By Sacha Ismail
George Galloway’s performance in front of a US Senate committee charged with investigating Iraq’s former oil-for-food programme has been hailed as a triumph by both his mouthpiece Socialist Worker and substantial sections of the bourgeois press.
No doubt these sentiments are shared by broad swathes of pseudo-leftist punditry and public opinion, delighted to see a plucky “Brit” stand up to the tyrannical string-pullers in Washington.
Nonetheless, nationalist rubbish aside, a lot of people do genuinely seem to believe that the confrontation on Capitol Hill has exonerated Galloway politically. Nothing could be further from the truth.
From Galloway’s over the top rhetoric — he claimed to be facing a “pro-war lynch mob” of “neocons” and (of course) “Zionists” — it is easy to forget that he was actually questioned rather sedately by only two Senators, one of whom, the Democrat Carl Levin, focused a large part of his attack not on Galloway but on the hypocrisy of US policy in Iraq. The MP for East London got a very easy ride indeed. The fact that he felt the need to lash out tells you a lot about what might have happened if the US ruling class hadn’t picked two dozy representatives.
So what are the facts? Certain things touched on in the Senate committee’s findings are not disputed by anyone. Saddam Hussein’s regime doled out resources to its friends worldwide by way of “vouchers” for Iraqi oil exports which they could sell on at a profit. And one of the beneficiaries of this scheme was Fawaz Zureikat, a Ba’thist businessman based in Jordan who donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Mariam Appeal, an entity set up by George Galloway.
The Senate committee’s report says that the Iraqi government funnelled money through Fawaz Zureikat to Galloway personally, reproducing a list of oil-for-food beneficiaries from the Iraqi oil ministry. Galloway’s defenders in Socialist Worker claim that his name is a faked-up addition to the list, citing the rather obvious fact that “Mr George Galloway” is in a different type and askew from the other text
We have no way of knowing whether his name was added in the Iraqi oil ministry, or inserted by an exceptionally clumsy CIA agent after the Iraq war.
However, it is what Galloway’s defenders accept as true that is really remarkable. Socialist Worker does not deny that the list as a whole is real, and suggests that other documents before the US Senate show that the entry in question originally read “Fawwaz Zureikat — Mariam’s Appeal” rather than “Fawwaz Zureikat — Mr George Galloway”. In other words, it accepts that the Ba’athist regime did use Zureikat to direct funds specifically to Galloway’s Mariam Appeal.
Regardless of whether Galloway “benefited personally” from these funds, the fact that he took money from a businessman with well-known links to Ba’thist Iraq without asking where it came from should be enough for socialists to condemn him.
For those of us who have paid close attention to Galloway over the last ten years, none of this is very surprising. After all, in addition to funds from Zureikat, the bulk of money for the Mariam Appeal came from the government of the United Arab Emirates and the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Why Galloway should gladly take money from those regimes, but refuse funds from Saddam Hussein, is not immediately obvious. Moreover, if he was not aware that he was receiving money from the Ba’thists, that only means that he was acting as their mouthpiece unpaid.
It is no good, as Socialist Worker has done, to run articles detailing the various crimes of Norm Coleman, the right-wing Republican pig who led the Senate committee’s ineffectual charge against Galloway. We know that the the US ruling class are a bunch of mendacious, greedy, warmongering thugs. It is hardly surprising that these creatures lacked the moral authority to land a blow even on Galloway. For socialists, however, the informative contrast here was not between accusers and accused, but between Galloway’s bravura performance and his pathetic grovelling when he stood before the butcher of the Iraqi workers eleven years ago.
“Your excellency, Mr President. I greet you in the name of the many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war and aggression against Iraq and continue to oppose the war by economic means which is aimed to strangle the life out of the great people of Iraq. I greet you, too, in the name of the Palestinian people… 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.… Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you untl victory, until victory, until Jerusalem” (reported in The Times, 20 January, 1994).