The Magazine

Unmitigated Galloway

From the May 30, 2005 issue: Saddam's favorite MP goes to Washington.

May 30, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 35 • By CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
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In several cases, the documents suggested that a man named Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian tycoon, had been intimately involved in these transactions. Galloway's name also appears in parentheses on the Zureikat papers--perhaps as an aide-memoire to those processing them--but you must keep in mind that the material does not show transfers directly to Galloway himself; only to Zureikat, his patron and partner and friend. In an analogous way, one cannot accuse Scott Ritter, who made a ferocious documentary attacking the Iraq war, of being in Iraqi pay. One may be aware, though, that the Iraqi-American businessman who financed that film, Shakir al-Khafaji, has since shown up in the captured Oil-for-Food correspondence.

After about 90 minutes of this cumulative testimony, Galloway was seated and sworn, and the humiliation began. The humiliation of the deliberative body, I mean. I once sat in the hearing room while a uniformed Oliver North hectored a Senate committee and instructed the legislative branch in its duties, and not since that day have I felt such alarm and frustration and disgust. Galloway has learned to master the word "neocon" and the acronym "AIPAC," and he insulted the subcommittee for its deference to both of these. He took up much of his time in a demagogic attack on the lie-generated war in Iraq. He announced that he had never traded in a single barrel of oil, and he declared that he had never been a public supporter of the Saddam Hussein regime. As I had guessed he would, he made the most of the anonymity of the "senior Saddam regime official," and protested at not knowing the identity of his accuser. He improved on this by suggesting that the person concerned might now be in a cell in Abu Ghraib.

In a small way--an exceedingly small way--this had the paradoxical effect of making me proud to be British. Parliament trains its sons in a hard school of debate and unscripted exchange, and so does the British Labour movement. You get your retaliation in first, you rise to a point of order, you heckle and you watch out for hecklers. The torpid majesty of a Senate proceeding does nothing to prepare you for a Galloway, who is in addition a man without embarrassment who has stayed just on the right side of many inquiries into his character and his accounting methods. He has, for example, temporarily won a libel case against the Daily Telegraph in London, which printed similar documents about him that were found in the Oil Ministry just after the fall of Baghdad. The newspaper claimed a public-interest defense, and did not explicitly state that the documents were genuine. Galloway, for his part, carefully did not state that they were false, either. The case has now gone to appeal.

When estimating the propensity of anyone to take money or gifts, one must also balance the propensity of a regime to offer them. I once had an Iraqi diplomat contact in London, who later became one of Saddam's ministers. After inviting him to dinner one night, I noticed that he had wordlessly left a handsome bag, which contained a small but nice rug, several boxes of Cuban cigars (which I don't smoke), and several bottles of single malt Scotch. I was at the time a fairly junior editor at a socialist weekly. More recently, I have interviewed a very senior and reliable U.N. arms inspector in Iraq, who was directly offered an enormous bribe by Tariq Aziz himself, and who duly reported the fact to the U.S. government. If the Baathists would risk approaching this particular man, it seems to me, they must have tried it with practically everybody. Quite possibly, though, the Saddam regime decided that Galloway was entirely incorruptible, and would consider such an inducement beneath him.

SUCH SPECULATION TO ONE SIDE, the subcommittee and its staff had a tranche of information on Galloway, and on his record for truthfulness. It would have been a simple matter for them to call him out on a number of things. First of all, and easiest, he had dared to state under oath that he had not been a defender of the Saddam regime. This, from the man who visited Baghdad after the first Gulf war and, addressing Saddam, said: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." How's that for lickspittling? And even if you make allowances for emotional public moments, you can't argue with Galloway's own autobiography, blush-makingly entitled I'm Not the Only One, which was published last spring and from which I offer the following extracts: