Saturday, 14 July 2007

Backgrounder on George Galloway

RAM ­ Residents Action Movement Media release on Voices of Peace 13 July 2007 BACKGROUNDER ON GEORGE GALLOWAY British Respect MP & world peace campaigner Testimony to US Senate about Iraq in May 2005 George Galloway, left-wing British MP & international peace campaigner, will be speaking against Islamophobia in Auckland on 27-28 July at meetings hosted by RAM, the Residents Action Movement. (Meeting details below.) Mr Galloway defines Islamophobia as "racism against Muslims". This new racism, says the British MP, is an inevitable flow-on from the deliberately misnamed War on Terror begun by Washington to monopolise oil fields in the Muslim Middle East as part of the US state's strategy to remain the world's dominant power. "As a prominent anti-war politician, Mr Galloway was targeted by a US 'black propaganda' campaign in an attempt to blacken his reputation as a grassroots advocate," said RAM organiser Grant Morgan. "Falsely accused of being in the pay of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Mr Galloway demanded to testify before the US Senate in May 2005. There he turned the tables against the powerful elites profiting from death and destruction in the Middle East, putting them on trial for crimes against humanity. In March this year, British enforcement authorities admitted that Mr Galloway had no case to answer." "Mr Galloway is one of the West's most high-profile opponents of Islamophobia," said Grant Morgan. "In his Auckland meetings, Mr Galloway will detail the close linkage between America's wars in the Middle East and its state-fuelled Islamophobia which attempts to give ideological justification to Washington's unjust crusade for oil and power." Following are two mainstream media reports on Mr Galloway's testimony before the US Senate. The first is from The Nation, a respected US journal of political commentary. The second is from the BBC News, a pillar of British news reportage. Mr Galloway goes to Washington
by John Nichols The Nation 17 May 2005
Norm Coleman is a fool. Not an ideological nut case, not a partisan whack, not even a useful idiot ­ just a plain old-fashioned, drool-on-his-tie fool. The Minnesota Republican senator who took Paul Wellstone's seat after one of the most disreputable campaigns in American political history has been trying over the past year to make a name for himself by blowing the controversy surrounding the United Nation's Oil-for-Food program into something more than the chronicle of corporate abuse that it is. The US media, which thrives on official sound bites, was more than willing to lend credence to Coleman's overblown claims about wrongdoing in the UN program set up in 1996 to permit Iraq -- which was then under strict international sanctions ­ to buy food, medicine and humanitarian supplies with the revenues from regulated oil sales. Even as Coleman's claims became more and more fantastic, he faced few challenges from the cowering Democrats in Congress. But when Coleman started slandering foreign politicians, he exposed the dramatic vulnerability of his claims that the supposed scandal was much more than a blatant example of US corporations taking advantage of their powerful connections in Washington to undermine official US policy, harm the national interest and profit off the suffering of the poor. The Senate investigation that Coleman sought regarding the Oil for Food program has already revealed that the Bush Administration failed to crack down on widespread abuse of the Oil for Food program by US energy companies, and that US oil purchases accounted for the majority of the kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein's regime in return for sales of inexpensive oil. Indeed, the report concludes: "The United States (government) was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions. On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales." Instead of forcing the President, his aides and the executives of Bayoil, the Texas oil company that the report shows paid "at least $37 million in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime" ­ money that helped the Iraqi dictator solidify his grip on power ­ Coleman started to make wild charges about European officials such as British parliamentarian George Galloway. The problem for Coleman is that Galloway is not a standard-issue American politician -- the kind who has nothing to say and says it poorly. He is a veteran of the rough-and-tumble politics of Glasgow and the equally rough-and-tumble politics of the British Parliament. In other words, Galloway comes from places where voters and politicians do not suffer fools. And anyone who has ever followed British politics knows that George Galloway has beaten every political challenge he has faced -- even those posed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Galloway called Coleman's bluff and flew to Washington for a remarkable appearance before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. "I am determined now that I am here, to be not the accused but the accuser," Galloway announced as he stood outside the Capitol Tuesday. "These people are involved in the mother of all smokescreens." The member of Parliament tore through Coleman's flimsy "evidence," issuing an unequivocal denial that began, "Mr. Chairman, I am not now, nor have I ever been an oil trader, and neither has anyone been on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf." He accused Coleman of being "remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice" and pointed out error after error in the report the senator had brandished against him. For instance, Galloway noted that he had met Saddam twice -- not the "many" times alleged by the report. "As a matter of fact I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times that [Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld met him," said the recently re-elected British parliamentarian. "The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns." For good measure, Galloway used the forum Coleman had foolishly provided to deliver a blistering condemnation of Coleman's war. "Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies," Galloway informed the fool on Capitol Hill. "I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end but merely the end of the beginning. "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; 1,600 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. "If the world had listened to [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to [French] President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the antiwar movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth," argued Galloway. Then the Brit turned the tables on Coleman and steered the committee's attention toward "the real Oil for Food scandal." "Have a look at the fourteen months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first fourteen months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money but the money of the American taxpayer," Galloway said. "Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where. Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it. Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."
Explosive showdown in US Senate
by Matthew Davis BBC News in Washington George Galloway had vowed to give US senators "both barrels" and after sitting ­ coiled ­ through an hour-and-half of testimony against him, he unloaded all his ammunition. Far from displaying the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed, Mr Galloway went on the attack. He rubbished committee chairman Norm Coleman's dossier of evidence and stared him in the eye. "Now I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," the MP declared. The whole room scanned Mr Coleman's face for a reaction. The senator shifted in his seat ­ nervously it seemed. It was the first time a British politician had been interrogated as a hostile witness at the US Senate ­ but Mr Galloway cast himself not as the accused, but the accuser. On stage at the heart of American power, he attacked the US-led war on Iraq and accused Washington of installing a "puppet" regime there. The Scotsman launched into his opening statement with relish. He had never received any money or any allocations of oil from Iraq. He was not, as the committee alleged, a supporter of Saddam Hussein. "I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do, and than any member of the British or American governments do," he told the committee. Mr Galloway had expected to testify before a panel of 13 senators in what he termed their "lions' den". But he faced off against just two, Mr Coleman and Democratic counterpart Carl Levin. It was Republican Mr Coleman who bore the brunt of the attack in one of the Senate's most flamboyant confrontations. "Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong," he told the chairman, whom he labelled a "neo-con, pro-war hawk". Mr Coleman tried desperately to take it without emotion, but at one point could not resist breaking in to a smile. In the face of Mr Galloway's refusal to accept anything the senators were claiming might be true, they tried to establish a link between a Jordanian businessman who they believe received oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, and Mr Galloway's children's charity. Mr Galloway said the businessman had given money to the charity but he, Mr Galloway, had never known where it came from. The senators believe that it came from Iraq, but they could come up with no proof and their questions ended. Senator Levin later said he was "deeply troubled" that Mr Galloway had "ducked the question". But it was Mr Galloway who looked most satisfied as he left the vast, wood-panelled committee room. Outside in a corridor he told reporters he thought he had put the committee on the ropes, saying of Mr Coleman: "He's not much of a lyncher." The senators, however, were playing down the confrontation. "This was not a wrestling match," Mr Coleman protested. "It wasn't a contest." Asked his reaction to the "unusual" manner of the witness, he replied: "I was not offended by what he had to say, it was not relevant. The theatre, the dramatics ­ I was not looking at that. I had one goal and it was to make a record." The pundits disagreed. One observer of Capitol Hill politics declared the result: "Galloway by a knockout ­ before round five." Others cast the confrontation as Braveheart on Capitol Hill. But though he left the building professing himself satisfied with his trip to Washington, only time will tell whether Mr Galloway has blown away the allegations he described as the "mother of all smokescreens". Mr Coleman said he didn't think Mr Galloway had been a "credible witness". If it was found he had lied under oath, there would be "consequences", he said.


