Why this matters

No apologies for another Galloway post because this issue matters and I want to explain why.

I’m not interested in whether he personally gained from dodgy oil deals – I doubt anything will be proven on that front. Parliamentary, Senate and Charities Commission investigations are not likely to start getting access to Galloway’s bank accounts which, as some media have pointed out, is what you would need to do to if you wanted to prove he personally gained from the Oil for Food scam.

Nonetheless the Senate has presented evidence that names Galloway personally in deals. There could be all sorts of explanations for that, including some regime official on a scam himself. We obviously have to wait to find out more on that front and the presumption of innocence applies even to scumbags like Galloway.

But frankly that isn’t what matters politically. There are two issues about Galloway and Iraq that do matter politically.

Firstly that Galloway was a political supporter of Saddam – a fact that the media seem too easily to put aside as though his speech in Baghdad was just another example of ‘rhetorical flourish’ from the ‘colourful maverick’.

There was a classic example of this from Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s ‘PM’ yesterday. As this report puts it:

In his best sneery, what-are-the-Yanks-up-to-now voice, Mair said, “[The Senate report] prints a picture of Mr Galloway meeting Saddam Hussein and calls the MP “an outspoken supporter of the Iraqi regime” and it cites in its first paragraph the now famous line used by Mr Galloway, ‘I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability’, but does not acknowledge in the body of the report Mr Galloway’s insistence that that remark was directed at the Iraqi people in general’.

Now this is what is known as ‘spinning’. Galloway first denied meeting Saddam Hussein, saying. “I had no opportunity because we were in a group of about fifty people. I didn’t actually speak to him face to face.” (Daily Record, 21st January). When TV pictures showed the opposite was true Galloway adopted the ‘I-was-speaking-to-the-Iraqi-people explanation. But the full peroration makes clear that this was not the case either.

Galloway stood before Saddam Hussein and said ‘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 until victory, until victory until Jerusalem.” (The Times, 20th January, 1994).

This, for those of you who need a reminder, was said to a man whose regime gassed Kurdish families, murdered and tortured his political opponents, targetted the Marsh Arabs and drained their lands and whose repression and wars lead to the deaths of around a million people. Most of those victims happened to be Muslims but somehow, despite Galloway’s fawning in front of this mass-murderer he is seen as a ‘defender of Muslims’.

Likewise, despite the fact that Iraqi socialists, communists and trade unionists, were prominent among the victims of Saddam’s regime, Galloway is seen as a ‘man of the left’ for saluting the fascist killer of our comrades.

Even now he is supporting the Ba’athists in two ways. Firstly he hails their terror gangs who are still murdering civilians. Even when they murder trade unionists he acts as an apologist by describing those comrades as ‘collaborators’ and ‘quislings’. It is an age-old tactic of fascists to target trade unionists and label them a fifth column or traitors. Secondly he is campaigning for the freedom of Tariq Aziz and Saddam’s other Ba’athist thugs who Galloway hopes will avoid facing justice for their crimes against the Iraqi people.

George Galloway is a supporter of and apologist for Iraqi fascism. On that charge he has long been found guilty and much as I abhore corruption it is a crime, in my book, which pales into insignificance compared with support for fascism. As the left-wing French slogan at the last presidential elections put it: “Better a crook than a fascist”.

Secondly, I think those of us who have been opposing Galloway’s rising influence on a section of the British left and indeed the British public in general, have a right to know if Galloway’s political campaigning was being funded out of Saddam’s filthy and corrupt oil deals under the Oil for Food scam. This has nothing to do with the issue of personal gain and Galloway is, as usual, avoiding the subject when he brings up the joke of him being a billionairre.

This is where the Senate investigation and other probes into Galloway’s financial activities become politically relevant. There is no doubt that Galloway’s political campaigning was assisted by funds from the Mariam Appeal – the registry of member’s interests shows the extent to which a body set up to help a sick little girl get medical treatment, also paid for Galloway’s galavanting around the Middle East.

Was the Mariam Appeal and therefore Galloway’s political campaigning funded out of Oil for Food?

The various investigations may throw some light on that. We already know that a businessman heavily involved in the scam was designated as Galloway’s ‘representative’ in Baghdad and that he later became chairman of the Mariam Appeal. What we don’t know is if he channelled money from oil deals into the Appeal. We do know that Galloway moved the financial statements and other documents of the Mariam Appeal from the UK to the Middle East.

Therefore two questions need to be repeatedly asked until an answer is given.

Why did Galloway move the Mariam Appeal documents out of the country?

Why will Galloway not make the financial statements of the Mariam Appeal avaliable despite promising to do so two years ago?

Only by making those documents avaliable will it become clear how the Mariam Appeal was funded.

Only by making public the finances of the Appeal will we know what the cash was spent on.

This is not ancient history. Galloway has, in the past three years, been in the leadership of a mass anti-war movement, the Stop the War Coalition and has created a new political party, Respect. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to demand answers to these questions. Indeed I would have thought that Respect and Stop the War Coalition would have as much interest as anyone, if not more, in clearing this matter up.