Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Galloway Gauntlet Down - Again!

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Not content perhaps with the mauling he received courtesy of British Respect Party MP George Galloway during testimony to his senate committee investigating U.N. Oil for Food Programme improprieties, U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is again sending accusatory salvos across the Atlantic charging Galloway did indeed personally profit the United Nation's much maligned Iraq aid scheme. And, true to form, George Galloway is answering with a challenge of his own.

Galloway Gauntlet Down - Again!
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 26, 2005

The feud between the two trans-Atlantic legislators began last May when, Senator Coleman publicly charged (and extra-judicially convicted) newly minted independent Respect party MP George Galloway with profiting, through his charity organization, Mariam's Appeal, by siphoning off funds and oil contracts for himself. Coleman made the charge as part of the Senate proceedings he chairs, the "Oil For Influence: How Saddam Used Oil to Reward Politicians and Terrorist Entities Under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme."

Coleman had used the committee hearings to slander others, assured of the impunity afforded by Senate committee rules: Much like the House of Commons, slurs, lies, and slander are not considered in the "public domain" so legal action cannot be taken in defense of charges made there. So, when Galloway offered himself to testify under oath to the committee Coleman may have had sugar plum headlines dancing in his fancy; but, like so much undertaken by the Bush administration and its proudly mediocre apparatchiks, Coleman too was unprepared for what was to come.

Galloway arrived to a media-circus, replete with the neo-con's favoured performing poodle, fellow-Brit Christopher Hitchens, strategically placed to throw off the "bruising" parliamentarian, but he had arrived a man on a mission, inured to the too familiar intimidation meted to domestic opponents of the Bush administration. Galloway had come to fight.

What followed for Coleman and his committee was a 47 minute humiliation, an absolute dressing down of not only the gruel-thin "evidence" supporting his slanderous claims, but too a blistering critique of the blatant illegality of the Bush war in Iraq and its outrageous mendacity. As Galloway pointedly suggested, the committee's mandate to uncover "sanctions-busting" oil deals might be better served investigating American corporations operating throughout the U.N. sponsored embargo of Iraq with a wink and a nod from both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

Clearly, Coleman now believes he has the goods on Galloway, claiming in another defamatory attack, he now has the "evidence" he claimed and failed to prove the first go-around. To which Galloway has responded with a "bring it on" challenge to Coleman to debate the "merits" of the charges in his home state of Minnesota.

Galloway says Coleman's latest charges, that he lied under oath to the Senate committee are politically motivated, and expressed doubt Coleman would have the courage to repeat those allegations outside the legal bubble of the Senate.

"If they say they are going to charge me I'll head for the airport and I'm calling for them to do so, begging them to do so. The charge against me in this sneak attack is that I lied under oath in front of the Senate when I went there in May and trounced this group of lickspittle pro-war Bushites. I am unequivocally stating here and now I'll head for Heathrow now, pausing only to pick up my toothbrush, if they will promise to charge me with perjury. It is very clear what they said, I lied under oath. It is a criminal offence which is what they told me when I swore the oath. It is put up or shut up time. See you in court Senator Coleman."

At issue here are specific assertions made by Coleman that Galloway personally benefited through eight oil allocations, totalling 23 million barrels of oil between the years 1999 and 2003.

Galloway says: "We want to take the fight to the enemy," but he believes Coleman is unlikely to agree to an open debate, saying: "I have no confidence that Coleman will charge me. That would require [Tariq] Aziz (the former Iraqi deputy prime minister being held in jail in Iraq and one of the senate committee's alleged sources) and others appearing in court," adding, Coleman would be "terrified of that."

The impetus of Coleman's recent attack seem to be timed to coincide with this week's expected report from former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker on his UN investigation into abuses of the Oil for Food Programme by companies and individuals. That report is expected to repeat allegations against Mr. Galloway, though deeming those inadequate due to a lack of evidence he received any money, a claim Galloway has consistently repeated.

Galloway successfully sued British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph for libel for their printing of similar accusations in 2004. A ruling on the Telegraph's appeal of that ruling is also imminent. Figuring prominently in that case were the finding of an indepedent Charity Commission inquiry into the Mariam Appeal's finances that found no improprieties.

Chris Cook
is a contributing editor for PEJ News. He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.

George Galloway and the US senate
(Guardian UK)

Galloway accused of lying to US Senate
25.10.2005: Senate presents new claims against Galloway
25.10.2005: 'In everything I said, I turned out to be right'
18.05.2005: Galloway and the mother of all invective
18.05.2005: Ewen MacAskill: Mr Galloway goes to Washington
17.05.2005: Galloway defends himself at US Senate
13.05.2005: Galloway to face US hearing
12.05.2005: Galloway faces renewed claims over Saddam oil
12.05.2005: Galloway offers to answer Iraq oil

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