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2005-05-18

British MP Galloway Slams U.S. War in Iraq & Ties to Saddam During Senate Testimony

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On Tuesday British politician George Galloway testified in Washington as part of the Senate’s so-called oil for food scandal. Galloway said "This is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq’s wealth." [includes rush transcript]

The headline in the right wing New York Post today reads, "Brit Fries Senators in Oil." That was their take on the appearance of the fiery antiwar British politician George Galloway before a US Senate Committee yesterday, where he defended himself against accusations that he took kickbacks from Saddam Hussein’s government. Republican Senator Norm Coleman has been investigating the so-called oil for food scandal. Last week, Coleman’s committee publicly accused Galloway and an antiwar French politician of taking millions of dollars in oil allocations from Saddam’s government. After the report came out last week, Galloway immediately said he would come to Washington and blasted the committee for not having contacted him during the course of its investigation.

On the eve of Galloway’s appearance before the Senate, Democratic staff on the investigations subcommittee released a report that presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them. The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate subcommittee against U.N. staff and European politicians like Galloway and the former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua. In fact, the Senate report found that U.S. oil purchases accounted for 52 percent of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil — more than those of the rest of the world put together. The report says "The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated U.N. sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing U.N. sanctions. On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales."

Only two senators were present for the questioning of Galloway — Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democrat Carl Levin. Levin spent much of his opening statement attacking the hypocrisy of the US government. While Senator Coleman may have hoped to corner Galloway, the antiwar member of the British parliament turned the tables on the committee and used it as an opportunity to blast the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Galloway: "Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq’s wealth. Have a look at the real oil-for-food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months...when $8.8 billion of Iraq’s wealth went missing on your watch."

Galloway also used his appearance before the committee to hammer away at the long record of U.S. support for Saddam Hussein, in particular the current U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Galloway: I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, one in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as many meetings with Saddam Hussein. As a matter of fact, I’ve met with Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps to better target those guns. I met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war and on the second of two occasions I met him to try and persuade him to allow Dr. Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country. A rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his."

In building its case against Galloway, the Senate Committee says it interviewed Saddam Hussein’s former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who is currently in US custody. Senator Coleman alleges that Ramadan confirmed that Galloway had received compensation from the Iraqi government for his work in support of the Iraqi people.

Galloway: I’ve never met Mr. Taha Yassin Ramadan, your subcommittee apparently has. But I do know that he’s your prisoner. I believe he’s in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he’s facing war crimes, charges punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram air base, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say British citizens being held in those places, I’m not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you managed to get from a prisoner in those circumstances.

British member of parliament George Galloway speaking yesterday in front of the Senate Committee investigating the so-called oil for food scandal. Galloway was kicked out of the British Labour Party for his opposition to the Iraq war and for attacking Prime Minister Tony Blair. Galloway won reelection in the last British elections, beating a key ally of Tony Blair.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Only two senators were present for the questioning of Galloway. Republican Senator, Norm Coleman and Democrat Carl Levin. Levin spent much of his opening statement attacking the hypocrisy of the U.S. government. While Senator Coleman may have hoped to corner Galloway, the anti-war member of the British Parliament turned the tables on the committee and used it as an opportunity to blast the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are the trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq’s wealth. Have a look at the real Oil for Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months, when $8.8 billion of Iraq’s wealth went missing, on your watch. Have a look at the real scandal, breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee, that the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians; the real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government.

AMY GOODMAN: George Galloway also used his appearance before the committee to hammer away at the long record of U.S. support for Saddam Hussein, in particular, the current U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein: once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as many meetings with Saddam Hussein. As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps, the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to allow Dr. Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country. A rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

AMY GOODMAN: British M.P. George Galloway. In building its case against him the Senate committee says it interviewed Saddam Hussein’s former Iraqi Vice President, Taha Yassin Ramadan, who is currently in U.S. custody. Senator Coleman alleges Ramadan confirmed Galloway had received compensation from the Iraqi government for his work in support of the Iraqi people.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: I have never met Mr. Taha Yassin Ramadan. Your subcommittee apparently has. But I do know that he is your prisoner. I believe he is in Abu Ghraib Prison. I believe he’s facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib Prison, in Bagram Airbase in Guantanamo Bay, including, I may say, British citizens being held in those places, I’m not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances.

AMY GOODMAN: British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, speaking yesterday in front of the Senate committee investigating the so-called Oil for Food scandal. Galloway was kicked out of the British Labour Party for his opposition to the Iraq war and for attacking Prime Minister Tony Blair. Galloway won re-election in the last British elections, beating a key ally of Tony Blair.

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