Thursday, September 15, 2005

Palast and Galloway

/ questions / answered /

Greg Palast is a great journalist. Let me say this up front. He is a great journalist however, who can now be counted among the media lynch-mob determined to discredit George Galloway at all costs, even going so far as to repeat corruption allegations that have been put rather conclusively to rest. This in advance of the Galloway-Hitchens debate, which, I hear didn't go that well for the eloquent, if rather confused lately, trotskyite turned neo-con...

Palast makes sure to remind everyone of the outrageous comments Galloway made in 1994 - without of course mentioning that he was one of the few British politicians that actually protested against Saddam's regime when it was committing its worst atrocities:

" It was the left, my friend Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway in particular, who attacked Saddam Hussein on the floor of the House of Commons for gassing the Kurds when he was still regarded (by both the then Tory government and the Labour front bench) as an ally of the west. The left has been speaking out about Saddam Hussein and his atrocities long before those now baying for war with Iraq."

The comments Palast refers to were uttered when Galloway met Saddam in 1994, they were indefensible, and Galloway doesn't try to defend them. As his lawyer has said:

"The first time [Galloway met Saddam] was in 1994 when, as he himself freely admits, he put his foot in his mouth by making some remarks which were open to interpretation - and needless to say were interpreted - as some kind of fawning praise for Saddam Hussein's personal courage and strength.

"It wasn't what he meant to say, it was not in his mind to say, because he had no respect or admiration for Saddam Hussein whatsoever."

this is silly but even sillier is Palast's taking Galloway to task for not challenging Saddam there and then on the murder of a journalist and the mass murder of Kurds and Shi'ites

"...did you forget the name of the reporter that Saddam executed? And how is it that you found the courage to challenge a bunch of US Senators but became such a pussy cat when confronted with a man whose killing spree easily exceeds theirs?..."

... well, had Galloway done as Palast suggests, he would be the first and only case of a mediator that challenged and attacked the party he has come over to mediate with. Doesn't work that way does it? Also worth mentioning is that at that particular meeting, unlike the Senate hearing, Galloway was not accused of any wrongdoing, thus he has nothing to respond to.

Palast goes on and digs up two charges of corruption: the first one was dismissed by the British Charity Commission:

The MP George Galloway has been cleared by the Charity Commission of doing anything wrong in running the Mariam Appeal, which he set up to pay for the treatment of an Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia.

Yet Palast insists:

And why did you tell the US Senate the British Charity Commission "recovered all money in and all money out ... they found no impropriety"? I have read their findings. In fact, the Commission excoriated you for failing to record where your million came from and where it went. And they recovered none of it.

But after the senate hearing the BCC added that:

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).

So. No evidence that the funds were misapplied. Can Palast not know this? Also, having read myself the findings mentioned I am at a loss to understand how they could be in good faith used to support the allegations of impropriety.

Then there's the issue of the connection with Fawaz Zureikat about which Palast writes:
"the source of nearly half a million dollars of that money, Honorable Sir, came from a trader in the corrupt Oil-for-Food program. The payment was equal to the profits earned by this oil trader who was blessed with discount oil from Saddam. Is that correct?"

Is it? Well if the Oil-for-food program was such an indirect moneymaker for Galloway why did he spend a good part of the 90s denouncing it? As he stated in his Senate hearing, which bears repeating I believe:

...I opposed the Oil-for-Food program with all my heart. Not for the reasons that you are troubled by, but because it was a program which saw the death—I'm talking about the death now; I'm talking about a mass grave—of a million people, most of them children, in Iraq. The Oil-for-Food program gave 30 cents per day per Iraqi for the period of the Oil-for-Food program—30 cents for all food, all medicine, all clothes, all schools, all hospitals, all public services. I believe that the United Nations had no right to starve Iraq's people because it had fallen out with Iraq's dictator.

