When British antiwar leader and newly elected Member of Parliament George Galloway hurled these words at Sens. Norm Coleman and Carl Levin last spring, the cheers were audible from Brooklyn to Baghdad.
Finally, Capitol Hill's bloody lies had been exposed for the congressional record. Finally, after two years of the "opposition" Democrats doing little more than "reporting for duty", we got a taste of what real opposition sounds like. Finally, if but for a brief moment, the masters of war were humbled.
And now, finally, we have a book by Galloway himself, Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington: The Brit Who Set Congress Straight About Iraq, that tells the story behind the smackdown. His inspired polemic arrives in time for Galloway's antiwar tour of the U.S., during which he will be speaking with everyone from Jane Fonda to Cindy Sheehan, during the buildup toward the national September 24 antiwar demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
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The first, titled, "Saddam and Me" is a biting 50-page refutation of Galloway's pro-war critics. Their repetitive slander is that he spent the 1990s on Saddam Hussein's payroll.
This galls Galloway because, as he writes, "In parliament, on television, in the press, and at public meetings, I have carpet-bombed the record of Saddam Hussein, both before and since I met him for the first time in 1994. But what I said on the occasion of that early visit to Baghdad has made it much easier ever since for my enemies to grotesquely caricature my views. 'Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.' How many times have I had those words rammed down my throat by people with not a scintilla of my record on human rights and democracy in Iraq? How much do I regret the potential for damage in that brief statement? How long have you got?"
As the White House devised plans to depose Saddam and occupy Iraq, Galloway was a useful foil--a bogeyman to make people believe that to oppose the war was to side with Saddam. In U.S. Senate hearings about graft in Iraq's oil-for-food program, they painted Galloway as a corrupt "Saddamist" who belonged not in parliament, but prison.
Galloway's strategy reflected the bruising world of the British parliament, as opposed to the cigars and backslapping of the U.S. Congress. "As a former boxer," he wrote, "I thought of it this way: I must be neither Muhammed Ali nor Mike Tyson; I must aim for Rocky Marciano. Remorseless. Blow after blow after blow." Galloway started throwing haymakers as soon as he stepped off the plane, saying, "I come here not as the accused, but as the accuser."
This second section also describes Galloway's now-famous run-in with former leftist-turned-imperial court jester Christopher Hitchens. Hitch attempted to heckle Galloway at the pre-hearing press conference, shouting, "Tell us about the suicide-murderers, Mr.
Galloway, that your friend Saddam was paying for."
Galloway responded by bellowing over the cameras, "Christopher, your hands are shaking. Go and have another drink...You are a drink-sodden, former Trotskyite popinjay." (Note: I do not know what a popinjay is, but have decided to now work it into all insults hurled at the right wing. Also the 'Popinjay'
and Galloway are scheduled to square off in a debate at the New York stop of Galloway's tour.) After Hitchens tottered off, Galloway was ready to face the dreaded Senate subcommittee.
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THE SETTING was almost cinematic. On one side was Galloway, the pugnacious, scruffy MP. On the other, Coleman, the Republican senator from Minnesota who always has a tan and frosted hair as if he were really the senator from the great state of Tahiti.
The world then witnessed the difference between political debate and political arrogance, and a Capitol Hill throttling not seen since the days of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
Galloway's opening remarks are worth quoting at
length: "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 was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American 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...
"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 1 million Iraqis, most of them children, most of whom 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 be 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...
"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.
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