British MP Galloway attacks Senate for 'mother of all smokescreens'
...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.” -- Why is there not a single American politician of national stature capable of articulating these truths? George Galloway on the Senate floor May 17, 2005
By Philippe Naughton, Times Online
http://educate-yourself.org/cn/galloway ... ay05.shtml
May 18, 2005
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0, ... 04,00.html
George Galloway is sworn in before his fiery testimony
at the US Senate today (AP Photo/Dennis Cook
George Galloway, the Respect MP, attacked a US Senate committee today for its "schoolboy errors" over claims that Saddam Hussein awarded him lucrative contracts under the UN Oil-for-Food programme.
In a defiant performance on Capitol Hill, the new MP for Bethnal Green and Bow accused the committee of traducing his own reputation and mounting "the mother of all smokescreens" to hide the real scandal - that Americans had plundered billions of dollars of Iraqi wealth.
The subcommittee, chaired by Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Republican, had alleged that Mr Galloway used a charity he established in 1998 to channel funds from allocations of 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2003.
"I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf," Mr Galloway said.
"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas."
Mr Galloway, who appeared in front of the committee voluntarily and testified under oath, used his opening statement to attack the allegations made against him in a dossier that he said was full of errors.
"On the very first page of your document about me, you assert that I have had many meetings with Saddam Hussein. This is false," Mr Galloway said.
"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as many meetings. In fact I've met him exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."
He selected Mr Coleman as the focus of his wrath, adding: "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 Iraq.
"Now I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."
The day-long hearing was reviewing three major reports from the subcommittee of the US Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, which studied in great detail how Saddam made billions in illegal oil sales despite UN sanctions imposed in 1991 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
Mr Coleman alleged that Mr Galloway and others who received oil allocations, including prominent Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, then paid kickbacks to Saddam as part of the deal. He claimed that Saddam received more than US $300,000 ($237,416) in surcharges on allocations involving Mr Galloway.
"Senior Hussein regime officials informed the subcommittee that the allocation holders - in this case, Galloway - were ultimately responsible for the surcharge payment and therefore would have known of the illegal, under-the-table payment," he said.
Mr Galloway rejected that and accused Coleman of never having contacted him about the charges. He also defended his opposition to the UN sanctions and the US-led Iraq war.
I gave my heart and soul to stop you from committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq," Mr Galloway said. "And I told the world that the case for war was a pack of lies."
The Oil-for-Food programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was designed to let Saddam’s Government sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods to help the Iraqi people cope with crippling UN sanctions.
But Saddam peddled influence by awarding favoured politicians, journalists and others vouchers for oil that could then be resold at a profit. He also smuggled oil to Turkey, Jordan and Syria outside the programme, often with the explicit approval of the United States and the rest of the UN Security Council.
As well as pointing the finger at politicians from Britain, France and Russia, committee investigators also argue that a Texas-based oil company, Bayoil, was involved in Saddam’s Oil-for-Food schemes. UN Security Council members - including the United States often looked the other way - they said.
"On the one hand, the United States was at the UN trying to stop Iraq from imposing illegal surcharges on Oil-for-Food contacts," the Democratic Senator Carl Levin said at the start of the hearing. "On the other hand, the US ignored red flags that some US companies might be paying those same illegal surcharges."
While many of the Oil-for-Food claims are not new, rarely have the allegations been spelt out with so much detail or scope. The Senate investigators have interviewed former top Iraqi officials and businessmen, who provided a behind-the-scenes look at how Saddam’s grand scheme worked.
Senator Coleman’s committee claims that Mr Galloway received allocations worth 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2003. It also alleges that former Charles Pasqua, the former French Interior Minister, received allocations worth 11 million barrels from 1999 to 2000.
Today's hearing focused largely on the relationship between Mr Galloway and Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat - whose name also appeared on some of the allocations mentioning Mr Galloway or his Marian Foundation charity, which Mr Zureikat took over in late 2000.
Mr Galloway said that he had never tried to hide the fact that Mr Zureikat was a businessman who traded with sanctions-hit Iraq - in fact he had proclaimed it loudly. But he said what he was denying was the Senate investigators' allegation that he personally profited from his association with Iraq, which he denied.
He said the lists on which his name appeared had been provided by "the convicted bank robber and fraudster and conman" Ahmed Chalabi, the former Pentagon ally who fell out of favour in Washington and is now a Deputy Prime Minister in the new Iraqi Government.
"What counts is not the names on the paper. What counts is where’s the money, Senator? Who paid me money, Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody and if you had anybody who paid me a penny you would have produced them here today." he said.
Mr Galloway said one of the Iraq officials who was said to have given evidence against him was being held in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib prison on war crimes charges. "I am not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything which you managed to get from a prisoner in those circumstances," he said.