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.
©2016 Michael Soussan (P)2016 Hachette Audio
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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