From the corridors of the UN to the palaces of Baghdad, an unprecedented, first person coming of age account of the oil for food scandal that rocked the UN. Michael Soussan was a young, idealistic diplomat when he landed his dream job as a Program Coordinator at the UN's Oil for Food Program, the largest humanitarian operation in the organization's history. His mission would be to provide relief to Iraq's civilian population, struggling to survive in a country under economic sanctions. But Soussan soon realised that all was not as it seemed as he struggled to work within the UN's Byzantine organizational structure and the programme's schizophrenic mandate. His boss was both paranoid and incomprehensible, his colleague was widely assumed to be a spy, and the international community treated the humanitarian program like a petty cash box.From this unique vantage point, Soussan became the first insider to call for an independent investigation of the United Nations' dealings with Saddam Hussein via a "Wall Street Journal" editorial.
This led to the appointment of the Volker Commission by Kofi Annan, and a resulting investigation rocked the United Nations to its very foundations and led to multiple prosecutions in numerous countries, some of which are still ongoing. As Soussan writes, 'the story is bigger than the scandal. For ultimately, what made this episode in recent history possible, was not so much the lies we told each other, but the lies we told ourselves. If all of us cared about the people of Iraq as much as we professed, then this story can only be described as a conspiracy of saints'. "Backstabbing for Beginners" is an insider's view of a corruptible international system and a stinging indictment of the countries and individuals who exploited the misfortune of the people of Iraq.
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(236mm x 156mm x 38mm)
Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
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US Kirkus Review »
United Nations whistleblower Soussan jauntily recounts his tenure coordinating the Iraq Oil-For-Food program, revealing why bribery and kickbacks were tolerated.Soussan (Global Affairs/New York Univ.) was recruited to the UN in 1997 to help with the expansion of an unprecedented program to use Iraq's oil revenues for humanitarian aid such as food and medicine to counter the effects of sanctions on the civilian population. A do-gooder and recent college graduate, he jumped at the opportunity to make a difference and was soon processing contracts worth $10 billion annually. In grimly humorous prose he describes the characters he encountered in his travels and at the UN. Iraqi officials, such as Minister for Foreign Affairs Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, were often threatening and offensive, blowing off steam that "came accompanied with spit-filled cigarette breath." The head of the Oil-For-Food program, a Cypriot nicknamed "Pasha," was a manipulative, deliberately obfuscating manager who used mumbling incomprehensibility to confound his opponents. Cindy, a woman seeking power in this male-dominated UN arena, called men "dickheads" and sexually harassed a Lebanese employee. Soussan describes a UN culture focused on petty office politics and personal rivalries. Pasha endangered hundreds of lives during the 1998 U.S. strike against suspected weapons facilities by refusing to evacuate UN humanitarian personnel, simply because the evacuation request came from a subordinate he disliked. But the most egregious crime, Soussan declares, was that UN employees turned a blind eye to endemic fraud in the Oil-For-Food program. No one wanted to create trouble and threaten their careers; survival meant not taking risks and making sure to "fly under the radar." By the time the scandal broke in 2004, billions of dollars had been siphoned off as kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in return for contracts. Hussein had allocated low-priced oil contracts to front companies representing French, Russian, British and Middle Eastern politicians - and even (no big surprise) Pasha.An insightful expose, spiked with outraged wit. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Michael Soussan
Michael Soussan's articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The New Republic, Salon.com, Commentary Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, Politique Internationale, and The International Herald Tribune. He holds an MA in International Relations from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, a certificate in screenwriting and film directing from NYU, and a BA from Brown University, where he founded and edited The Brown Journal of World Affairs. Michael Soussan's story is the subject of two documentaries about the UN. He has been invited to lecture by various organizations, including the World Affairs Council and the Ditchley House at Oxford. He lives in New York City.