The UN Volker Report (2005) has disclosed that the monopoly Australian Wheat Board (AWB) was responsible for kickbacks totalling over US$250 million out of an estimated US$1.8 billion of illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's rÃ©gime during the US$35 billion UN Oil For Food program in 1997-2003 (see:http://www.iic-offp.org/story27oct05.htm). The Australian wheat kickback mechanism involved excessive trucking fees paid to a Jordanian company half-owned by the Iraqi Government. The Australian Government has repeatedly said "we knew nothing" but expert whistleblowers have said that competent officials must have known.
In 2004 the Australian Ambassador to the US successfully lobbied to get a US Senate Committee to drop investigations into allegations that AWB had paid kickbacks to the Saddam Hussein rÃ©gime in Iraq. (see: http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200602/s1559372.htm).
The UN Volker Inquiry into kickbacks to the Iraqi Government via the UN Oil for Food Program named AWB as the major abuser. The kickbacks were paid via Alia, a Jordanian trucking company half-owned by the Saddam Hussein rÃ©gime, and totalled US$225 million according to Australian media reports (see: http://www.iic-offp.org/story27oct05.htm).
After the release of the Volker Report the Australian Government set up a judicial inquiry in Australia, the Cole Inquiry, with limited terms of reference but the powers of a Royal Commission. The new Australian Ambassador to the US (previously the head of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization, ASIO) told the Americans that the Australian Government was not previously aware of the scandal. The Australian Government claims that it simply did not know about the kickback scandal.
AWB whistleblower Dominic Hogan, has testified about AWB corruption and that the Australian Government could have spotted the kickbacks 5 years ago by simply checking the price of wheat in any daily newspaper. The US was charging US$140 a tonne, with freight bringing this up to US$170 a tonne - but Australia was getting US$214 a tonne from the Iraqis (The Age, Melbourne, 7 February 2006).
On 10 February 2006 on ABC TV's Asia Pacific Focus program, former intelligence agent Warren Reed and others were interviewed over the AWB scandal (for the transcript of "Australian wheat exporter goes against the grain" see: http://abcasiapacific.com/focus/)
Asked about the AWB scandal, Australian Prime Minister Mr John Howard had stated: "I did not know. Mr Downer [the Foreign Minister] did not know. Mr Vaile [the Deputy PM and Trade Minister] did not know. And on the information that I have and based on the advice that I have received, I do not believe that anybody in the departments were told."
However Warren Reed (a former Australian Security and Intelligence Service (ASIS) agent) was asked whether it was possible that Australian Intelligence would not have known about the AWB kick-backs to Saddam Hussein.
Warren Reed: "Absolutely impossible ... that they did not know. In fact, if you look at the core part of the governmental system in Canberra that has to do with our international survival, our role on the global stage, particularly trade-wise, Foreign Affairs, even eaves-dropping, the whole intelligence apparatus, that's geared to knowing these things. There is no way, absolutely no way, those sorts of people didn't know ... So the Government did know. And I would defy the Prime Minister on oath to say he'd never heard anything about it, he had no knowledge at all that this could occur. If Mr Downer [Foreign Minister], and Mr Vaile [Deputy PM and Trade Minister] and our Prime Minister had not an inkling that this sort of thing was going on, then they should be shot at dawn. They are unfit to hold these positions. That's the extent to which everybody would know about it."
Warren Reed was further asked: "the Cole Inquiry has implicated the [Australian] Wheat Board ... there has been talk of kickbacks not only to Iraq but to Pakistan, to Indonesia, to Bangladesh... in your experience, 10 years out in the field, how widespread is the payment of kickbacks in the region?
Warren Reed's reply: "Oh, so widespread ... I couldn't think of one circumstance where they would not pay ... It's expected."
While Australian politicians and media are concerned with the CORRUPTION aspects of the scandal - who did what, who knew what, who said what to who - there has been very little concern expressed over the HUMAN cost of the potential diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars from humanitarian purposes in Iraq. Of course, politically correct racist (PC racist) Australian media and politicians will simply NOT report or acknowledge the horrendous civilian excess mortality in post-invasion Iraq.
Upper estimate of the human cost of Australian corruption in Iraq - 20,000 Iraqi infant deaths
Using the widely-quoted Australian estimate of about US$225 million for the money diverted by Australians from the UN Oil-for-Food Program, we can estimate that the maximum amount of money diverted from medical expenditure would have been US$225 million/26.9 million Iraqis in 2003 = US$8.4 per capita.
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides detailed statistics on under-5 infant mortality rates (expressed as deaths per 1000 births) and annual per capita medical expenditure for essentially every country in the world (see: http://www.who.int/en/ ). Using this information we can plot infant mortality rate versus annual per capita medical expenditure for Iraq and neighbouring countries.
From this graph we can estimate that an EXTRA US$8.4/head of medical expenditure in Iraq in about 2003 would have SAVED an EXTRA 22 under-5 year old infant lives per 1,000 births. There were 972,000 births in Iraq (2004) and hence the number of infant lives saved would have been about 22 x 972 = 21,384 i.e. about 21,000.
This calculation gives an UPPER ESTIMATE of the Iraqi infant lives lost through Australian greed, corruption and dishonesty at about 21,000 i.e. each $10,000 diverted from medical expenditure corresponded to an avoidable infant death.
If we apply this same UPPER ESTIMATE to the total of US$1.8 billion estimated by the UN Volker Report to have been diverted illicitly we arrive at an UPPER ESTIMATE figure of 180,000 avoidable Iraqi under-5 infant deaths through corporate greed in the period 1997-2003. The "humanitarian" annual UN Oil for Food allocation was LIMITED and was clearly INADEQUATE. The avoidable mortality and under-5 infant mortality in Iraq under sanctions (1990-2003) total 1.7 million and 1.2 million, respectively.
Of course the POST-INVASION Iraq situation is even worse on an annual basis because the already parlous per capita medical expenditure declined further after Coalition occupation. In 2004 the estimated annual per capita medical expenditure was US$37 in Iraq and US$3,100 in Australia. The Geneva Conventions demand that the Occupier provides requisite life-sustaining food and medical services. However funding Iraqi medical services at an Australian level would have cost about US$90 billion - but the actual annual funding has been about US$1 billion in gross violation of the Geneva Conventions.
According to UNICEF (2006), in 2004 the under-5 infant mortality in Iraq (population 28 million) was 122,000 as compared to 1,000 in Australia (population 20 million) (see: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/index.html). A roughly 100-fold difference in annual per capita medical expenditure is reflected in a 100-fold difference in under-5 infant mortality and this horrendous, continuing war crime constitutes passive genocide (see: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm).
Australian corruption has contributed directly to the carnage in Iraq. However Australia's complicity in Coalition war crimes goes much further. United Nations reports have revealed that the post-invasion avoidable mortality in Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan now totals 2.1 million and the post-invasion under-5 infant mortality totals 1.7 million as a result of NON-PROVISION of life-sustaining requisites by the US-led Coalition in violation of the Geneva Conventions. This ongoing crime is now the subject of a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court (see: http://www.countercurrents.org/us-polya211205.htm).
Dr Gideon Polya
- 174 War & Disaster Profiteers Campaign