Monday, May 23, 2005

Gorgeous George Galloway

Reader KM points out in a private email that the testimony of George Galloway before the US Senate has gone missing. According to VUNet:

The website for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs has removed testimony from UK MP George Galloway from its website. All other witness testimonies for the hearings on the Oil for Food scandal are available on the Committee's website in PDF form. But Galloway's testimony is the only document not on the site. ... Press representatives for the Committee had no comment.

The Senate Committee website itself has these terse entries, here reproduced verbatim which does not say that the testimony has been removed but that "Mr Galloway did not submit a statement".

Panel 1
Mark L. Greenblatt [View PDF] , Counsel , U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
Steven A. Groves [View PDF] , Counsel , U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
Dan M. Berkovitz [View PDF] , Counsel to the Minority , U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

Panel 2
George Galloway , Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow , Great Britain
Mr Galloway did not submit a statement

Panel 3
Thomas A. Schweich [View PDF] , Chief of Staff, U.S. Mission to the United Nations , U. S. Department of State
Robert W. Werner [View PDF] , Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control , U. S. Department of the Treasury
Peter Reddaway [View PDF] , Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs , George Washington University

The declaration that "Mr Galloway did not submit a statement" is curious given the fact that he spoke for 47 minutes before the Senate, a performance which Christopher Hitchens, no admirer of Galloway, believed was a rhetorical "humiliation" of the Senate. A verbatim transcript of Galloway's testimony, together with a video record of the proceedings can be found at the Information Clearing House. To account for the discrepancy between the factual existence of Galloway's testimony and its nonappearance in the Senate website raises the possibility that Mr. Galloway's oral testimony is considered distinct from a written statement by the Senate rules or it has been expunged from the record because it puts the Senators in a bad light. But there is a third possibility.

The really striking thing about the Galloway's testimony as transcribed by the Information Clearing House is how the Senators and the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow were pursuing a non-collision course. Galloway had come to score press and public relations points at which, by all accounts, he was successful at doing. But Senator Coleman and Levin seemed totally uninterested in responding to Galloway's sharp political jibes. It was almost as if the Senators were deaf to his political posturing. Instead, they focused exclusively and repeatedly on two things: Galloway's relationship with Fawaz Zureikat and Tariq Aziz. Zureikat was a board member of Galloway's Mariam foundation who is also implicated in the Oil For Food deals. Tariq Aziz was Saddam's vice president.

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. 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.


It is clear that Coleman and Levin were attempting to pin Galloway down on what he knew and when he knew it. They were also attempting to get him to categorically declare himself on the veracity of the Zureikat document. In the end, Galloway denied talking to Zureikat about oil deals with Saddam before it became a public issue. He also undertook to evaluate the veracity of the document which named him -- in parenthesis admittedly -- in one a document related to Oil for Food.

SEN. LEVIN: ... 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?

GALLOWAY: Friendly.

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.

In the exchange above it is abundantly clear that both Coleman and Levin simply wanted to enter Galloway's denial of having discussed Oil for Food business with Tariq Aziz in the record. Levin immediately ends his questioning after eliciting Galloway's "Never". Coleman is content to merely establish that Aziz and Galloway were "friends" who had met "many times" before saying "I have no further questions of the witness".

Unless the Oil for Food hearings have come to a complete dead end, Coleman and Levin's examination of Galloway aren't the pointless thrashings of Senators at a loss to respond to the devastating wit of the British MP but tantalizing clues to the direction they wish the investigations to take. The question that must have been in Galloway's mind -- and which is uppermost in mine -- is what else did the Senators know? The persons named by the Senate investigation so far -- Zhirinovsky, Pasqua and Galloway -- reads less like a list of principals than a list of fixers. The truly remarkable thing about Galloway's many meetings with Tariq Aziz was how much time the Iraqi was willing to devote to an obscure British backbencher with no official power. The unspoken question is why Saddam should take the trouble to bribe Galloway, if it were Galloway who was being bribed. The Senators were building a causal bridge to something, but to what? I am in no position to say, but will guess that Galloway's testimony and its disappearance from the Senate website can only be understood in the context of what Coleman and Levin were trying to achieve. My own sense is that the investigations are cautiously nearing far bigger game than George Galloway; but that his evidence or his refusal to give it is somehow crucial to achieving this larger goal. Other pieces of the puzzle may exist but there are two the public know about which may cast an interesting light in hindsight on Galloway's words. The first is contained in the Volcker Commission files which investigator Robert Parton turned over to the Senate Committee and the second is the forthcoming trial of Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz. George Galloway may have appeared in the Senate but even he must be uncertain, until the missing pieces are played on the board, what he really said.