Saturday, May 21, 2005
Complete testimony of George Galloway
Testimony of Mr. George Galloway, Member of the British Parliament, before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee
Senators Norm Coleman and Carl Levin attending
SEN. COLEMAN: Mr. Galloway, I'm pleased to have you before the committee today.
What I'm going to do is briefly summarize the evidence before we give you a chance to give your sworn testimony.
The Oil-for-Food program was used to support those who were favorable to Iraq. Former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan confirmed this.
I would think that you would admit that your efforts to oppose the sanction were well received by the regime. I know it's been quoted to you many, many times--but your, I would say, infamous statement to Saddam Hussein on January 21, 1994, where you said to Saddam, "Your Excellency, Mr. President, I greet you in the name of many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war of aggression against Iraq and continue to oppose the war by economic means, which is aimed to strangle the life out of the great people of Iraq."
You then went on to say you greet the Palestinian people, you went on to note that you thought "the president would appreciate knowing that even today three years after the war I still meet with families who are calling their newborn 'son of Saddam.'"
You went on ultimately at the very end to say, "Sir, I salute your strength, your courage, your indefatigability, and I want you to know that we are with you." And I believe it was in Arabic (????), which means "Until victory, until victory, until victory in Jerusalem." And I also would note that you would say that you deeply regret those comments and that the comments were not aimed directly at Saddam but were aimed at the Iraqi people.
In the fall of 1999 you headed a two-month London-to-Baghdad bus trip to gain support for lifting the sanctions on Iraq.
We have your name on Iraqi documents, some prepared before the fall of Saddam, some after, that identify you as one of the allocation holders, that your allocations were then used by Fawaz Zureikat, operating under the name of Meridian Petroleum and Middle East Advanced Semiconductor to actually lift the oil.
We note too, based on the statements of former Iraqi officials as well as some documents and in the cases of Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Alexander Voloshin correspondence in documents, that allocation holders knew that surcharges or oil allocations were paid to Saddam Hussein, and that allocation holders were aware of this and were responsible for the payments.
We have also heard testimony regarding several documents retrieved from the Iraqi Ministry of Oil that demonstrate how Iraq allocated oil to its friends and allies.
Exhibit 13, which you see displayed, (inaudible) Vladimir Zhirinovsky's dealing with (inaudible) in Phase 11
That chart also lists Contract N1104 with Middle East Advanced Semiconductor.
Footnote 93. Your testimony regarding a SOMO commercial invoice dated June 27, 2002, that shows Middle East Semiconductor loaded 2,360,860 barrels of Iraqi crude oil pursuant to SOMO crude oil sales contract N1104.
Exhibit 12. We heard testimony regarding correspondence between the executive director of SOMO to the Iraqi Oil Minister providing details of contract N1104 and listing your name in parentheses, next to Middle East Advanced Semiconductor and Fawaz Zureikat, who we know lifted the oil. Again statements of detainees, including former Vice President Ramadan, confirm that the name in parentheses--your name--is the allocation holder.
Your testimony regarding Contract N1104, which was signed on December 12, 2001, between SOMO and Fawaz Zureikat, president of Middle East Advanced Semiconductor.
Your testimony regarding SOMO commercial invoice B13201 that shows Meridian Petroleum lifted 1,014,403 barrels of Iraqi oil pursuant to SOMO crude oil sales contract N923.
Exhibit 45. We heard testimony regarding SOMO chart entitled "Crude Oil Allocation during Phase 9 Memorandum of Understanding" that indicates that contract N923 was executed between SOMO and Mr. Fawaz Zureikat (slash) George Galloway (slash) Meridian Petroleum.
Exhibit 9. We also heard testimony regarding the memo from the executive director of SOMO to the Oil Minister requesting approval of contract N923. The document includes an official Ministry of Oil stamp dated 1/15/2001 and provides details of a contract N923 signed with Meridian Petroleum Company, (parens) Fawaz Zureikat (dash) Mariam's Appeal, indicating that the allocation recipient of the contract N923 was Fawaz Zureikat - Mariam's Appeal.
Mr. Galloway, as I indicated in my opening statement, this is not a court of law. This committee has simply made available information obtained during the investigation from interviews with former Iraqi officials and Iraqi documents to lay out how the Oil-for-Food program worked--how allocations were given to favored friends, how allocation holders made substantial commissions on those allocations to oil companies, what Ramadan called "compensation for support."
But another official in talking about another allocation holder said, "Of course they made a profit. That's the whole point." Surcharges and oil contracts were given back to the Saddam regime and were the responsibility of the allocation holder.
The evidence clearly indicates you as an allocation beneficiary, who transferred the allocations to Fawaz Zureikat, who became chairman of your organization Mariam's Appeal.
Senior Iraqi officials have confirmed that you in fact received oil allocations and that the documents that identify you as an allocation recipient are valid.
If you can help provide any evidence that challenges the veracity of these documents or the statements of former Iraqi officials, we'd welcome that input.
Mr. Galloway, you're appearing before the subcommittee without asserting any privilege or immunity. Indeed, your appearance before the subcommittee is entirely voluntary and on your own accord. No subpoena was issued to secure your appearance.
You're appearing before the subcommittee concerning matters that do not arise out of the performance of any of your official duties as a member of the British Parliament but instead concern actions taken by you in your capacity as a private citizen.
Before we begin, pursuant to Rule 6, all witnesses who testify before this subcommittee are required to be sworn.
At this time I'd ask you to rise and please raise your right hand.
SEN. COLEMAN: We'll be using a timing system today, Mr. Galloway. You have 10 minutes for an opening statement. If you need more time, we'll certainly accommodate that, and you may proceed.
[Opening statement as given by the Times Online]
GALLOWAY: Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.
Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.
I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.
I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.
I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.
I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.
Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.
Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.
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 let 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.
I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.
You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.
Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.
Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.
Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.
You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.
There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.
You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is 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. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.
And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].
Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.
Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.
Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?
Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.
You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.
And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.
But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.
Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.
In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.
The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.
Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.
I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.
Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.
If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. 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. Have a look at Halliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.
Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.
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.
SEN. COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Galloway.
Mr. Galloway, can we start by talking about Fawaz Zureikat. Do you know the individual?
GALLOWAY: I know him very well.
SEN. COLEMAN: In fact you were Best Man at his wedding?
GALLOWAY: I was.
SEN. COLEMAN: And at some point in time he became chair of Mariam's Appeals. Is that correct?
GALLOWAY: He did. Yeah.
SEN. COLEMAN: And can you tell me when that occurred?
GALLOWAY: I think in late 2000 or early 2001.
SEN. COLEMAN: Before Mr. Zureikat was chair of Mariam's Appeal, who had that position?
GALLOWAY: I was the founding chairman.
SEN. COLEMAN: Was there someone between you and ---
GALLOWAY: Mr. Hoffman (?)
SEN. COLEMAN: And do you recall when he had that position?
GALLOWAY: I don't.
SEN. COLEMAN: Mr. Zureikat was a significant contributor to Mariam's Appeals. Is that correct?
GALLOWAY: He was the second biggest contributor. The main contributor was Sheik Zayed, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, which you've glossed over in your report because it's slightly embarrassing to you. And the third major contributor was the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, which you've equally glossed over because it's embarrassing to you.
And both of those individuals are your friends.
SEN. COLEMAN: How much did Mr. Zureikat contribute to Mariam's Appeals?
GALLOWAY: Roughly 375,000 English pounds.
SEN. COLEMAN: About $600,000?
GALLOWAY: I don't know the conversion. But it's 375,000 Sterling.
SEN. COLEMAN: If you can, uh... By the way, Mr. Zureikat was your representative--uh, designated representative--for the activities of Mariam's Appeals. Is that correct?
GALLOWAY: For the activities of Mariam's Appeals. Yes.
SEN. COLEMAN: And when did he get that position?
GALLOWAY: I think late 2000.
SEN. COLEMAN: Late 2000. Looking at Exhibit 9--and I think you have the books in front of you--that appears to be a document from the Ministry of Oil that testimony has indicated that the signature is an accurate signature.
Do you have any reason to believe that that document is false?
GALLOWAY: Well, I have told you that I have never heard of Aredio Petroleum, and I've told you that the Mariam Appeal never received a single penny from Aredio Petroleum. So the information at the top of the page, if you've translated it accurately, is false.
SEN. COLEMAN: Have you heard of Middle East ASI company?
GALLOWAY: Yes. That's Mr. Zureikat's company.
SEN. COLEMAN: I turn to Exhibit 12.
And that purports again to be a stamp of the Ministry of Oil of Iraq and this purports to be showing the details of a contract signed with Middle East ASI company, Mr. George Galloway and Fuwaz Zureikat. So Middle East ASI is Mr. Zureikat's company?
GALLOWAY: Middle East ASI is Mr. Zureikat's company. He may well have signed an oil contract. It had nothing to do with me.
SEN. COLEMAN: He was chair of Mariam's Appeals in 2000. I take it you knew him well. Did he ever talk with you about his dealings with oil in Iraq?
GALLOWAY: He did better than that. He talked to everybody. He talked to every English journalist that came through Baghdad--who he helped at our request to get the interviews and to get to the places that they wanted and needed to go. He was introduced to everyone as a major benefactor of the Mariam Appeal and as a businessman doing extensive business in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
SEN. COLEMAN: I'm asking you specifically, In 2001 were you aware he was doing oil deals with Iraq?
GALLOWAY: I was aware that he was doing extensive business with Iraq. I did not know the details of it. It was not my business.
SEN. COLEMAN: So this is somebody who was the chairman of committee that you know well and you're not able to say that he was...
GALLOWAY: Well, there's a lot of contributors - I've just been checking -- to your political campaigns.
SEN. COLEMAN: There's not many at that level, Mr. Galloway -
GALLOWAY: I've checked your website. There are lots of contributors to your political campaign funds. I don't suppose you ask any of them how they made the money they give you.
SEN. COLEMAN: Certainly not at $600,000 American.
But let me ask you again, just so that the record is clear--that it's clear on the record--that you're not contesting then the validity of Document 12, Exhibit 12. You're indicating that Mr. Zureikat could have had dealings with Iraq. You're saying that at that point in time you're not aware that he had oil dealings with Iraq?
GALLOWAY: First of all, I've only seen this document today. And I'm telling you that insofar as my name is in a parenthesis the information in it is false.
I've no reason to believe that Mr. Zureikat's company didn't do that particular oil deal.
But this is your problem in this whole affair. There is nobody arguing that Mr. Zureikat's company did not do oil transactions and many other--much bigger, frankly--business contracts with Iraq. There is nobody contesting that Mr. Zureikat made substantial donations to our campaign against sanctions and war.
My point is--you have accused me, personally, of enriching myself, of taking money from Iraq. And that is false and unjust.
SEN. COLEMAN: Mr. Galloway, do you recall an interview you had with a Jeremy Paxman in April 23 of 2003,
[Addressing aide] Can we have a copy of the transcript of that?
I'd like to refresh your memory.
[To aide] Can you get a copy of that.
As we get you a copy, you were asked a question, talking about business dealings with Mr. Zureikat in Iraq. And at the least the transcript that I have--and I'd ask you to let me know if it's incorrect--your quote is, something about business in Iraq
"Well, I'm trying to reach him"--this is in 2003--"I'm trying to reach him to ask him if he's ever been involved in oil deals because I don't know the answer to that." So in 2003 you're saying you don't know the answer to whether he was involved in oil deals?
