What's Left?
Galloway Versus Hitchens; Progressives Versus Ourselves


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

By Greg Palast

Man, it just felt so good watching George Galloway rip Senator Coleman an extra exit hole. In May 2005, you'll remember, while most American politicians were mincing and cowering, the Honorable Member of the British Parliament, George Galloway, told a panel of stunned US congressmen:

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."

It was one hell of a performance.

Tonight, Galloway will launch his American tour, a kind of extended curtain call to his US Senate debut, starting with a Punch-and-Judy show with Christopher Hitchens in New York.

In May, our Bush-kissing Congressmen could only respond to Galloway's challenge with dusty old smears and lame-ass questions.

But before we rally 'round this stand-up guy from Britain, we should ask him a few questions of our own.

Honorable Mr. Galloway, you met with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 1994 and said, "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem."

After this effusive praise for Saddam, the two of you shared some Quality Street chocolates and some funny stories about Winston Churchill.

In 1990, Saddam executed a troublesome reporter, Farzad Bazoft, of the Observer newspaper of London. You complained about it at the time. Some time later, Saddam finished off about 100,000 Shi'ites and Kurds.

My questions are, "Are Quality Street chocolates your favorite brand? And did you forget the name of the reporter that Saddam executed? And how is it that you found the courage to challenge a bunch of US Senators but became such a pussy cat when confronted with a man whose killing spree easily exceeds theirs?"

And when you were challenged on your arse-licking praise of the dictator, why did you prevaricate and obfuscate by saying the worshipful words were for the Iraqi people, not Saddam. In fact, your words were very specific: "Your Excellency, I thought the president would appreciate to know that even today, three years after the war, I still meet families who are calling their newborn sons Saddam."

I have to say, Mr. Galloway, you are a charitable man with a big heart. But the charity is for whom? You founded something called the Mariam Appeal for Iraqis suffering under UN sanction. You raised cash on your solemn promise that, "The balance after Mariam's hospital bills have been paid will be sent as medicine and medical supplies to the children she had to leave behind." But little of the money seems to have gone there, isn't that correct, Mr. Galloway? It seems that nearly a million dollars can't be accounted for. And the diversion of most of the money was, you said, for "emergency" purposes. One of those emergencies was the payment to your wife -- isn't that correct, Mr. Galloway?

And the source of nearly half a million dollars of that money, Honorable Sir, came from a trader in the corrupt Oil-for-Food program. The payment was equal to the profits earned by this oil trader who was blessed with discount oil from Saddam. Is that correct?

So if we add it up, Mr. Galloway, while you were railing about medicines denied Iraqis by Messrs. Bush and Blair, you were taking money skimmed from the program earmarked to pay for those medicines. And other moneys donated for medicine for Iraqis you and your group also skimmed off for "legitimate expenses" of yours, is that correct?

George Bush took money from unnamed Persian Gulf sources, as you apparently have. Should I question him, or simply ask him if his purposes were "legitimate" or an "emergency"?

And might I have a copy of the financial records of your "charity"? You promised to make them public but the records now seemed to have disappeared into Jordan. Would you mind retrieving those?

And why did you tell the US Senate the British Charity Commission "recovered all money in and all money out -- they found no impropriety"? I have read their findings. In fact, the Commission excoriated you for failing to record where your million came from and where it went. And they recovered none of it.

I remember when Paul Wolfowitz told the US Congress the war in Iraq would not cost taxpayers one penny. Wolfowitz avoids prosecution for perjury because he did not testify under oath. Did you lie in your testimony because, as a foreign legislator, Mr. Galloway, you are immune from prosecution for perjury?

And when you said, "The Arabs must have a mentality that says, I want to be like Hizbollah." Sir, you mean the Hizbollah that took hostages in Lebanon and guns from Reagan, or the Hizbollah who joined Argentine military Fascists on a killing spree?

And why have you ducked for two months my request to answer questions?

Friends and comrades, this is not about George Galloway. He's just another self-promoting fart. Six months from now, even his smell will be gone.

This is not about George Galloway, but about us. What's Left? Are we about standing for the defenseless -- or the cruel and senseless?

A couple of months after the invasion of Iraq, I was in Los Angeles and some drunk accosted me, saying, "George Bush was right about everything he said about Iraq!" -- weapons of mass destruction, the al-Qaeda connection and more. It was Christopher Hitchens, "debating" me, and furious. His confusing our President's assertions with reality was a verbal pie he threw in the air and caught on his face.

He was flustered not because I disagreed with him -- he enjoys that, being the look-at-me bad boy -- but because I agreed with him: Saddam was a monster and Iraqis, overwhelmingly, wanted him gone.

But I could not, like Hitchens, shill for Mr. Bush's war of "liberation." I could see where it would end. When a snake devours a rat, it doesn't liberate the captive mice. The mice are "saved" -- for lunch.

But it is not good enough for the Left to oppose Mr. Bush's re-colonization of Iraq. We needed to have actively supported Iraqis fighting to remove their Mesopotamian Stalin. And now, we'd better come up with something a little less nutty than a recent suggestion by one otherwise thoughtful writer that we, "unconditionally support the insurgency" of berserker killers and fundamentalist madmen. If that's the Left's program for Iraq, count me out.

We can't define ourselves as the "anti-Bush," blindly supporting those he opposes, and thereby letting the nitwit Napoleon in the White House pick our enemies for us. Nor can our revulsion for Bush's horrors throw us into the arms of swamp-things like George Galloway.

Don't get me wrong. Unlike Hitchens, I cannot support the Prevaricator-in-Chief, the President who ordered Cindy Sheehan's son, Casey, to march to his death in Baghdad. But I'll be damned if I'll cheer some rich white Brit-hole who brings joy to Casey's killers.

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Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his commentaries at www.GregPalast.com.

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