George Galloway’s whirlwind book tour will end Saturday night in D.C. This sycophant of dictators has done nothing but bluster and carp and smear since he arrived, but he will leave the country with his pack of lies baying at his own heels.
I wrote here about a lie Galloway told under oath when he testified before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in May. Since then the PSI has taken an interest in the matter. In June, the paper in Galloway’s home district, the East London Advertiser, reported that “[a]llegations that George Galloway may have misled senators under oath are now being vigorously investigated by a U.S. government committee.” This little twist is, of course, in addition to the overarching investigation of whether Galloway accepted lucrative oil allocations from Saddam, as laid out in the committee report (linked here.)
In the meantime several sleuths have been busy fact-checking Galloway’s song and dance before the PSI, and nailing his feet to the floor. A brief reconstruction of Gorgeous George’s disinformation is in order.
Galloway founded a pseudo-charity, which he now claims was purely a political campaign, called “Mariam Appeal,” which lobbied to lift the sanctions against Iraq. This is the charity which the PSI was referring to when it concluded that “some evidence indicates that Galloway appeared to use a charity for children’s leukemia to conceal payments associated with at least one such allocation.” The signatory in these transactions was a Jordanian businessman named Fawaz Zureikat, who was both president of a company that contracted with Saddam’s regime for oil allocations, and the chairman of Mariam Appeal.
Senator Norm Coleman asked Galloway whether he knew Zureikat was trading oil with Saddam, and Galloway claimed that not only did he know that, he was quite public about that fact: “Not only did I know that, but I told everyone about it. I emblazoned it in our literature, on our Web site…I knew he was a big trader with Iraq, and I told everybody about it.” This is where blogger and web developer George Gooding (www.seixon.com) caught him out, using the Internet Wayback archive to show the Mariam Appeal website said no such thing. Nor did it even show that Zureikat was MA’s chairman.
Gooding has since done much more Internet sleuthing to debunk Galloway’s remarks about emblazoning Zureikat’s name on the Mariam appeal website. The explanations, though quite technical, are also quite damning. (Here’s a link to Gooding’s Galloway archive.)
Rob Mackinlay, the British journalist who reported the Advertiser story above, contacted the British Charity Commission about Galloway’s literature. Their reply suggests that Zureikat’s roles as the chairman and as an oil-for-food trader were hardly “emblazoned” thereon:
We were unable to obtain all the books and records of the Appeal. Mr Galloway has stated that these were sent to Jordan in 2001 upon Mr. Zureikat becoming the Appeal’s Chair. We were able to obtain some of the printed material produced in connection with the Appeal and have a record of some of the material available on the Appeal’s website. We have on file an article produced in connection with the ‘Rebuilding of Baghdad Library’ campaign which names Mr. Zureikat as a contact for that campaign. The article states that the campaign was organised by the Mariam Appeal and by the National Mobilisation Committee for the Defence of Iraq.
We don’t have on file any further material clearly produced by the Appeal which makes reference to Mr. Zureikat. However, it may be that the Appeal produced other literature.
Finally, I’ve spent hours running these connections through Lexis-Nexis and found little evidence that Galloway was ever forthright in his dealings with the media about his true relationship to Zureikat, or Zureikat’s dalliances with Saddam’s oil, until the evidence came to light after Baghdad’s liberation in 2003 and the oil hit the fan.
Various alternate spellings of Zureikat’s name turn up very murky statements about his role. He’s sometimes listed as a representative of the National Mobilization Committee on Defense of Iraq. This account in the Independent is interesting, because a reporter flew to Baghdad on a Mariam Appeal charter flight with Galloway, Zureikat, and very few others. The reporter identified Stuart Halford as being “of Mariam Appeal,” but somehow never quite made the connection that Zureikat was anything but a “Jordanian businessman,” let alone MA’s chairman. In fact, out of hundreds of articles about the Mariam Appeal’s activities, there was only one pre-war mention of Zureikat as chairman of Mariam Appeal.
Galloway’s deceptive statements under oath may implicate him under two federal statutes, one of perjury and one of making a false statement under oath, either of which carry a penalty of up to five years in prison. Both charges hinge on a question not only of the falsehood, but also of the materiality, of his statements. And misleading the committee about one’s extensive financial relationship with Saddam’s regime strikes me as quite material to this investigation. After all, the fact that Galloway was smart enough to downplay his dealings with Zureikat and Saddam in the first place is evidence that he knew it wasn’t kosher, and his attempt on the stand to pretend he was honest about it all along just makes it look worse.
If Galloway wanted to stop shoveling his anti-American rhetoric and answer these charges, of course, it would take about five minutes. All he’d need do is send along a few of those “emblazoned” brochures that clearly identified Zureikat’s role as chairman and explained his business dealings with Saddam. But the fact that he hasn’t bothered to refute these charges suggests that he can’t.
In any case I doubt Galloway will serve any time. He was able to convince himself that he was helping the Iraqi people even as Saddam starved them and built palaces with stolen Oil-for-Food money. He was able to convince himself (or was he?) that Fawaz Zureikat was a noble benefactor and not a bagman for Baghdad’s butcher. He was able to convince himself that he was a patriot and a humanitarian instead of the newest incarnation of Lord Haw Haw, the Brit who collaborated with the Nazis as their radio spokesman. With those mind-bending powers of persuasion, beating this rap could be a snap for him.
On the other hand, a spokesman for Senator Coleman suggests that the publication of this book Galloway is flogging may have been premature. “Mr. Galloway has completely failed to rebut any of the evidence against him,” he told me, though refusing to comment on the specifics of the continuing investigation. “I hope he left room at the end for an epilogue.”