by RAY FLEMING “NO CONTEST” is the only way to describe the bout between George Galloway MP and the US Senate subcommittee on the UN Oil-for-Food programme.
Or rather, between Mr Galloway and the only two members of the sub-committee who bothered to turn up on Tuesday to conduct the hearing, the Republican chairman Norm Coleman and senior Democrat Senator Carl Levin. Many Americans watching the encounter may have thought that Galloway was disrespectful to the senators; UK observers may have thought that Senator Coleman was disrespectful to his witness as he ruffled through his papers almost continuously while the MP was speaking. Mr Galloway had two objectives: first, to repeat and reinforce his categoric claim that he had never received a penny from the allocation or sale of oil under the UN programme; second, to expose the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the US/UK invasion of Iraq and all that preceded it and has followed from it. At one point, addressing Senator Coleman, he said: “Senator, in everything about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100'000 have paid with their lives, 1'600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies.” When those words were replayed on TV I suspect that a cheer went up round the world as George Galloway expressed what millions of opponents of the Iraq war have felt over the past three years. That he did so at the very heart of American political life added enormously to the impact of his words. Of course, Mr Galloway's virtuoso debating performance will mean little or nothing if the Senate or anyone else can prove that he is lying or being less than open about his links with Saddam Hussein. Although Senator Levin probed cleverly about the funding of the Mariam charity, it was far from conclusive.
Meanwhile students of Senate investigations will relish George Galloway's clever parodying of the notorious Communist baiter Senator Joe McCarthy: “I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader.”