GALLOWAY: Well, I told you in my previous two answers--I knew that Mr. Zureikat was heavily involved in business in Iraq and elsewhere, but that it was none of my business what particular transactions or business he was involved in--any more than you ask the American and Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] when they donate money to you or pay for your trips to Israel, where they got the money from.
SEN. COLEMAN: So Mr. Galloway, you would have this committee believe that your designated representative from the Mariam's Appeal becomes the chair of the Mariam's Appeal, was listed in Iraqi documents as obviously doing business, oil deals with Iraq, that you never had a conversation with him in 2001 or whether he was doing oil business with Iraq.
GALLOWAY: No, I'm doing better than that. I'm telling you that I knew that he was doing a vast amount of business with Iraq. Much bigger, as I said a couple of answers ago, than any oil business he did. In the airports he was the representative of some of the world's biggest companies in Iraq. He was an extremely wealthy businessman doing very extensive business in Iraq.
Not only did I know that, but I told everyone about it. I emblazoned it in our literature, on our Web site, precisely so that people like you could not later credibly question my bonafides in that regard. So I did better than that.
I never asked him if he was trading in oil. I knew he was a big trader with Iraq, and I told everybody about it.
SEN. COLEMAN: So in 2003, when you said you didn't know whether he was doing oil deals, were you telling the truth at that time?
GALLOWAY: Yes, I was. I've never known until the Telegraph story appeared that he was alleged to be doing oil deals. But his oil deals are about one-tenth of the business that he did in Iraq. So I did better than telling people about his oil deals. I told them he was doing much, much more than that.
SEN. COLEMAN: So Exhibit 14, which purports to be a contract with Middle East Semiconductor, Contract M1214. Middle East Semiconductor, again, is Mr. Zureikat's company, is that correct?
GALLOWAY: Yes, it is.
SEN. COLEMAN: So do you have any reason to believe that this document is false?
GALLOWAY: Well, the parenthesis, if the parenthesis implies--as you've been arguing all morning that it implies--that this was being signed for by Middle East Advanced Semiconductors in order to pass the money on to me, is false.
Mr. Zureikat and Middle East Semiconductors or any other company have never given me any money. And if they had, you would have it up here on a board, and in front of the committee here.
SEN. COLEMAN: I take it, Mr. Galloway, that in regard to any surcharges paid to Saddam--I think it's Footnote 89, which refers to the surcharge for the contract, focused on Mariam's Appeal-- you're saying that that document, first of all, any contract between Iraq and Mariam's Appeals is false?
GALLOWAY: Well, Senator, I had gotten used to the allegation that I was taking money from Saddam Hussein. It's actually surreal to hear in this room this morning that I'm being accused of giving money to Saddam Hussein.
This is utterly preposterous, utterly preposterous, that I gave $300,000 to Saddam Hussein. This is beyond the realms of the ridiculous.
Now. The Mariam Appeals finances have been investigated by the Charity Commission on the order of Lord Goldsmith.
(You'll recall him, Senator. He's the attorney general. Practically the only lawman in the world that thought your war with Iraq was legal, thought Britain joining your war with Iraq was legal.)
He ordered the Charity Commission to investigate the Mariam Appeal. Using their statutory powers, they recovered all money in and all money out ever received or spent by the Mariam Appeal. They found no impropriety. And I can assure you, they found no money from an oil contract from Aredio Petroleum--none whatsoever.
SEN. COLEMAN: And the commission did not look at these documents relating to this contract with Iraq. Is that correct?--
GALLOWAY: --No, but they looked better than that, Senator.--
SEN. COLEMAN: --I'm not asking you better. I'm asking the question whether they looked at these documents.--
GALLOWAY: --Senator, you're not listening to what I am saying. They did better than that.
They looked at every penny in and every penny out. And they did not find, I can assure you, any trace of a donation from a company called Aredio Petroleum, or, frankly, a donation from any company other than Mr. Zureikat's company. That's a fact.
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. COLEMAN: Senator Levin.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D): Thank you, Mr. Galloway.
Mr. Galloway, could you take a look at the Exhibit Number 12...
SEN. LEVIN: ... where your name is in parenthesis after Mr. Zureikat's?--
GALLOWAY: Before Mr. Zureikat's, if I'm looking at the right exhibit--
SEN. LEVIN: I'm sorry. I was going to finish my sentence -- my question, though. My question was, where your name is in parenthesis after Mr. Zureikat's company.
GALLOWAY: I apologize, Senator.
SEN. LEVIN: That's all right. Now, that document--assuming it's an accurate translation of the document underneath it--would you... you're not alleging here today that the document is a forgery, I gather?
GALLOWAY: Well, I have no idea, Senator, if it's a forgery or not.
SEN. LEVIN: But you're not alleging.
GALLOWAY: I'm saying that the information insofar as it relates to me is fake.
SEN. LEVIN: I -- is wrong?
GALLOWAY: It's wrong.
SEN. LEVIN: But you're not alleging that the document...
GALLOWAY: Well, I have no way of knowing, Senator.
SEN. LEVIN: That's fine. So you're not alleging?
GALLOWAY: No, I have no way -- I have no way of knowing. This is the first time...
SEN. LEVIN: Is it fair to say since you don't know, you're not alleging?
GALLOWAY: Well, it would have been nice to have seen it before today.
SEN. LEVIN: Is it fair to say, though, that either because you've not seen it before or because -- otherwise, you don't know. You're not alleging the document's a fake. Is that fair to say?
GALLOWAY: I haven't had it in my possession long enough to form a view about that.
SEN. LEVIN: All right. Would you let the subcommittee know after you've had it in your possession long enough whether you consider the document a fake.
GALLOWAY: Yes, although there is a -- there is an academic quality about it, Senator Levin, because you have already found me guilty before you -- before you actually allowed me to come here and speak for myself.
SEN. LEVIN: Well, in order to attempt to clear your name, would you...
