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Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Galloway Caught?

Several months ago, George Galloway testified before the Senate on his involvement with the UN Oil for Food scandal. It has been widely speculated that Galloway was on the receiving end of millions of barrels of oil allocations in exchange for his political support of Saddam Hussein's regime and a promise to push to lift international sanctions. Galloway has been an outspoken supporter of Saddam Hussein since at least 2000, and documents uncovered in Iraq after the invasion support the notion of Galloway’s involvement in the Oil for Food scandal. The results of the US Senate's initial investigation can be found here and it is pretty damning.

Back in May of this year, George Galloway came to the United States to testify in front of the US Senate on the matter. Predictably he used his moment in the spotlight to grandstand and confidently proclaim his innocence as well as demonstrate his intellectual superiority to the US Senate:

(NOTE: you really should watch at least a few minutes of this debate between Chris Hitchens and George Galloway to get the full sense of Galloway’s vanity and crescendoing style rhetoric.)

Sample from from the May testimony:

SEN. COLEMAN: If I can get back to Mr. Zureikat one more time. Do you recall a time when he specifically -- when you had a conversation with him about oil dealings in Iraq?

GALLOWAY: I have already answered that question. I can assure you, Mr. Zureikat never gave me a penny from an oil deal, from a cake deal, from a bread deal, or from any deal. He donated money to our campaign, which we publicly brandished on all of our literature, along with the other donors to the campaign.

Galloway later boasted that he humiliated the US Senate. Wretchard, however, took a different view:
The really striking thing about the Galloway's testimony as transcribed by the Information Clearing House is how the Senators and the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow were pursuing a non-collision course. Galloway had come to score press and public relations points at which, by all accounts, he was successful at doing. But Senator Coleman and Levin seemed totally uninterested in responding to Galloway's sharp political jibes. It was almost as if the Senators were deaf to his political posturing. Instead, they focused exclusively and repeatedly on two things: Galloway's relationship with Fawaz Zureikat and Tariq Aziz. Zureikat was a board member of Galloway's Mariam foundation who is also implicated in the Oil For Food deals. Tariq Aziz was Saddam's vice president:

SEN. LEVIN: ... I wanted just to ask you about Tariq Aziz.


SEN. LEVIN: Tariq Aziz. You've indicated you, you--who you didn't talk to and who you did talk to. Did you have conversations with Tariq Aziz about the award of oil allocations? That's my question.


SEN. LEVIN: Thank you. I'm done. Thank you.

SEN. COLEMAN: Just one follow-up on the Tariq Aziz question. How often did you uh ... Can you describe the relation with Tariq Aziz?

GALLOWAY: Friendly.

SEN. COLEMAN: How often did you meet him?

GALLOWAY: Many times.

SEN. COLEMAN: Can you give an estimate of that?

GALLOWAY: No. Many times.

SEN. COLEMAN: Is it more than five?

GALLOWAY: Yes, sir.

SEN. COLEMAN: More than ten?


SEN. COLEMAN: Fifteen? Around fifteen?

GALLOWAY: Well, we're getting nearer, but I haven't counted. But many times. I'm saying to you "Many times," and I'm saying to you that I was friendly with him.

SEN. COLEMAN: And you describe him as "a very dear friend"?

GALLOWAY: I think you've quoted me as saying "a dear, dear friend." I don't often use the double adjective, but--

SEN. COLEMAN: --I was looking into your heart on that.--

GALLOWAY: --but "friend" I have no problem with. Senator, just before you go on--I do hope that you'll avail yourself of this dossier that I have produced. And I am really speaking through you to Senator Levin. This is what I have said about Saddam Hussein.

SEN. COLEMAN: Well, we'll enter that into the record without objection. I have no further questions of the witness. You're excused, Mr. Galloway.

GALLOWAY: Thank you very much.

[Wretchard:]In the exchange above it is abundantly clear that both Coleman and Levin simply wanted to enter Galloway's denial of having discussed Oil for Food business with Tariq Aziz in the record. Levin immediately ends his questioning after eliciting Galloway's "Never". Coleman is content to merely establish that Aziz and Galloway were "friends" who had met "many times" before saying "I have no further questions of the witness".

Unless the Oil for Food hearings have come to a complete dead end, Coleman and Levin's examination of Galloway aren't the pointless thrashings of Senators at a loss to respond to the devastating wit of the British MP but tantalizing clues to the direction they wish the investigations to take. The question that must have been in Galloway's mind -- and which is uppermost in mine -- is what else did the Senators know? The persons named by the Senate investigation so far -- Zhirinovsky, Pasqua and Galloway -- reads less like a list of principals than a list of fixers. The truly remarkable thing about Galloway's many meetings with Tariq Aziz was how much time the Iraqi was willing to devote to an obscure British backbencher with no official power. The unspoken question is why Saddam should take the trouble to bribe Galloway, if it were Galloway who was being bribed. The Senators were building a causal bridge to something, but to what?

Unsurprisingly Wretchard proved to be rather prescient:
GEORGE GALLOWAY faces possible criminal charges after a US Senate investigation tracked $150,000 (£85,000) in Iraqi oil money to his wife's bank account in Jordan.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will refer the Respect Party MP for possible prosecution after concluding that he gave "false and misleading" testimony at his appearance before the panel in May.

The sub-committee claimed that, through intermediaries, Mr Galloway and the Mariam Appeal were granted eight allocations of Iraqi crude oil totalling 23 million barrels from 1999 to 2003.

It will also forward the new information to British authorities, saying it raised questions about Mr Galloway’s financial disclosure and the payment of illegal kickbacks to Iraq. "We have what we would call the smoking gun," said Senator Norm Coleman, the sub-committee’s Republican chairman.

But the question "to what" still stands. It seems unlikely that the Senate would pursue George Galloway simply for perjury, but this may be the thread that leads to the unraveling of the Oil for Food Scandal. So who is next? Kofi? Jacques Chirac? Will Galloway start flipping on those higher up than him? We will see.

Wretchard of course noticed his foresight as well, and has further analysis.


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