GEORGE GALLOWAY will be addressing these two meetings: TOWN MEETING 7.30pm, Saturday 28 July. Auckland Girls Grammar School Theatre. 16 Howe St (off Karangahape Rd). The three other speakers are:
  • JAVED KHAN, president of Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ.
  • PAUL BUCHANAN, international security analyst & director of the Working Group on Alternative Security Perspectives at the University of Auckland.
  • GRANT MORGAN, organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement.
Limit of 800 seats, so those interested are being advised to get there early. NO DOOR CHARGE. Donations will be accepted. UNIVERSITY MEETING 6pm, Friday 27 July. University of Auckland. Venue to be confirmed. The three other speakers are:
  • NIBRAS KARDAMAN, young Muslim woman & representative of the Working Together Group.
  • STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE of the campus organising group.
  • GRANT MORGAN, organiser of RAM ­ Residents Action Movement.
NO DOOR CHARGE. Donations will be accepted. Both meetings OPEN TO THE MEDIA. WORKSHOPS There will also be Voices of Peace workshops where topics touching on Islamophobia can be discussed together by Muslims and non-Muslims. George Galloway will give the introduction. 2-5pm, Sunday 29 July. Fickling Convention Centre, 546 Mt Albert Rd, Three Kings. Limit of 250 participants, so those interested are being advised to get there early.

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