GALLOWAY: Well, let's be clear about something.
SEN. LEVIN: Well, let me finish my question. Let me be clear about that, first of all.
Would you submit to the subcommittee after you've had a chance to review this document whether or not, in your judgment, it is a forgery? Will you do that?
GALLOWAY: Well, if you will give me the original. I mean, this is not -- presumably, you wrote this English translation.
SEN. LEVIN: Yes, and there's a copy underneath it of the...
GALLOWAY: Well, yes, there is a copy of a gray blur. If you'll give me -- if you'll give me the original ...
SEN. LEVIN: The copy of the original.
GALLOWAY: Give me the original in a decipherable way, then of course I'll...
SEN. LEVIN: That would be fine. We appreciate that.
SEN. LEVIN: Now, at the bottom of this document, assuming -- assuming it's not a forgery for a moment, it says "surcharge." Are we together?
SEN. LEVIN: "As per the instructions of Your Excellency over the phone on 12/11/01 of not accepting the company's proposal unless they pay the debt incurred since phase eight."
If, in fact -- if, in fact, Mr. Zureikat's company paid a surcharge or a kickback to the Iraqi government in order to obtain an allocation of oil, would that trouble you?
GALLOWAY: Well, as it turns out, from your own testimony, that practically everyone in the world, and especially the United States, was paying kickbacks.
SEN. LEVIN: My question... It troubles me a great deal. As you've heard from my statement today, I'm very much troubled that we have an oil company that was involved in this and we're going to go after that oil company.
Now let me ask you. I've expressed my view about Bayoil. So now let met ask you about Mr. Zureikat's company.
If in fact Mr. Zureikat's company paid a kickback to the Iraqi government in order to obtain this allocation, would you be troubled? That's my question.
GALLOWAY: Yeah. That's a good question. And will you allow me to answer it seriously and not in a yes-or-no fashion? Because I could give you a glib--
SEN. LEVIN: Providing you give us an answer, I'd be delighted to hear it.
GALLOWAY: Here's my answer and I hope it does delight you.
I opposed the Oil-for-Food program with all my heart. Not for the reasons that you are troubled by, but because it was a program which saw the death—I'm talking about the death now; I'm talking about a mass grave—of a million people, most of them children, in Iraq. The Oil-for-Food program gave 30 cents per day per Iraqi for the period of the Oil-for-Food program—30 cents for all food, all medicine, all clothes, all schools, all hospitals, all public services. I believe that the United Nations had no right to starve Iraq's people because it had fallen out with Iraq's dictator.
David Bonior, your former colleague, Senator, whom I admired very much--a former chief whip here on the Hill--described the sanctions policy as "infanticide masquerading as politics." Senator Coleman thinks that's funny, but I think it's the most profound description of that era that I have ever read--infanticide masquerading as politics.
So I opposed this program with all my heart. Not because Saddam was getting kickbacks from it--and I don't know when it's alleged these kickbacks started. Not because some individuals were getting rich doing business with Iraq under it. But because it was a murderous policy of killing huge numbers of Iraqis. That's what troubles me. That's what troubles me.
Now, if you're asking me, "Is Mr. Zureikat in some difficulty?" --like all the other companies that it would appear paid kickbacks to the Iraqi regime--no doubt he is. Although it would appear he's quite small beer compared to the American companies that were involved in the same thing.
SEN. LEVIN: Now my question...
GALLOWAY: That's what-- I told you what troubles me.
SEN. LEVIN: I'm not asking you-- [crosstalk]
My question... Now that you've given us your statement about your feeling about the Oil-for-Food program--My question is, Would you be troubled if you knew that Mr. Zureikat paid a kickback in order to get an allocation of an oil contract? That's a very simple question.
GALLOWAY: It's Mr. Zureikat's problem, not mine.
SEN. LEVIN: It would not trouble you?
GALLOWAY: It's Mr. Zureikat's problem, not mine.
SEN. LEVIN: And so that if a kickback, which was illegal under international--now you may not agree with the U.N., but that's the international community that you're attacking, which is fine. You're entitled to do that. You're entitled and I'll defend your right to do it. But you're attacking a U.N. program--which is your right to do--which was aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to try to alleviate the problems that the sanctions provided--which is your right to do. But my question--which you are so far evading--is, Would you be troubled if that U.N. Oil-for-Food program was being circumvented by the kind of kickbacks which were taking place and being given to Saddam Hussein in order to obtain allocations under that program if Mr. Zureikat participated in that kickback scheme, which violated the U.N. sanc... You may not have agreed with it, but it violated the program. Would it trouble you if he violated that U.N. program in that way? That's my question.
GALLOWAY: Senator, there are many things--
SEN. LEVIN: I know. Other things trouble you. But can you just give us a straightforward answer? You've given us a long explanation of other things that trouble you, which is your right. Now I'm asking you whether that troubles you.
GALLOWAY: It troubles me that it might put him in difficulty. It troubles me that it might now lead to a prosecution of him. It troubles me that this will be further smoke in the smokescreen. But I, root and branch, opposed this [SEN. LEVIN: I understand...] Oil-for-Food program.
SEN. LEVIN: There were a lot of things you opposed, but you don't believe should be circumvented in illegal ways. Isn't that--
GALLOWAY: But, please, Senator! You supported the illegal attack on Iraq. Don't talk to me about illegality--
SEN. LEVIN: Sorry about that. I didn't. But that's beside the point. [Crosstalk] That's beside the point. You're wrong in your--
GALLOWAY: Well, I'm collectively talking about the Senate. Not you personally.
SEN. LEVIN: Well, that's okay. Let me go back to my question. I don't want to get involved in--
GALLOWAY: Why not? You want to talk about illegality?
SEN. LEVIN: No.
GALLOWAY: You launched an illegal war, which has killed a 100,000 people. You want me to be troubled?
SEN. LEVIN: No, I want you to answer questions which are fairly put and directly in front of you. Now I'll ask you one last--two last questions. If--if--Mr. Zureikat's contribution to Mariam's Appeal came from the sale of oil--or his share of the sale from oil--which he was able to obtain because he paid a kickback in violation of the U.N. program. Would that contribution trouble you? That's my question.
GALLOWAY: Well, Senator--
SEN. LEVIN: If you can't give a short answer, just--
GALLOWAY: I'll give as short as I can, and I appreciate your fairness in this.
Fundraising for political purposes is seldom pretty, as any American politician could testify. I took the view--I can be criticized for it, have been criticized for it--that I would fundraise from the kings of Arabia whose political systems I have opposed all my life in order to raise funds for what I thought was an emergency, facing a disaster. And I did not ask Mr. Zureikat which part of his profits from his entire business empire he was making donations to our--
SEN. LEVIN: That wasn't my question. My question was, Would it trouble you if you found that out?
It's okay. You're not going to answer. I want to go to my next question.
You're simply not going to answer. I will say, American politicians who find the source of money after it's given to them is troubling--they find out something they didn't know afterwards--frequently will--and hopefully, I think always--at least frequently will return that money, will say they disagree with the source of the money. Hopefully all of us will do that. But whether or not we all live up to that standard, you clearly do not adopt that as a standard for contributions to Mariam's Appeal. You're not going to look at the source of the money; you're just simply going to accept the money, and you've made that clear.
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.
Letter to the PBS NewHour concerning George Galloway (5/24/05)
Trying to get Galloway: The Right goes gaga over website (5/27/05)
Friday, May 20, 2005
Proposed Gaza withdrawal ends in Israeli sparring match
It has surely been the most tendentious decision by the Israeli government of recent times. The Israeli Gazans don't plan to move, and there is more than a little skepticism that the withdrawal will ever happen. It is said to be splitting Israeli society down the middle, with the result that even the wives of the diplomatic corps cannot live side by side peacefully.
Here's what happened in a recent bout. In one corner we had Anne Ayalon, wife of the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. In the opposing corner was Judy Nir Moses-Shalom, wife of the Israeli Foreign Minister, who would normally be the favorite in this challenge match.
Mme. Shalom entered the ring, fresh from her hairdresser, ready to pull someone's bleached hair out by the roots. You see, Mme. Shalom didn't get to meet Madonna when Madonna was in Israel, and this low blow came because someone at the Washington embassy—we won't name names—failed to fit Mme. Shalom into Madonna's itinerary.
Mme. Shalom—whose family is among the controllers of Israel's free and independent media—therefore allowed the family newspaper to report that Mme. Ayalon "mistreated domestic workers in the Washington embassy" and that she "called some workers 'retarded' and screamed at others." While no one disputes the veracity of the charge—least of all the workers—this amounts to a kidney punch in diplomatic circles.
But Ayalon was no pushover and gave as good as she got. Her husband the Ambassador fired off a letter of complaint to the Israeli attorney general alleging that the Shaloms (especially Mrs. Shalom) had been interfering in the embassy's work—a remarkable jab in view of the fact that an embassy would normally take its directions from the Foreign Minister.
But Mme. Ayalon has been under the guidance of a top Israeli trainer. A Sharon "senior figure"—who employed the royal "We" when speaking to the press—said that "Ayalon is an excellent ambassador. We are pleased with his work and as far as we're concerned he should continue." This effectively blocked the anticipated counterpunch.
If the Telegraph has it right, the public was invited to attend this little bout because Foreign Minister Shalom has been reluctant "to support enthusiastically Mr Sharon's policy of withdrawal this summer from Gaza and part of the West Bank."
Okay, okay. I support the withdrawal. So when do I get to meet Madonna?
The Psyops plane
According to a blog of Radio Netherlands,
The EC-130J Commando Solo III is a specially-modified C-130J Hercules medium transport aircraft that conducts information operations, psychological operations and civil affairs broadcasts in AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands. These missions are flown and run by the the 193rd Special Operations Wing, an Air National Guard Unit. Commando Solo was used prior to and during military operations in Iraq, and more recently for broadcasts to Cuba.
The first broadcast of TV Marti via plane apparently started in August of last year. Back in 1999 Reuters described Radio Marti as a "U.S.-owned station, intended to broadcast unbiased news to the Cuban people."
Do you think we could get them to point that thing at us?
How the RAF Hercules C130 was shot down in Iraq
On January 30, a Royal Air Force Hercules C130, a transport plane, went down in Iraq causing the greatest loss to British forces in any one incident. Speculation surged for a few days as to the cause, then was forgotten.
On Tuesday Thomas Harding of the Telegraph wrote that a cause has been determined—
An interim Ministry of Defence report has ruled out almost everything apart from enemy fire and it was suggested that a missile or rocket-propelled grenade could have brought down the aircraft.
But an official told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that the report concluded that the Hercules had been shot down by anti-aircraft artillery, as it flew at a low altitude, possibly 150ft.
"It was shredded by a multi-barrelled 20mm canon," the official said. "They have worked out that's what caused the crash."
The gun is believed to have been a 1960s twin-barrel Zu-23, made in China or the Soviet Union, left over from the Saddam Hussein regime.
It has an effective range of 2,000 yards and can be mounted on a lorry or set on wheels.
It is not known why the Hercules, which was equipped with sophisticated defensive measures, was flying at low altitude for the 40-minute trip.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Answer to yesterday's Trivia question
That would be John Malkovich, which gives us a clue to what it's like being John Malkovich.
According to the BBC,
Malkovich is reported to have said that the Glasgow Kelvin MP, George Galloway, was one of two people he would most like to kill.
The source of Malkovich's anger appears to be Mr Galloway's condemnation of Israel's action against Palestinians and his criticism of the west's policies on Iraq.
