British MP George Galloway responds to the Iraqi elections and discusses his victory over various British newspapers which were forced to print retractions of earlier reports that he had received secret payments from Saddam Hussein. [includes rush transcript]
The elections in Iraq have been hailed as a resounding success by both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In a brief statement at 10 Downing Street, Blair said: "Democracy in Iraq is not just good for Iraq itself. It is also a blow right to the heart of the global terrorism that threatens destruction not just in Iraq but in Britain and virtually every major country around the world."
Not all British government officials feel the same way. Scottish MP George Galloway has been one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq war. He was expelled from the ruling Labour Party in October 2003 after he was accused of encouraging British troops to disobey what he called "illegal orders".
This past weekend, I was in England and Ireland as part of the international "Exception to the Rulers" book tour. Yesterday in London, I met up with George Galloway outside of BBC studios. I asked him about his thoughts on the Iraq elections.
- George Galloway, British MP.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday in London, we bumped into George Galloway outside of BBC studios and asked him about his thoughts on the Iraqi elections.
GEORGE GALLOWAY: They’re a farce. They’re rigged. An election held under foreign military occupation is always, by definition, utterly flawed. But one which is held in the kind of conditions in which this one is being held is flawed beyond redemption. The facts are that it is simply impossible to hold an election when there is a full-scale war going on between the occupying armies and the resistance forces. The Sunni Muslim population, which if you add the Sunni Kurds and the Sunni Arabs together, is some 40% of the population, are deeply anxious about the way in which the occupying forces are deliberately trying to divide the country along confessional lines. The Sunni Arab population has boycotted the election almost in their entirety. The Iraqis living outside for whom security was not an issue, three quarters of them have voted with their feet and boycotted the election. Less than a quarter of the eligible voters have registered to vote and fewer still have cast their votes. So, this is a festival, a farce that’s been held to validate the American-British invasion and occupation of Iraq. But it will not validate it, neither in the eyes of the world opinion, nor, more importantly, in the eyes of those Iraqis who are resisting the foreign occupation and the war will go on, I’m sorry to say.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you see is going to happen, and what are you calling for?
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, there’s a very great danger of what I call the Yugoslavization of Iraq, the petrifying of the population on ethnic and confessional lines and the country beginning a process of breaking up into three Iraqs which is itself pregnant with many real dangers for the surrounding countries, not just Arab countries, but Turkey and Iran and which could very well lead to fighting over oil resources, and spreading of the conflagration which already exists there. We have a simple demand. We say that the two leaders who caused this disaster cannot possibly be a part of its solution. Bush and Blair and their forces will have to go from Iraq. That is an absolute precondition for any resolution of this conflict and they must talk with the resistance about how they’re going to do that, over what period of time, it would have to be a short period of time. But I’m sure it could be organized by agreement with the resistance forces. That sounds far fetched today. But it will one day have to be agreed. Just like the American forces had to withdraw from Vietnam, so the American and British forces will have to withdraw from Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the population in Britain now? And what about today? Here we are at the BBC, hearing all day the voices of people talking about going to vote and how exhilarated they are.
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, we would like all the people of the Arab world to be able to go and vote in democratic elections. That’s why, if we’d been alive, we would have opposed the British and French and other European colonization of Arab countries where incidentally there was never a single election held that could remotely be described as a free and fair election, and it is why we’re against all the dictatorships in the Arab world, who rule the Arab world almost without exception, from the Atlantic to the Gulf, mostly with the full support of Britain and the United States. And we want democratic elections in Iraq, too, but these are not democratic elections and these elections will solve nothing and may even add to the problem. But in Britain now, 29% of the population support the Iraq war, down from something like 68% at the height of the fighting and the fall of the regime in Baghdad. That’s a pretty spectacular fall and it will fall further still.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, was it the Times of London, which newspaper settled with you and apologized?
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, how long have you got? All of them have settled and apologized, and The Daily Telegraph is the one I think you refer to which was my biggest victory. They had to pay me 150,000 pounds in damages and 1.6 million pounds in damages.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Because they falsely claimed that I was in the pay of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. The same kind of smear utterly baseless, gigantic smear that they leveled at so many sections of the anti-war movement. What they can’t take, you see, is that we were right and they were wrong. They were the bugle blowers for one of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions ever taken by Britain or America, and I was amongst those who was telling them that this is going to end precisely in the way that it has ended, and they don’t like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Your comment on the latest — we know about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal from U.S. soldiers. You have your own scandal with British soldiers and then the Guantanamo prisoners returning home here to Britain.
GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, you see, the ironclad consensus of the mainstream political parties, the front benches and the BBC and the other mainstream media outlets like to reassure each other that this is conduct unrepresentative of British occupation forces. But I’m sorry to tell you it is entirely representative. When Britain suppressed the Mau Mau freedom struggle in Kenya, they killed 100,000 Kenyans. Almost exactly the same number of Iraqis have been killed in the war and occupation. They used to cut off the limbs of Kikuyu tribes people and pin them to the wall and take photographs of them. They used to pay British soldiers five pounds per body for Kikuyu that they brought in. In Malaya when we crushed the Malayan revolt for freedom, we killed 10,000 Malays. I’ve seen pictures of British soldiers holding the severed heads of Malay people for the cameras. This is how all occupations end. These things don’t happen because the soldiers in question are American or British anymore than general Sharon’s army behaves as it does because it is Israeli, still less because it’s Jewish. They behave like that because they are occupying armies, and all occupations end this way. They end in the demonization, the subhumanization of the occupied people, a belief in the inherent superiority of the occupied forces; otherwise, why should we be there reorganizing their societies? And that inevitably leads when you’re dealing with 17, 19, 21-year-old young men with weaponry against helpless civilian populations, it always ends in an Abu Ghraib.
AMY GOODMAN: British M.P. George Galloway. We were speaking yesterday in London.