His Gray Eminence Maurice Strong

Pittsburgh Live
Sunday, May 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The University of Pennsylvania conducts its commencement on Monday; U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to be at the Philadelphia school. He was invited to speak by Penn President Amy Gutmann; Mr. Annan will receive an honorary doctorate of law.

Dr. Gutmann said that Annan would mesh with the graduating class, which this year was "more globally interconnected." The overly naive lady added that the secretary-general would speak about "equality, liberty and opportunity."

When we factor in Annan's supervision of the oil-for-food scandal, the topic is a wonderful summary of his negligent, incompetent and possibly criminal activities.

Annan had an "equality" of opportunity to manipulate the treasure trove of oil money. He and friends had the "liberty" to feed masses of paper into shredding machines. And, as for "opportunity," who was better placed than Annan -- other than predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali -- for the wonderful opportunities to secure a fortune?

Amy Gutmann's graduating class may learn a great deal. Apart from the corruption allegation of Kofi Annan's supposedly offering money from oil-for-food coffers, there allegedly were diversions of money for building Saddam Hussein's palaces and acquiring missile technology.

Kofi Annan also ignored allegations of sexual abuse against officials at U.N. headquarters in New York with the same abandon of peacekeeping contingents from Latin America and Asia in Africa. He equally ignored the tribal violence between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. And because of his fear of the Chinese and Russians, Annan ignores events in Darfur and Chechnya.

And the oil-for-food scandal has spread from the Turtle Bay compound to Canada, China, South Korea, Britain, Costa Rica, Texas and Colorado.

And then there's Maurice Strong, 75, a Canadian socialist multimillionaire who lives on a 63,000 acre ranch on the edge of the mountains in southern Colorado.

Strong, who likes to be known as "Max" (as in "maximum leader"), also has a giant ranch in Costa Rica. Strong grew up in a poor family in Manitoba, left school at 14 and in 1958 went to Kenya to work for Cal Tex on oil exploitation. There he discovered the environment to be a wonderful issue to promote himself.

Strong returned to Canada in his late 30s to commence a James Bond-type of career as a future self-appointed chief diplomat for the world.

A near-compulsive talker, one item about which Strong is almost taciturn is his relations with China's elite. Strong does not mention his late cousin Anna Louise Strong. The Marxist journalist was a member of the Comintern and spent two years with Chairman Mao. Her funeral in 1970 was organized personally by Chou En-lai, China's prime minister.

Some claim that Strong arranged the Nixon-Kissinger initial meetings with the Chinese. However, Strong makes full use of Cousin Anna's memories among Beijing's elite and has had excellent relationships with the Chinese for 30 years.

Among Strong's closest friends are Kofi Annan; Jim Wolfensohn, the outgoing World Bank leader who once worked for Strong; Malloch Brown, a Brit who is Annan's Cabinet chief; Al Gore, to whom he donated $100,000; the sinister and corrupt Tongsun Park; Mikhail Gorbachev; Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway; Paul Martin, the embattled prime minister of Canada; and another Canadian power-lady at the U.N., Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette.

Ms. Frechette is not only a member of Paul Volcker's team investigating the oil-for-food scandal but also a subject of its scrutiny. A longtime friend of Strong, both of them were close to the executives of the Paris-based banking conglomerate, Banque Nationale de Paris, BNP. This was the bank selected by Annan that made at least 400 suspect payments to Iraq that could have been used for weapons and the support of terrorism.

Last month, Strong resigned as Annan's special representative in Korea. He gave as his reason a U.N. hiring mix-up that put his step-daughter on his U.N. payroll for the past two years.

Throughout his life, Strong has lived a "grace-and-favor" existence. His specialty is turning business moguls into friends of international bureaucrats to avoid the delays of democracy.

Recently, Strong was looking for an apartment in Beijing, where his Canadian interests are already enmeshed with the Chinese Red Army.

Maurice Strong is the fox that was invited into the henhouse -- and given the tools to redesign it for his own interests.

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer.