The Corner

How to Pry The Facts From Mr. Annan

Over coffee the other day, John McCarthy, a member of the faculty here at Stanford, offered a wily suggestion. (Note to Derb: You’d love McCarthy. A brilliant mathematician, at 17 he was helping the U.S. Army on problems in ballistics. Six decades later, he remains active in computer science. And in between, he coined the term “artificial intelligence” and invented the computer language known as LISP.)

Since the press (aside, as usual, from the Wall Street Journal) has demonstrated no appetite for investigating corruption at the UN, in particular in the oil-for-food program, McCarthy noted, he’d advise the new government of Iraq to bring suit against Kofi Annan. As early as July 1, the date on which it achieves sovereignty, Iraq could file charges in, say, the Hague. And—this is the important point—it could very plausibly claim damages of between $4 and $10 billion, the low and high estimates of the amount that the UN permitted Saddam Hussein to use for bribing his friends, including friends at the UN itself.

Four to ten billion dollars. That ought to be enough to persuade a few very aggressive lawyers to investigate the UN in a way the press has refused to attempt.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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