“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. 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–1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies.”
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.
GALLOWAY’S BOOK is divided neatly into three parts. 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 answers to these charges set up the book’s second part, when he goes before a U.S. Senate subcommittee to both clear his name and take the offensive. 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. Hitchens 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.
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.
“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.”
Galloway then describes that moment when Coleman and Levin realized they had nothing more to gain by continuing questions, other than a more thorough public humiliation.
“As noon neared,” he writes, “the two Senators ran out of questions. In the boxing ring, there comes a point when you see the light die in the eyes of your adversary. It is a moment when one knows that one’s opponent no longer wishes to be there, knows that he cannot prevail.
“Thus, it was with Senator Coleman. In the absence of a bell to save him, Coleman threw in the towel. Not since Marciano flattened the horizontal chump Don Cockell had there been a massacre like it. But this time, the British guy won.”
The last third of the book is the actual transcript of Galloway’s testimony. Unlike just about every congressional transcript since 1789, this actually makes for compelling reading, as you can almost feel Coleman’s flop sweat dampen the pages. Altogether, Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington is a brilliant dose of earned political arrogance. Every page holds the simple message: we are right, they are wrong. We stand with George Galloway, Cindy Sheehan and the people of Iraq. They stand with George W. Bush, Norm Coleman, and the people of Halliburton. Buy 10 copies of this book and give them to friends and family, knowing that they will relish fighting the good fight by the time they turn the last page.