The actor was addressing students at the Cambridge union debating society when he was asked who he would most like to "fight to the death".
Malkovich, star of movies including Dangerous Liaisons and the Killing Fields, replied: "I'd rather just shoot them."
He named Mr Galloway and The Independent newspaper's Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk.
Last month [April 2002], Mr Galloway renewed his call for people in Scotland to boycott goods from Israel in response to violence in the Middle East.
The only Saudi who couldn't get away
Her attorney was back in court this week, trying to get her out of her electronic bracelet. According to the Boston Herald, "James Michael Merberg maintained the princess has no plans to flee and wants to clear her name of charges she abused two maids from Indonesia."
But as they used to say during World War II, "Loose lips sink ships." One of her sons blabbed and—
her teenage sons' loose lips might have sunk her cause.If you can parse that last sentence, you will understand the view taken by the Department of Justice. Let me know.
Federal agents claim one son told a delivery driver not to unpack a shipment of items for Al Jader's home good export business because the family was moving.
"The statement made by the defendant's sons to the delivery driver - not to unpack the boxes because the family was moving back to Saudi Arabia - should not, and cannot, be dismissed as indicative of intended flight," [U.S. Attorney] Merritt said.
Off to a slow start
Fast Fact of the Day
—Henrik Hertzberg writing in "Blair's Bushy Tail"
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Go Citgo: Join the BUY-cott!
Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. There are 14,000 Citgo gas stations in the US. (Click here http://www.citgo.com/CITGOLocator/StoreLocator.jsp to find one near you.) By buying your gasoline at Citgo, you are contributing to the billions of dollars that Venezuela's democratic government is using to provide health care, literacy and education, and subsidized food for the majority of Venezuelans.
Let me add that unlike so many Leftie-Liberal promotions of products that turn out to be a great deal more expensive (such as shade-grown coffee) and beyond the reach of the commoner, Citgo gasoline is one of the cheapest brands.
What a deal! (Of course we should sip, not guzzle.)
Trivia question of the day
George Galloway: An item you may have missed
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.Hmmh.
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.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.
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.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Two judicial nominees to Senate floor tomorrow
Reid calls this "the most important fight of my political life."
He wants to use comments from the public as a part of the debate. If you have some thoughts to pass on, you may do so at http://democrats.senate.gov/filibuster-form.cfm
And call your Senators!
Castro holds a rally; Posada arrested
Well, that may have to wait until the draft is reinstituted. I hope sooner, but it may not be so. The true American Way is apathy.
In Cuba on the other hand they had no problem drawing the crowds. According to Anita Snow of the AP,
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans answered Fidel Castro's call to file past the American mission early Tuesday in a "March against Terrorism," demanding that the United States arrest a Cuban exile sought in a deadly airliner bombing three decades ago.
"Down with terrorism!" the 78-year-old Castro shouted in brief comments before leading the march outside the U.S. Interests Section. "Down with nazi doctrines and methods! Down with the lies!"
Wearing his traditional olive green military uniform and cap, the Cuban president walked six or seven blocks without assistance, despite an accidental fall in October that shattered his left kneecap.
Ah, the hated dictator! Can you imagine George Bush getting that close to his people?
Protesters were calling for the arrest of Castro's longtime foe, Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile who recently traveled to the United States, where he is seeking political asylum. Venezuela has requested the extradition of Posada in the 1976 airliner bombing that killed 73 people.
Posada denies involvement in the bombing.
Well, it's not just that.
Cuban officials — and newly released U.S. archives — also link Posada to other violent actions, some of them military, some aimed at civilians. The declassified U.S. documents indicate he was on the CIA's payroll until a few months before the 1976 bombing.
Hard to believe, isn't it? But could the CIA still be active?
During a Monday night TV appearance, Castro complained that Posada while remains free, the United States continues to fund groups dedicated to subverting his government.
"This is the empire's answer, money to foment destabilization," he said, adding, "money for terrorist acts, money for subversion."
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to leave the border open to terrorists and claims ignorance—
U.S. officials have said they are not actively seeking Posada because there are no American warrants for his arrest, and expressed doubts as recently as last week that Posada was even in the United States.
This is all very strange because Posada was just recently interviewed at his condo by reporters from the Miami Herald—
In his first media interview since arriving in the United States earlier this year, Posada again denied involved in the airliner explosion in a story published Tuesday by the Miami Herald.
"They accused me of being the intellectual author of fabricating a weapon of war and of treason to the homeland. No one saw me make a bomb," Posada said Wednesday in a two-hour interview at a luxury condominium in Miami. "Sincerely, I didn't know anything about it."
But he refused to confirm or deny playing a role in a series of 1997 bombings targeting Cuban tourist sites, including one that killed a young Italian tourist. "Let's leave it to history," he told the Herald.
Posada applied for political asylum after his March arrival in Miami following an illegal trip through Central America.
Sometimes it just doesn't pay to talk to the press. Oscar Corral and Alfonso Chardy of the Miami Herald report—
Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles was arrested by Homeland Security agents at a house in Southwest Miami-Dade County Tuesday afternoon as he prepared to leave the country, after withdrawing his asylum application to avoid an international incident between the United States and Cuba, the Herald has learned.
Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked up Posada as he was leaving the house where he had been staying, said his South Florida friend and benefactor, Santiago Alvarez, who was distraught.
Alvarez said the Homeland Security agents who took Posada into custody cited an interview with the exile militant published Tuesday in the Herald as the main reason for the arrest.
A Homeland Security source confirmed Posada's detention.
Posada boarded a government helicopter Tuesday afternoon, escorted by armed guards. The Blackhawk helicopter, belonging to Customs and Border protection, flew off to an undisclosed location.
