Galloway: 'Put up or shut up time'

The US Senate diverts from their country's imperialist crimes. Peter Manson reports

George Galloway has come out fighting against the latest allegations from the same United States senate sub-committee that he comprehesively mauled in May over allegations that he illegally benefited from the Iraqi 'oil for food' scheme. He has taunted the committee chairman Norm Coleman to meet him in a public debate in Minnesota, repeat the accusation of perjury outside the protection of Senate privilege and settle the matter in court: "I am unequivocally stating here and now, I'll head for Heathrow now, pausing only to pick up my toothbrush, if they will promise to charge me with perjury. It is very clear what they said: I lied under oath. It is a criminal offence which is what they told me when I swore the oath. It is either put up or shut up time" (The Guardian October 26). According to the latest allegations, Galloway's wife, Amineh Abu Zayyad, who is in the process of divorcing him, was paid $150,000 in August 2000 by the Jordanian businessman, Fawaz Zureikat. This man had extensive dealings with the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. It is claimed that while the murderous UN sanctions regime strangled the country and led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, money from oil sales that should have been used to buy food and medicine was diverted to friendly businesses and influential figures abroad. Allegedly it was 'oil for food' cash that Zureikat paid Amineh Zayyad. Thus, declares the senate committee, Galloway "through his wife was personally enriched" in return for defending Iraq. Leaving aside the specifics of the Galloway case for a moment, the general intention of the allegation is clear: to establish as 'common sense' the idea that people who campaigned against imperialism's long-running war on Iraq did so not out of any political commitment, but simply for personal gain. No matter how flimsy the evidence to back this up, this muck will be recycled and elaborated on in the hope that at least some of it will stick. In Galloway's own words, the senate committee is also "engaged in diverting attention from the absolute disaster" of the invasion and occupation. "I'm not afraid of them. This is their problem, you see. I'm ready to go to the airport to face them now in court in the United States. I demand to be charged so this matter can be fully explored." As for his wife, he states that she "is not my goods or chattel". He was unaware of any cash paid to her by Zureikat, but that was her business, not his. A further $15,666 was said to have been paid in 2000 by Zureikat to Ron McKay, Galloway's spokesperson and general election campaign manager. McKay has admitted having business dealings with the Jordanian. The fact that Zureikat was the chairman and major donor of the Mariam Appeal - the charity set up by Galloway to aid an Iraqi girl suffering from cancer, and used as part of the anti-sanctions campaign - has long been in the public domain. Of the thousands of dollars paid into the appeal by Zureikat, Galloway says that he had no knowledge and no particular interest in "the precise proportion or source" of this cash. What matters is that it helped finance the anti-sanctions campaign. Galloway has pointed out the dubious sources for this new round of allegations. They come from three prisoners of the US administration - former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, along with two other ex-members of the Ba'athist regime - all currently facing the death penalty in a trial in Baghdad, in which Saddam himself is the main defendant. Galloway correctly points out the irony of the situation when he observes that "Tariq Aziz now agrees with the US. He is a genocidal murderer one day, then a reputable witness the next." The implication is clear: the latest round of accusations originate with people eminently susceptible to pressure and to incriminating others in order to win themselves a degree of clemency. It is these vulnerable people that are accusing the Mariam Appeal and Galloway personally of having been awarded eight oil 'allocations' totalling 23 million barrels between 1999 and 2003. The 2000 donation from Zureikat is alleged to be the profit from one such 'allocation', although the senate committee has not provided any details of the other seven. All this was supposedly substantiated by the miraculous 'discovery' by a Daily Telegraph journalist of what purported to be official Iraqi documents in a ransacked Baghdad ministry building shortly after the US-UK invasion in 2003. Galloway last year won his libel case against the Telegraph, which presented the documents as probably genuine and accurate. He says he will reveal "important new information" about their true origins "at the conclusion of the appeal process" which is now underway. There are many criticisms that can be made of George Galloway. His politics derive from a combination of left Labourism, 'official communism' and reactionary catholicism. This strange blend produced the sort of anti-imperialism that led him to switch from fierce opposition to Saddam Hussein when Iraq was an ally of the US and Britain to saluting his "courage and indefatigability" in 1994, once Saddam became the west's bête noire. For anti-imperialists of the Galloway type, 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'. However, money clearly was not the motivating factor in this odd evolution. Galloway was obviously acting out of profound political conviction - irrespective of the dismal and eccentric politics upon which that conviction is founded. And despite this dire weakness Galloway was indeed one of the most potent leaders of the anti-war mobilisation prior to the invasion of Iraq. He remains a thorn in the side of Bush and Blair, as they continue their attempts to justify the deadly occupation - just as their own secret intelligence reveals that 82% of Iraqis are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops (ironically it was The Daily Telegraph's sister paper which published these leaked findings from a ministry of defence poll - see The Sunday Telegraph October 23). That is why it is essential to defend Galloway against the imperialists, whose own bloody crimes in any case make the allegations against him - even if they were wholly credible and impeccably sourced - sound like minor misdemeanours.