Playing to the Galloway
On May 23, 2005, while newspapers were waxing delirious over the rhetorical drubbing that George Galloway was apparently administering to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the Belmont Club on the old site noted something peculiar about the apparent passivity of the Senators towards Galloway's barbs.
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.
During his testimony Senator Coleman asked this seemingly innocuous question of Galloway about his relationship with Fawaz Zureikat.
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.
SEN. COLEMAN: Again, Mr. Galloway, a simple question. I'm looking for either a yes or no. Did you ever have a conversation with Mr. Zureikat where he informed you that he had oil dealings with Iraq, yes or no?
GALLOWAY: Not before this Daily Telegraph report, no. ...
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D): Thank you, Mr. Galloway.
Later, it was the turn of Senator Levin to ask these mild-mannered questions of the firebrand from Bethnal Green and Bow about his dealings with Tariq Aziz. He was shortly followed by Senator Coleman who asked the same question but with different emphasis.
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?
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.
In that May post, I wrote that the tone and manner of Galloway's examination suggested that the Senators were trying to establish a specific point for the record, in the hopes of using Galloway's testimony against him later.
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".
The London Times reports that "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." In particular, the Senate alleges they have found a paper trail showing payments leading from Fawaz Zureikat to George Galloway's wife. The Washington Times further reports that "Mr. Galloway personally asked for and received from Mr. Aziz and others eight allocations from 1999 to 2003 for the rights to 23 million barrels of oil." In any trial over perjury, Galloway's response to the Senator's questions in May will loom large. Galloway is laughing the whole thing off. The BBC reports:
But Mr Galloway told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The specific allegation against me is that I lied under oath in front of a senate committee.
"In this case the remedy is clear - they must charge me with perjury and I am ready to fly to the US today, if necessary, to face such a charge because it is simply false."
The Bethnal Green and Bow MP also launched an attack on the senate investigators.
"They have been cavalier with any idea of process and justice so far, but I am still willing to go to the US and I am still willing to face any charge of perjury before the senate committee," he said.
(Speculation alert) It was Galloway's contempt for the intelligence and capability of his Senatorial pursuers that may have gotten him into this perjury mess in the first place. It wasn't enough to remain silent on his relationship with with Zureikat. Playing to his gallery, Galloway boomed, "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." Nice touch about the cake and the bread. Perhaps he couldn't imagine, at the time, why these yokels were asking him simple questions that were beneath his level of rhetorical ability. Even today Galloway may think so little of his adversaries that he was willing to boast on BBC Radio that "I am ready to fly to the US today, if necessary, to face such a charge because it is simply false." He is as smart today as he was then.