This doesn't read like the usual account of a person arrested for terrorism and may not be as it appears—
The arrest also came on the day the U.S. government summoned Posada to an asylum interview in downtown Miami. But instead of appearing at the interview, Posada gave a news conference at a warehouse near Hialeah where he said he was having second thoughts about going forward with his asylum application.
Hours later, Posada's Coral Gables immigration attorney said he formally withdrew the application and that his client was thinking about leaving the country.
Posada's main South Florida benefactor, Alvarez, then suggested that Posada's departure was imminent and that he would leave just as secretly as he slipped into the country in March.
The extraordinary turn of events unfolded Tuesday, just hours after Posada finished reading a lengthy statement and answering questions during his second encounter with the media since arriving in Miami and applying for asylum -- claiming he was being persecuted by Cuban agents bent on abducting or assassinating him. His first interview was with the Herald which published it Tuesday.
The possibility Posada might leave the country would please some U.S. government officials who feared the militant's presence in the United States was an international embarrasment....
One Homeland Security official, who spoke on the condition of anonimity [sic], said recently that the Bush administration was considering the option of denying Posada asylum but offering him refuge in a third country.
Something tells me that Mr. Posada, with his CIA background, will not be suffering from overly harsh prison conditions.
Galloway before Senate committee this morning (corrected)
Galloway was the first MP to call Blair a liar and was ejected from the Labor Party.
In December of last year Galloway won a libel suit against The Telegraph to the tune of £150,000. According to the BBC,
The judge said the allegations were "seriously defamatory" of Mr Galloway.
He said readers of the Telegraph claims may have understood them to mean:
- Mr Galloway had been in Saddam's pay, secretly receiving about £375,000 a year.
- He diverted monies from the oil-for-food programme, thus depriving the Iraqi people of food and medicines.
- He probably used the Mariam Appeal, a campaign Mr Galloway launched to raise money for an Iraqi girl with leukaemia, as a front for personal enrichment.
- What he had done was tantamount to treason.
Mr Justice Eady said: "It was the defendants' primary case that their coverage was no more than 'neutral reportage' of documents discovered by a reporter in the badly-damaged foreign ministry in Baghdad, but the nature, content and tone of their coverage cannot be so described."
Telegraph foreign correspondent David Blair had earlier told the judge how he had found the documents inside the Iraqi foreign ministry.
The Senate committee holding hearings is chaired by Republican Norm Coleman, who is attempting to reimplicate Galloway.
Jim Lehrer of the PBS NewsHour gave Galloway's response saying,
He scoffed at the allegations today:This hearing should be fun. Galloway is not likely to put up with Republican grandstanding and has voluntarily come to the U.S. to appear.Galloway: The truth is that I have never bought nor sold a drop of oil from Iraq, or sold or bought a drop of oil to anybody. And if I had I'd be a very rich man. And the person who made me rich would already be in the public domain.
Correction: I originally stated that The Telegraph was "a Murdoch paper." It's not.
George Galloway: An item you may have missed (5/18/05)
Monday, May 16, 2005
A slight shudder and a pulling-away
It's tough being a British Prime Minister. Still, somebody's got to do it. The best hope for whoever's in office is that the next American President will be a woman—preferably a dyke.
Now amidst the sweat, the smells, the blood, the body of Tony Blair's government has recoiled ever so slightly from the embrace of the Washington bear. The issue was Uzbekistan.
Tony had tolerated Bush's grunge boy—"Uzi," as Bush liked to call him—for years. Last year the Foreign Office had even had to suspend the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. Here's what the Guardian wrote of Murray in "The envoy who said too much"—
His mistake had been to write a letter to Tony Blair and George Bush alerting them to the daily torture meted out to dissidents in Uzbekistan, their new ally in the war on terror.
Tony was trying to pretend he didn't know about Bush's little fling, so notes like that—delivered directly rather than through appropriate channels—could be awkward. They were all just good friends—really!
But this time Uzi has gone over the line and, as The Telegraph described it, was "slaughtering women and children 'like rabbits.'" Blair himself likes a bit of the rough stuff, but when it comes to hunting, he can be a little prissy.
Today Alec Russell and Nick Allen were reporting—
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who faces criticism for British support of Uzbekistan's dictatorial regime, condemned its record.
He said the situation was "very serious" and there had been a "clear abuse" of human rights.
Mr Straw's remarks were in contrast to the near silence in Washington where the brutal crackdown in Uzbekistan has posed an acute dilemma.
President George W Bush has made the spread of freedom and democracy the dominant theme of his second term and has lauded the toppling of autocratic governments in other former Soviet republics, in particular Georgia and Ukraine.
But the support of President Karimov, a former communist apparatchik, is vital to America's hopes of making Afghanistan a success and preventing the spread of militant Islam in the region.
The clashes erupted in a region where a drive for more democracy and greater autonomy is intertwined with a push by extremists to found a pan-Islamic state across Central Asia.
Protesters stormed the prison and freed 23 businessmen charged with promoting Islamic extremism. This allegation is, human rights groups say, frequently trumped up against government critics.
But just as Blair was trying to clean up a bit, the phone rang. It was Vladimir on the line—for George.
.... Moscow rallied round its old satellite.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, blamed provocation "staged by groups similar to the Taliban".
He said Russia would maintain its support for Mr Karimov in his fight against Islamic extremists.
Now that wimp1 of an ambassador Craig Murray is trying to spoil everything that Bush and Blair ever had together. I mean, if he didn't like blood, why did he get into the business of diplomacy in the first place?
Craig Murray ... said Whitehall's and Washington's backing for the regime was partly to blame for the unrest.
"The Americans and British wouldn't do anything to help democracy in Uzbekistan," he told the Independent on Sunday. He had been unable to persuade Whitehall to fund pro-democracy activists.
Now Blair must stay indoors while he leaves it to his Foreign Secretary to do damage control—
Mr Straw said London had "long been concerned about abuse of human rights, about a lack of democracy".