David Bonior, your former colleague, Senator, whom I admired very much--a former chief whip here on the Hill--described the sanctions policy as "infanticide masquerading as politics." Senator Coleman thinks that's funny, but I think it's the most profound description of that era that I have ever read--infanticide masquerading as politics.

So I opposed this program with all my heart. Not because Saddam was getting kickbacks from it--and I don't know when it's alleged these kickbacks started. Not because some individuals were getting rich doing business with Iraq under it. But because it was a murderous policy of killing huge numbers of Iraqis. That's what troubles me. That's what troubles me.

Now, if you're asking me, "Is Mr. Zureikat in some difficulty?" --like all the other companies that it would appear paid kickbacks to the Iraqi regime--no doubt he is. Although it would appear he's quite small beer compared to the American companies that were involved in the same thing.

It would appear however that Mr. Zureikat is in not that much difficulty after all.

Now these allegations Palast makes, have been repeated ad nauseam. Palast gives the impression that these are some sort of "dirty secret" and that Galloway is avoiding them. This is a comical allegation in light of the fact that Galloway has been, examined, interviewed, questioned on these issues repeatedly (see for example this BBC interview) and treated like a pariah by tBritishish media despite winning libel cases against their slanders. This is a person against which a conspiracy (there's no other way to describe it) of forged documents was directed - a fact that should, I would have expected, be the cause of some skepticism regarding any sort of further corruption allegations.

Now, I do have my reservations regarding Gorgeous George. I feel that the company he kept in the Middle Eastacquaintancesces and friends" such as Tariq Aziz and Assad is unacceptable. The cause of ending the suffering caused by the sanctions is not sufficieexplanationion. He is consistently showboating. His professed religiosity, I find annoying. His grasp of the Middle East is frequently manichean. Yet for all of that he is supremely useful, in a way that no other current political figure on the British left is, because he is the only one with enough guts and wit, not only to denounce the neocolonialism and neoliberalism of the Blairites, but to try to do something about it. That he is the target of so much venom, slander and innuendo from Tory and New Labour outlets, shows that he is perceived as some kind of threat to the British establishment. That, at this point, is exculpation enough for me.

Yet there's an even more objectionable part to Palast's rant. He states that:

"But it is not good enough for the Left to oppose Mr. Bush's re-colonization of Iraq. We needed to have actively supported Iraqis fighting to remove their Mesopotamian Stalin. And now, we'd better come up with something a little less nutty than a recent suggestion by one otherwise thoughtful writer that we, "unconditionally support the insurgency" of berserker killers and fundamentalist madmen. If that's the Left's program for Iraq, count me out."

Well, first of all, Galloway stands out in having being, as mentioned, one of the few active British politicians to oppose Saddam's regime exactly when it was committing its worst atrocities. Secondly, either you accept that a citizen of a country invaded has a right (and a duty) to oppose his country's occupation by any means he considers appropriate, or you don't. You don't get to choose between "nice" insurgents and "bad" insurgents as far as the legitimization of their struggle is concerned. A large part of the Iraqi resistance is ideologically unappealing. Anti-colonial struggles seldom conform to soidealizedsed Hollywood version of enlightened insurgency. A part of it is downright criminal and should be dealt with accordingly by the Iraqis themselves. Thirdly, to imply as Palast does directly, that the resistance is nothing but (or consists mainly of) "berserker killers and fundamentalist madmen", is ridiculous. Plain and simple.
This is a scandalously misinforming bit of propaganda that Palast is propagating and its especially harmful coming from him.

I'm at a loss to explain why Palast (whose integrity I have no reason to question) is joining in the developing (yet spectacularunsuccessfulful so far) attempt to have GG scargilled. I am quite willing to hear what he has to say as soon as he brings something new and truly revealing on the table. I really do hope that Galloway accepts Palast's "request to answer questions", despite the invective, so that the reasons for Palast's tirade might become a bit more obvious.

Update 19/09: Oh dear, Palast persists... Read Lenin's response.

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