Poor old George Galloway. The tabloids are being nasty to him, the Labour Party don’t like him and even some in the anti-war movement are worrying if he is something of a liability. He has been called a “mouthpiece for Saddam” and accused of being an apologist for the Baathist regime. So today the Guardian give him a chance to defend himself and it really is tearjerking stuff.

It’s true that some of my words have been harsh, but that’s because I’m expressing the views of the millions who remain fiercely angry at the government’s taking us into a war in defiance of the UN, in the teeth of overwhelming international opposition, on bogus and fabricated grounds, and to such disastrous effect. Not least, I’m speaking for the many in the British Muslim community – Shi’a or otherwise – who feel powerless and virtually voiceless amid the slaughter of Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and now Iraq.

Now in Iraq. Of course, it is only in the past two weeks that Muslims have been killed in Iraq isn’t it? We have to presume that those thousands of opponents of Saddam who were murdered (communists and socialists too George) don’t count as dead Muslims. What where they? Counter-revolutionaries? kulaks? infidels? Clearly they have been written out of history by the MP for Glasgow Kelvin.

The former War on Want charity activist does think he is ever so clever though. His favourite rhetorical trick is to use the language of the war, hardly an original approach but at times he takes it to ludicrous lengths, take this one example:“Last week the government enlisted the Murdoch press to launch an assault on me with the journalistic equivalent of a cluster bomb,” his article is littered with such nonsense, but while there is no doubt that Galloway is a pompous egoist, it is another question as to whether or not he is an apologist for Saddam. Let’s see.

First there is his infamous address to the Iraqi leader in January 1994. “Sir,” said Galloway, “we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”.

Galloway was one of a delegation of European MPs who took it on themselves to present Saddam Hussein with a pennant from Palestinian youth in the Israeli-occupied territory, from which they had just come. Having praised “Sir’s” courage, strength and indefatigability, Galloway went on to inform Saddam Hussein that the people he had visited in Palestine were naming their children after him. And not only were the Palestinians with him.Galloway ended his speech with the words: “We are with you,” and then some words in Arabic, which the BBC translated as “Until victory! Until Jerusalem!” This was not quite three years after Saddam Hussein had rocketed gas bombs on Israel during the Gulf War, and used poison gas against Iraq’s Kurdish people. (source)

Was this just a case of our George getting a little bit over-excited in the presence of a powerful man with a moustache? Do the words “we are with you” not mean that he is with Saddam? That was nine years ago, you might say, so why was he meeting Saddam in August in Baghdad? More to the point what was he doing attending a meeting in Cairo with Baath Party officials in December of last year?

Galloway was at a conference of Middle East activists along with John Rees, a leading figure in the Stop the War Coalition and the pro-Saddam Socialist Workers Party. Keeping Rees and Galloway MP company at the Cairo Conference were, amongst others:
– Nabil Negm: former under-secretary in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry; political adviser to Saddam Hussein; leader of the Iraqi conference delegation.
– Saad Qassem Hammoundy: leading member of the Iraqi Baath Party; Secretary-General of the Iraqi Conference of Arab Popular Forces; Iraqi Ambassador to the Arab League.
– Leading members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: allowed to attend the conference as ‘private citizens’, not as official delegates. (The Muslim Brotherhood advocates the transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state.) sources

Of course, Galloway is free to attend whatever meetings he wishes and holding talks with a regime that he is defending right until its death doesn’t necessarily make him a traitor as the Sun have dubbed him. But is such behaviour compatible with membership of a democratic socialist party, membership of a Parliamentry Labour Party whose government has committed British forces into action to defeat the “Sir” and his regime?

George says he is keen to stay in the Labour Party, telling the Guardian: “I don’t want to be pushed out of Labour politics. After 35 years, and having served at every level, I suspect I love the Labour party rather more than Mr Blair does. I hope he will eschew a witch-hunt.” Of course Galloway is leaving nothing to chance. “But, just in case, my friends and I are busy building the new Glasgow central constituency into an impregnable fortress of real Labour values. Mr Blair and his peculiar allies, his army of rightwing hacks and control-freaks, may well besiege it. But they will have their work cut out to overcome it. ”

So at the same time as saying he wants to stay a Labour MP, Galloway is planning a breakaway, or at least to stand as an independent. (Britain’s first Ba’ath Party candidate?). Indeed for all his claims of commitment to Labour, George has been talking of a split for some time.

“Certainly, this mass movement in the country feels cheated and betrayed by parliament and they are right to feel so. Developments in the House of Commons are clearly a by-product of what we do on the streets. We mustn’t foster illusions in the parliament … or in the Labour Party, frankly.” (Weekly Worker, April 3)

“Whether New Labour can be decapitated and a renaissance of this existing Labour Party can be achieved is doubtful, I believe. The answer will probably present itself to us soon – we are talking weeks, not months…..I am not openly proselytising for them at the moment, so I would be lying if I said there was a real resonance for them at present. But I am in discussion with a number of key individuals – people who independently have been thinking along the same lines.Nature abhors a vacuum and there is no vacuum more abhorrent than a political vacuum.” (Weekly Worker Feb 20)

Oh, I can think of a few.