Britain's policy was very clear, he said, adding that there was a need for "much higher standards in the treatment of Uzbek prisoners".
Oh, all right. Just one little excerpt—
... on an everyday basis, there is ... no way to protest. There is no freedom of the media, no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly. A regime so harsh to the many, so luxurious for the few, rules only by the harshest of repression. There are not only exit visas, but still the propusk system of internal movement control. Almost all of those born on state farms are condemned to be, in effect, serf labour for life.
.... Not a word of dissent appears in the Uzbek media indeed not one word of my speeches ever did. Strangely the US Ambassador's comments were often carried at some length.
That may add to your appreciation of this little story from the Guardian—
One FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] official suggested in his correspondence with Murray, that the ambassador should have just called the abuses "horrid", sat down, and then toed the line. Murray replied: "As you may know I have a slight speech impediment and cannot call anything 'howwid'."[back]
Quote of the Day: The counterrevolutionary
—Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary, as quoted in Sergei Blakov's "An iron fist, without the glove"
A note on Comments
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I suppose I'm going to have to become a "Premium" member of HaloScan. (Yes, that means to "pay a premium.")
Or I may revert to the Blogspot commenting system, which has been greatly improved.
The Second American Revolution goes nuclear
- In the lead-up to the Iraq invasion the Pentagon drew up contingency plans for the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which was referred to as "the nuclear option."
- In January 2004 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved changes to their hearing rules that will ease the resumption of licensing of nuclear reactors so that U.S. energy will have a "nuclear option."
- In this week of May 2005, the Republicans in the Senate are threatening to take the "nuclear option" of ending use of the filibuster for judicial nominees.
If you answered "nuclear option" I'm afraid you've gotten lost in a metaphor.
What these items have in common is that they are proposals to radically change the rules that the American government has followed and to which the American public has been accustomed for a very long time. "Nuclear" has become the metaphor for "revolutionary rule change."
It is a clever way not only to frame but to conduct a revolution. "Rule change" sounds so innocent, doesn't it? Who could possibly be alarmed by the announcement of a "rule change"? Certainly not the public.
In the 70s there was an the anti-war slogan: "What if they held a war and nobody came?" The contemporary right-wing counterpart to this would be "What if we staged a revolution and nobody noticed?"
Republican (and plenty of Democratic) toadies, guided by their right-wing paymasters, are staging a quiet revolution. None of the old "blood in the streets" sort of thing, which is bad for business. (The Brown Shirts, of course, have been and will be used as needed to suppress protests.)
The hope is to be quieter and more precise this time—to be, as tactical nuclear weapons have been described, "less contaminating, more discriminate, and more versatile."
When it comes to government overthrow, left-wing revolutions tend to be more physically violent. They are, after all, "bottom-up" affairs, since rulers do not readily give up power through the democratic—or any other—process.
But right-wing revolutions are top-down matters—one oligarchy pitted against another. They can be subtle, even "democratic"—as was the case with Hitler—or minimally violent, as with the coup, where instead of blood in the streets we see blood in the palace followed by a massive crack-down on dissent.
We are in the midst of a right-wing revolution. Make no mistake about it. In fact, to say that we are "in the midst" is too mild; we are in the end-stage of that revolution.
If this revolution is allowed to succeed, all that will be left is a lingering pretense of democracy and a shell of constitutional government. The American hope for democracy and peace here and abroad will be crushed, replaced by the despair of a "nuclear wasteland"—a wasteland ruled by right-wing oligarchs. And that is what "going nuclear" is all about.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Christo-Republican judge apologizes
According to the AP,
"You just made my day when I heard you had finally come home," Judge Faith Johnson told Billy Wayne Williams, who had been convicted in absentia of aggravated assault after he disappeared a year ago. "We're so excited to see you, we're throwing a party for you."
Before he was brought into the courtroom on Monday, the judge directed staff members as they placed balloons and streamers around the courtroom. A colorful cake was decorated with his name and one candle to signify the year he spent on the lam.
"It seems like everyone wants to have a party, and it's fun for you people, but not for me," Williams told reporters as he was led away in handcuffs.
Seana Willing, executive director of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, said she found the incident troubling. "It's the kind of thing I look at and scratch my head and wonder, `What was she thinking?'" Willing said.
She questioned whether the party violated standards of decorum and impartiality.
"The whole purpose of it was to mock him, to make him feel bad. I guess she could have put him in the stockade, in the pillory, in front of the town square and let people mock him," Willing said.
That would have been the Christian thing to do.
According to a follow-up yesterday, The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has since admonished her and "also discovered that Johnson had planned for a TV crew to capture Williams' expression when he entered the courtroom."
The judge has issued a qualified apology—
"If my celebration of the return of fugitive Billy Wayne Williams offended any member of the community, I deeply apologize," Johnson wrote in a statement released Thursday.
This is not the first time Judge Johnson has been a newsmaker. Michael King of the Austin Chronicle repeated an account of the way she was carrying on back in 2002 at the Texas Republican Convention (you just knew she was a Republican, didn't you?)—
... the Saturday morning prayer rally devoted specifically to that purpose featured Dallas District Judge Faith Johnson proclaiming, "Father, draw the unsaved judges unto you. Then, and only then, Father, will they be able to truly be the righteous judges that you would have us to be." Afterward, Johnson conceded that such a measure, however desirable, is not quite yet legally enforceable....
Well, the Republicans are going to be working on that this week in Washington.
Saddam to write memoirs
Mr Hussein is writing about his childhood in Iraq, his early exile to Egypt and his misguided military adventures.
He will try to embarrass the great powers that once saw him as a useful buffer against the expansionist ambitions of Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution. In particular, says Mr di Stefano, he will tell how France and Britain double-crossed him by also helping Iran's Islamic republic during its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Memo to Saddam: These guys are as beyond embarrassment as you are.