Thursday, May 19, 2005
Double barrels from Galloway
GEORGE Galloway, former Labour party member of the British parliament and currently leader of Respect Party and MP representing Respect in the Commons, is scheduled to appear before the US Senate Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations to testify on charges that US officials benefited from the UN's oil-for-food programme with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
The forum, scheduled for Tuesday, will be titled "Oil For Influence: How Saddam Used Oil to Reward Politicians and Terrorist Entities Under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme."
Galloway, who had close relations with Saddam and visited Iraq several times and held talks with the then Iraqi president twice — in 1994 and 2002 — was expelled from Labour for criticising the British government's alliance with the Bush administration in the invasion and occupation of Iraq two years earlier.
He also faced allegations that he had taken money from Saddam. These allegations, aired through a British and an American newspaper, were found to be unfounded -- or at least not proven in a court of law -- when Galloway went to a British court with the issue. It was proved that Saddam oil ministry documents produced as evidence against Galloway were not authentic. He won £150,000 in damages from London's Daily Telegraph, which was also left with a legal bill of about £1.2 million (By the way, The Daily Telegraph is owned by the Hollinger Corporation, which allegedly has ties with Richard Perle, one of the leading pro-Israeli neoconservatives in Washington).
The American politicians behind new charges against Galloway and the "invitation" issued to him to present himself before the Senate committee are trying to portray it as a hostile hearing where the British politician would be asked uncomfortable questions implicating himself in the oil-for-food scam and his alleged receipt of funds from Saddam. However, they might find themselves on the receiving end since Galloway seems to be relishing the offered opportunity to take the grandstand and blast away at the US-led, British-backed invasion and occupation of Iraq.
It is also a foregone conclusion that Galloway would use the opportunity to slam American/British policy in the Middle East and bring out the Israeli aspect of the war against Iraq.
There are two parallel political games unfolding in Washington.
One has to do with the old/new allegations that US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had decided in July 2002 to take military action against Iraq in order to topple Saddam regardless whatever the international community and the United Nations had to say about it.
Observers in the Middle East say that, even without the fresh evidence to this effect contained in British documents leaked to the press recently, it was abundantly clear that by early 2002 the US was determined to wage war on Iraq, and that diplomacy and the UN Charter could not have prevented the Bush administration from going ahead with the plan.
A part of a document -- "Secret and Strictly Personnel: UK Eyes Only" -- which summarises discussions held on July 23, 2002, says: "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction). But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
Another paragraph says: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force."
Now, in light of the document, the Bush administration faces tough questioning on the issue. A group of 89 Democrats in the US Congress has asked Bush, a Republican, for an explanation. Bush has not commented on the allegation nor on the effort by the Congress members to hold him accountable for deceiving the American legislature and people.
The AIPAC angle
The other political game is played by neoconservative Republicans who are also seen as seeking to divert attention from the ongoing scandal involving the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the all-too powerful Israeli lobby which yields unchallenged political and economic clout in Washington.
Two senior AIPAC officials are accused of recruiting a Pentagon analyst as a spy for Israel and securing classified information from him and passing it on to Israel.
Some American analysts believe that certain members of the US Senate are trying to highlight the Galloway case and thus divert American public attention from the AIPAC case in which Larry Franklin, the Pentagon and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) official has been indicted for passing top secret classified information to the two AIPAC officials.
However, there is a strong linkage between the two cases.
The so-called "fresh" evidence some US senators cite against Galloway has apparently come from interviews conducted with Iraq's former vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, and deputy prime minister, Tareq Aziz.
Ramadan and Aziz are awaiting war crimes trials in Iraq. They were investigated by Salam Chalabi, a nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, a former Iraqi exile and one-time favourite to be successor to Saddam but who fell out with the administration when it was found that he was feeding false intelligence information and had connections with Iranian intelligence.
Salam Chalabi's law partner in the US is Marc Zell who in turn is a law partner of Douglas Feith, who headed the department where the Aipac-linked spy Larry Franklin worked at the Pentagon. Like Perle, Feith is also among the top neocons in Washington.
Obviously, Salam Chalabi passed on the "fresh" evidence against Galloway to the senators who are behind the effort to discredit political rivals in the US as well as the Brtish politician in the bargain.
The charge against Galloway is led by Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who alleges that the Brtish MP received up to 20 million barrels of free Iraqi oil between 2000 and 2003 from Saddam's government.
Why the witchhunt?
Wayne Madsen, a contributing editor writing on onjournal.com, offers an explanation why the neocons are targeting Galloway.
He points out that Galloway, in the May 5 British elections, "made easy work of his Labour Party opponent and Tony Blair sycophant, Oona King, an African-Jewish daughter of -- ironically -- an African-American draft evader from the Vietnam War. King was one of Tony Blair's most ardent supporters for his decision to join Bush in a genocidal war against Iraq. For that, she earned the support of the international neoconservative network of influence holders and peddlers that can, according to a senior Bush administration official, create their own reality because of their ownership of much of the international media. However, King also earned the enmity of her large Muslim constituency in East London's Bethnal Green and Bow district. They rejected King and threw their political weight behind Galloway.
"There is little doubt that the neocons in the British Labour Party are working hand-in-glove with people like (Republican Senator Norm) Coleman (of Minnesota) and his neocon friends and political supporters in AIPAC to punish Galloway and make it hard for him to use his reinstated House of Commons platform to launch expected fierce broadsides against Blair and other pro-Iraq War Labourites, most notably Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Defence Secretary John Reid, and former defence secretary Geoff Hoon."
Galloway has dismissed the charges against him as unfounded and fabricated with ulterior motives.
He has categorically stated: "I have never traded in a barrel of oil, or any vouchers for it. I have never seen a barrel of oil apart from the one the Sun newspaper (of London) deposited in my front garden.
"And no one has acted on my behalf, trading in oil -- Middle Eastern, olive, patchouli or any other -- or in vouchers, whatever they are.
"Isn't it strange and contrary to natural justice you might think that I have written and e-mailed repeatedly asking for the opportunity to appear before the committee to provide evidence and rebut their assumptions and they have yet to respond, while apparently making a judgement?"
If anything, instead of discrediting Galloway, the US senators are now offering the firebrand British MP with a forum from where he could blast the US and British governments.
Galloway has promised as much: "I'll be there to give them both barrels -- verbal guns, of course, not oil."
RE: Double barrels from George Galloway
This is precisely what happened.
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow (UK), delivered this statement on 2005-05-18 to US Senators who have accused him of corruption.
Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one — and neither has anyone on my behalf.
Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.
Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are — let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.
I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.
As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country — a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.
I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.
You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.
Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.
Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.
Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.
You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realise played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.
There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.
You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.
I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.
And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].
Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.
Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.
Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?
Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.
You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 — never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.
And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.
But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.
Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.
In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.
The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.
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.
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; 1600 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 Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war 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.
Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.
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.
A personal note: I am looking for a CD of this speech./... The neocons were stunned.... obviously... That is Galloway for you. I have had the honour of meeting him several times in Amman, Jordan.. I genuinely like him.