The Daily Demarche
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Gorgeous George Storms Capitol Hill
British Parliamentarian George Galloway (the sole representative of the Respect Party in Westminster) recently hit Washington for a session in front of the Senate subcommittee investigating the UN Oil-For-Food scandal. Galloway, in full bluster, dressed down Senator Norm Coleman, who led the inquiry, with a number of choice nuggets, including this gem:

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.
(If you, like me, were wondering what "traduce" means, defines it thusly: To cause humiliation or disgrace to by making malicious and false statements.)

I encourage readers to read the full transcript of the session, which is available here. For some reason or another, the transcript has been pulled from the Senate website. I hope that this is only temporary, as it should be part of the record of the Senate.

Perhaps someone forgot to inform the Honorable Mr. Galloway that the subcommittee, as part of the legislative branch, is not a court (part of our judicial branch) and as such does not mete out justice. Or perhaps, Galloway, sensing the opportunity to grandstand in front of an even larger audience than usual, decided to use the event to hold forth on his pet issues and build his popularity back home. Certainly the fawning, lionizing coverage the BBC provided him did him no harm among his constituents.

The committee called Galloway to testify about his involvement with the Oil-For-Food (OFF) program, specifically his involvement with businessman Fawaz Zureikat, who, the subcommitte alleges, gave hundreds of thousands of ill-gotten OFF dollars to Galloway through the Miriam Appeal, a charity he set up. Galloway's response to this charge, derisive and defiant, was typical of his testimony before the committee.

GALLOWAY: He [Lord Goldsmith] ordered the Charity Commission to investigate the Mariam Appeal. Using their statutory powers, they recovered all money in and all money out ever received or spent by the Mariam Appeal. They found no impropriety. And I can assure you, they found no money from an oil contract from Aredio Petroleum--none whatsoever.

Further on, Galloway repeats this claim:

GALLOWAY: --Senator, you're not listening to what I am saying. They [the UK Charity Comission] did better than that. They looked at every penny in and every penny out. And they did not find, I can assure you, any trace of a donation from a company called Aredio Petroleum, or, frankly, a donation from any company other than Mr. Zureikat's company. That's a fact. [Emphasis added.]

Unfortunately, neither Senator Coleman nor Senator Levin (also in attendance) decided to challenge Galloway on this point. Because what he said there was incorrect.

Here is a statement put out by the UK's Charity Commission on this matter. (Hat tip: Harry's Place.)

The statement reads as follows:

Although we have not yet seen a transcript of Mr Galloway's evidence to the US Senate Sub-Committee today, we understand that his comments included the following:

1) The Mariam Appeal, founded by Mr Galloway, was subject to a Charity Commission investigation in which all money in and all money out of the Mariam account was looked at and no impropriety was found.

2) The Charity Commission investigation into the Mariam Appeal found no donation from any oil company.

The Charity Commission would like to restate a number of points of fact regarding its inquiry.

The Mariam Appeal was established in 1998. The Charity Commission opened an investigation into the Appeal in 2003, after we received a complaint that was presented to the Attorney General in response to a newspaper article.

By 2003, the Appeal had been closed and the books and records had been sent to Jordan in 2001 where the then Chairman of the Appeal, Mr Fawaz Zuriekat resided; the Commission was therefore unable to review them. Our inquiry therefore had to rely on details we were able to obtain from the Appeal's bank accounts.

The Appeal did not produce annual income and expenditure accounts or balance sheets. While we were able to review income and expenditure from the bank statements of the Appeal, which we had to obtain using our legal powers direct from banks, we were not able to verify all aspects of expenditure because of the lack of proper documentation. However, we found no evidence that the funds of the Appeal were misapplied (other than the payment of some unauthorised benefits to trustees which were made in good faith).

We did not undertake a detailed review of sources of income to the Appeal because the original concern prompting our inquiry was about the use to which funds had been put. Our inquiry did not find evidence of donations direct from oil companies but noted that one of the major funders of the Appeal was Fawaz Zuriekat, an individual named on 12 May 2005 by the US Senate Sub-Committee as allegedly connected with payments in relation to allocations of oil under the Iraq Oil for Food Programme. We have no evidence to show that the income received by the Fund from Mr Zuriekat came from an improper source.

But had the recent allegations been known to us at the time of our inquiry, we would have made the information available to the appropriate UK authorities for them to decide whether the Mariam Appeal had received funds from an illegal source.
Ends. [Emphasis added.]

Galloway's tactic seemed, in essence, to be to turn the inquiry into a platform from which he could shout his views on the Iraq war. It was, in effect, a sort of "this whole court is out of order" defense, and he gave a performance that Al Pacino would be proud of. It was, however, only slightly less disingenuous than the Chewbacca defense.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: it is not Galloway's opposition to the Iraq war that gets my dander up. There are many people who opposed the Iraq war for reasons that I respect, even if I don't agree with them. Many people have advanced the argument that an invasion of Iraq was not in America's interests. I happen to disagree with this line of reasoning, but I can at least respect that the underlying interest is America's (or perhaps even that of liberal societies). To see what I mean, readers can peruse this exchange with Eric Martin of Total Information Awareness. But those who opposed the war should take note that not everyone that appears to be on their side is, in fact, on their side. When Galloway stated in his remarks words to the effect that "if only you had listened to me, you wouldn't have gotten in this mess," he tried to position himself as one who nominally had the American interest at heart. This is, just like his bluster regarding the Mariam Appeal, disingenuous.

Anyone opposed to the Iraq war who considers counting Galloway among their allies should know the truth about George Galloway. He was not, as the BBC likes to report, kicked out of the Labour Party for opposing the Iraq war: many Labour MPs opposed the war and continue to remain in the party and in Parliament. As Oliver Kamm notes, Galloway got the heave from Labour, by unanimous vote, for (among other things) exhorting foreign troops to kill British soldiers. In other words, he is not anti-war, he is merely pro-Saddam.

The sad thing is, now that Galloway has blustered and evaded his way through a Senate subcommittee hearing, he can spin his performance in order to increase his standing among people who have doubts about the Iraq war. The subcommittee was the perfect forum for him: with his adoring BBC correspondent buddy in tow, Galloway had the perfect platform to spread his deceit and mask his support for Saddam. He can now claim to have stood up to the arrogant, brutal, murderous, despotic US government and bask in the accolades as he boosts his political standing among his core constituency.

Interestingly, a few years ago Galloway had meeting with a real arrogant, brutal and murderous despot -- Saddam Hussein. Here's what brave Mr. Galloway had to say (via Oliver Kamm):

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 of London, January 20 1994.) [Emphasis added.]
Anyone interested in reading more about George Galloway should head over to Harry's Place or Oliver Kamm's blog.

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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