Wednesday, May 18, 2005


George Galloway: An item you may have missed

I hope you were able to catch some of George Galloway's testimony before the U.S. Senate committee yesterday [transcript of opening statement]. He did as well or better than I had expected. Galloway also appeared on Charlie Rose last night, which is material for another post. But my subject is a little item that appeared in yesterday's Independent.

The essence of the accusations against Galloway is that he accepted oil money from Saddam Hussein through a middleman: Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat.

Oh, let's let Judith Miller of the NY Times describe it, since we know she'll give the government its best shot—

Coleman and Levin questioned Galloway about several Iraqi oil records that listed as recipients of oil rights either him or his appointed representative, a Jordanian businessman named Fawaz Zureikat, who is the head of Galloway's cancer charity, Mariam's Appeal, and a contributor to Galloway's political campaign. Zureikat could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Mariam's Appeal, and several companies associated with Zureikat, are listed on records that the committee says document allocations worth 20 million barrels of oil from 2000 to 2003. The panel's investigators have said that Galloway used the charity to conceal oil payments. But the committee has produced no documents that show that Galloway or his charity actually received any oil money.

Galloway said the documents might be forgeries, and said that the people who had confirmed their authenticity were Saddam-era officials who would soon be tried for war crimes by what he called Iraq's American "puppet" government.

Well, Kim Sengupta and Terri Judd of the UK's Independent were able to reach Mr. Zureikat for comment, and he had some interesting things to say.

The Jordanian businessman accused of passing oil money from Saddam Hussein to George Galloway has revealed that he is once again trading in Iraq and making trips to America with the approval of the US authorities.

Fawaz Zureikat was speaking publicly for the first time since he was named by a US Senate investigative committee examining the United Nations oil-for-food programme. He told The Independent that neither the new government in Baghdad nor US officials had raised any objections to him renewing his trade with Iraq.

Commenting on Galloway's assertion that "If I had [taken oil money] I would be a very rich man and the person who made me rich would already be in the public domain," Zureikat agreed and said—

The reason for these claims is obvious. They are throwing this up to take attention away from all the violence going on in Iraq and because George has just got back into Parliament.

The reporters go on to inform us that—

The Jordanian Christian said he had never been questioned about his alleged role in the oil-for-food affair or about Mr Galloway.

US diplomatic sources confirmed yesterday that Mr Zureikat has been granted visas to visit the US since the war, and that there have been no US obstacles to the renewal of his commercial ventures in Iraq.

I wish I could locate a full transcript of the testimony before writing about a tangentially related item, but I can't wait.

Galloway is a Scotsman who is clearly not loved by the newspaper of that name. The paper has a brief editorial that I give here in its entirety—

THE irresistible force of George Galloway met the immovable object of a US Senate committee yesterday. Mr Galloway gave a combative performance defending himself from charges that he had benefited personally from Iraqi oil bribes. The US senators were equally adept, pressing home their questions in the face of Mr Galloway’s rhetoric. Who won? In the short term, Mr Galloway was able to show that the Senate has found no concrete evidence showing that oil bribes ever came into his possession. On the other hand, his verbal gymnastics failed to answer some basic questions put to him by the senators.

Specifically, he pointedly refused to distance himself from his Jordanian collaborator, Fawaz Zureikat, who was chairman of the Mariam Appeal set up by Mr Galloway ostensibly to help a four-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia. Much of the cash that went to the appeal came from Zureikat. The Americans claim to have solid evidence that Zureikat was involved in questionable oil trading. However, Mr Galloway refused to condemn Zureikat and instead blustered about the corruption of US politics.

Mr Galloway cannot have it both ways. If funding for the high-profile Marian Appeal, which gave Mr Galloway much publicity, did ultimately come from Iraqi bribes, should this not be condemned? There are other forms of corruption besides lining one’s own pockets.

The U.S.-U.K. coalition are really out to get this guy, aren't they? I recall similar criticisms being made of Mother Teresa.

Previous posts
George Galloway's triumph (5/7/05)
Galloway before Senate committee this morning (5/17/05)

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