The year is 1997, Michael Soussan, a fresh-faced young graduate takes up a new job at the UN's Oil-for-Food program, the largest humanitarian operation in the organization's history. His mission is to help Iraqi civilians survive the devastating impact of economic sanctions that were imposed following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
As a gaffe-prone novice in a world of sensitive taboos, Soussan struggles to negotiate the increasing paranoia of his incomprehensible boss and the inner workings of one of the world's notoriously complex bureaucracies. But as he learns more about the vast sums of money flowing through the program, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Soussan becomes aware that Saddam Hussein is extracting illegal kickbacks, a discovery that sets him on a collision course with the organization's leadership. On March 8, 2004, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Soussan becomes the first insider to call for "an independent investigation" of the UN's dealings with Saddam Hussein. One week later, a humiliated Kofi Annan appointed Paul Volcker to lead a team of international investigators, whose findings resulted in hundreds of prosecutions in multiple countries, many of which are still ongoing.
Backstabbing for Beginners is at once a witty tale of one man's political coming of age, and a stinging indictment of the hypocrisy that prevailed at the heart of one of the world's most idealistic institutions.
I read this book a few years back and am enjoying it just as much this time through on audio. The narrator is incredible. The Oil-For-Food program is in the dim past for me, and a great reminder of the greed, bureaucratic bungling and often very funny office politics and personalities behind the scenes. I just read online about the movie, but can't imagine it will be as good as the book, skeptic that I am.
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This is an intriguing inside tale of the United Nations' Iraqi "Oil for Food" program that is interesting enough but add to that a very well written story and superb narration and you have a great story...perfect for audio.
Soussan's brilliant text is performed extremely well Maxwell Hamilton, who, (despite one questionable Australian accent for the head of the Australian Wheat Board) is great. The text itself is such an insight into the laughable world of lies, deceit and bigoted egos that block those with true passion and determination to change the lives of people who need it most. My personal favourite parts of the text - when Soussan explains how incredibly smart Saddam was, albeit shockingly corrupt, to mastermind the downfall of integrity of most first world countries of the world and the U.N. Members and chairmen of countries you wouldn't believe would partake in dodgy dealings are the first to be whistle-blown by Soussan; Not just the US and Russia - but Australia, France, New Zealand and plenty of others are all in on it.
Cracking yarn. An absolute must.
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An eye opening account of international fraud that gives unprecedented insight and perspective into the workings of the UN and the recent history of Iraq and the war on terror.
Well written and well performed - my only gripe is that some non-American accents were a little interesting but overall this is definitely one to hear.