iraq of $300 million in parts and equipment needed to increase its oil drilling capacity to the levels permitted by UNSCR 1153. These infrastructure improvements would ensure that the oil-for-food program’s full potential can be achieved and the maximum quantities of food and medicine can reach the Iraqi people.

    Saddam Hussein’s Manipulations

    Saddam Hussein’s spending habits prior to and during implementation of the oil-for-food program clearly demonstrate that he has no intentions of alleviating the plight of his people.

    — The Iraqi regime continues to build lavish palaces and hoard food for its elite military units, instead of devote resources to the caring and feeding of its people.

    — Since implementation of the oil-for-food program, the Iraqi regime has drastically reduced its own food purchases by some $300 million to $500 million per year.

    Were the sanctions lifted today, prior to the regime forsaking its threatening chemical and biological weapons programs, Saddam Hussein would doubtless divert the vast sums he could generate in oil sales to reconstituting his arsenal. Oil-for-food would quickly become oil-for-tanks.

    The oil-for-food program relies on over 150 dedicated UN observers, who travel without restriction throughout Iraq, ensuring that food and medicine are delivered to the Iraqi people and not to government warehouses. Despite attempts by Saddam Hussein to limit their movements and deny relief to certain parts of the country, the UN observers have ensured an equitable distribution of humanitarian aid throughout Iraq.

    Since 1991, the U.S. has led efforts in the Security Council to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people through the oil-for-food program. As the largest donor to UN humanitarian programs, the U.S. plays a central role in the implementation of all multi-lateral relief efforts. Although the U.S. is determined not to lift the economic sanctions until Saddam Hussein fully complies with all UN resolutions, it is equally committed to minimizing the humanitarian consequences for the Iraqi people. ”

    I suggest you get YOUR facts right for a change.

  18. yeah, yeah, yeah, Geoff I can read but it doesn’t take away from the facts of the case of AWB and BHP deliberately stealing from the Iraqi people.

    Get your head on man. Kenneth Davidson in the AGE made the point that over this oil for food program, truly the most monstrous program in history, is that the only two people on the planet with any involvement with clean hands are Denis Halliday and Hans Spondek who resigned rather than administer anything so vile.

    Let me make this very clear once and for all Geoff. If AWB and BHP and any other nation on earth had shipped in millions of tonnes of food and refused to pay the charges, who refused to pay Saddam, who refused to dance with a devil – they would get my vote and be considered heroes.

    The AWB sent in millions of tonnes of food, profiteered off the misery of the starving and gave Saddam Hussein $300 million to continue torturing the Iraqi people.

    Then we moved in and bombed them to bits while the insurgency fought back with that bloody money.

    Do you understand the criminality of this yet Geoff?

  19. OK, I think that’s enough backwards and forwards bickering. Too much personal slinging off just puts all the other readers off.

    No one has said they would have preferred children or others to starve.

    I would be surprised if the Cole Commission of Inquiry finds that paying kickbacks to Saddam was the only way to prevent that happening, but we can all wait until the Commission reports to see.

    I’ll close comments on this post now.

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