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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 05/05/2003
Volume 2, #75

Last time, I closed by mentioning that, apart from the 2nd Gulf War, the biggest swindle the world had ever seen had been going on--and the war, which in itself didn't make sense, had somehow exposed it. One bit of lunacy exposing a most unsuspected source of international villainy. I'll tell you about it next week, if I can get my car started.

Then my personal life intervened. My literary agent in the UK asked me to write a kind of Shavian preface to cover four books of mine that he's handling. Well, that involves not only my bread and butter but, as I see it, my real purpose on this planet--getting my books out to as wide an audience as possible. So I dropped everything and didn't get this column out last week as promised. But the decks are clear now, and it's time to get back to where I left off. The big swindle.

That swindle, as I call it, was all over the news--on TV and even the New York Times carried a big story on it. The reason I decided to talk about it was because once the news was out, for some inexplicable reason, no one chose to examine it further. Not a word anywhere. No editorializing, no comments from the anti-war commentariat. What was it?

The oil for food program. We all know that Iraqi oil was embargoed in such a way that it could only be used to make sure that the Iraqi population got fed. Yet ever since the first Gulf War, everybody was complaining that under that program very little of that oil money from other nations was feeding anybody. The oil was being distributed around. And paid for--in one way or another. So it was building palaces. It went into the pockets of all sorts of people--but in the end, the Iraqi people were starving and from time to time there'd be all sorts of complaints that the US should end the embargo. Mostly from small do-gooder organizations like Médicines Sans Frontières. But in the meantime no major nation paid any attention and nothing happened.

Why? All the rest of the world was making a fortune on the oil for food deal. The French, the Germans, the Italians--my God--even Saudi Arabia was listed as trading flour for oil! Think of it--Saudi Arabia, awash in oil, trading flour which it didn't have and didn't raise, for even more Iraqi oil. The Russians were sending spare parts. Parts of what? Nobody knows. Some enterprising Times reporters asked to look at the books on this whole strange deal where it seemed every member of the United Nations was cashing in--except the Iraqi people. When wonder of wonders--Kofi Annan, questioned about it by reporters, announced that the books were sealed. That's right! No body could have a look to see who was getting what. It was a completely closed deal. No records--none at least that were available. Why? What was so top secret about it? It looks entirely as if no one wanted it publicly touted that the whole deal was simply an international swindle in which Iraqi oil was getting passed around everywhere with none of the proceeds going to the Iraqi people. Such a great deal, in fact, that not a soul objected. They were all cleaning up on it. Saddam was getting his palaces and the Iraqi people--well--who was going to let them complain--Saddam?

So, just recently, the United Nations decided, since the 2nd Gulf War was over, that they would reluctantly consider passing a resolution to end the oil for food program. And that was it. Other than the fact that the Times and a few others mentioned the story in passing, there wasn't even a single tut-tut-a solitary demand that the books, if there really were any, be opened and examined to see who really got what.

Nobody really wanted to talk about it. Now, in this column, and among many others in the US and abroad, the haste with which the US went to war against Iraq, the fact that such a war was in the making long before 9-11, that if any weapons of mass destruction turn up, the likelihood now appears to be that they will have been planted there. But--because the whole world was complicit in the oil for food program, no attempt whatsoever has been made to look more deeply into that. Because in that one, everyone's involved. Now note too that the NY Times did cover the story. But without any real follow-up. No indignation. No outrage. In fact, no information at all, from anywhere. Leads you to wonder, doesn't it, how much more of this stuff is going on. Sort of--when everybody's a thief--there really aren't any thieves.

Now here I am writing a column that's supposed to be about comics. And because superheroes were around largely to clean up stuff like this, I suppose it's appropriate that I be writing about it. But maybe there's someone out there who knows more about it than I do. In that case, I'd appreciate hearing it. Remember, the information itself--that was covered. The Times did the story and got as far as Kofi Annan declaring that all records were secret. Then they dropped it. Why?

And if I don't get any more feedback from someone reading this column, then I'm going to climb back into my Nissan Sentra, hit that gas pedal and head straight back for the Sixth Avenue Cafeteria and find my friend, Clark Kent. I'll ask him about it. I'm sure, if he hasn't got the answers, he'll know how to get them. So keep your eyes on this space. There's more coming. That's guaranteed.

--Alvin

<< 04/21/2003 | 05/05/2003 | 05/12/2003 >>

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