Charged with peace crime:
George Galloway and
the congressional inquisitors




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This past week we had the chance to witness a discussion of the greatest crime recognized by the American Empire, and I don't mean Offending Protected Minorities, as grievous a felony as that is. No, I'm referring to the crime of supporting peace.

A Senate investigative committee had charged that British Member of Parliament George Galloway was among a number of individuals and governments bribed by Saddam Hussein — in the "oil-for-food" scandal — to oppose the American war policy, and Galloway was impudent enough to show up in Washington seeking to clear his name. And thereupon didst fly some fur.

Our majestic albeit slime-challenged solons, brimming with imperial hauteur, naturally assume that some ulterior reason must exist to account for anyone's opposition to war — especially a war to advance America's imperial glory that might also serve to fill the senators' own coffers thanks to the war-profiteering of their moneyed backers. That somebody would ever act to do the right thing far transcends the senatorial sleazeballs' limited range of experience — since in their grimy political lives they have become accustomed only to dishonesty, deceit, and greed.

Now in a hypothetical country that was partly rational and partly honest (the limit of what it is possible to imagine), Congress would be investigating why the United States embarked upon a war that was based on a lie, instead of investigating why some people sought to avoid such a war. In such a hypothetical country, partly rational and partly honest, opposing an attack on powerless Iraq would have been the position a somewhat rational, somewhat honest politician might be expected to take.

The somewhat-honest part probably couldn't overcome a pol's congenital power-lust all by itself, but you'd think the embarrassment factor might kick in. After all, those Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles that were going to spray American cities with lethal gas — according to Colin Powell and his "artist's rendering" at the UN — just didn't exist, outside the inventive minds of Doug Feith and his elves in the Office of Special Plans. And the Iraqi "mushroom cloud" that dim-witted Dubya said threatened America's survival can only be seen during a bad drug trip. All the WMD scare stories that Bush and his coterie used to spook the American sheeple into supporting their war — a conflict that has killed 1,600 American soldiers, wounded thousands of others, and murdered a hundred thousand or so Iraqis — were FALSE. And the stories weren't mistakes. To everyone with eyes to see and a brain to think, it has been obvious all along that the Bush administration shaped the intelligence information to fit its warmaking aims.

For the benefit of any doubters who are still huddling down in the basement, swathed in duct tape, more confirmation was provided by the secret British government memo of July 23, 2002, recently leaked, which reported that Bush wanted "to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.... The case was thin." In short, all the WMD stories were simply lies concocted to justify the attack.

By all standards of rationality and honesty — even semi-rationality and semi-honesty — no American attack on Iraq should have occurred. By all standards, even watered-down standards, the Senate should now be prowling about in deerstalker caps, peering through magnifying glasses, intent on identifying the culprits who determined the American war agenda and fixed the intelligence to fit policy. Indeed, if the morally sedated denizens of the actual Senate took off their self-imposed blinders for a nanosecond they would discover — elementary, my dear Watson! — that the policy was manufactured by neocon hacks such as Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, and Wurmser, who had been promoting such a war long before anyone fabricated the WMD lie.

Although old H.G. has never been a fan of the American government, or of any governmental entity anywhere for that matter, he must admit that in another era the Senate actually dared, once or twice, to investigate the destructive interventionist wars of the United States. One thinks of Senator Nye's Senate Munitions Committee, which indicted the bankers and munition makers for pushing the United States into World War I. That's what you might expect in a country that was partly rational and partly honest, but, alas, such an America is not in prospect now. The always-moribund old republic has long since died; this is 2005; and our glorious Augustan Age has dawned!

So in today's vaunting, preening American Empire, the Senate has chosen to investigate those people and countries that are alleged to have taken oil bribes to prevent the United States from attacking Saddam. True, Saddam didn't have any WMDs (probably being the only dictator on planet Earth not to have such weapons), but the idea that he would use bribery to prevent his country from being destroyed is now considered sure evidence of his monstrous evil.

As for George Galloway in particular, every respectable soul knew he was a dodgy bloke even before the Senate smeared him as a corruptionist in the pay of Iraq, because long before Iraq became an issue, he was an outspoken defender of Palestinian rights. And last week the man persisted in his outspokenness when confronting the smearers themselves and their smear. Appearing before the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee for Investigations, he failed to tremble, terrified, before his imperial accusers. He declined to treat the august senators with the scraping and bowing deference that they have come to expect, and usually receive, from their American subjects. Of course Galloway denied ever profiting from Saddam's oil, but he didn't rest there. He dared take the battle to his accusers! In the manner of Jesus addressing the Pharisees, Galloway stated the unvarnished truth about the war and those who supported it:

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; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac, whom you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

In the above, Galloway was addressing Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota and a much-esteemed member of the Israel First Caucus. Neither Coleman nor any of his fellow eminentoes were expecting anyone ever to talk back to them. As the New York Times put it, the exalted lawgivers were "flummoxed" by Galloway's "aggressive posture and tone." To put it otherwise, that is to say accurately, the simpleton solons did not know how to cope with actual arguments, conditioned as they were to repeating handy soundbites developed by some speechwriter expert in dumbing down any subject for people of their ilk.

The mainstream media conceded that Galloway had administered a shellacking to his senatorial accusers. But the official Establishment line is that Galloway won the argument not because he had truth on his side but rather because he possessed superior debating skill. "Mr. Galloway did what many British politicians do well: He used fiery rhetoric and clever phrases," burbled the Washington Post iditorial. The Post assured us that Galloway's victory had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the substance of the charges made against him. "What Mr. Galloway failed to do," the Post pontificated to its middlebrow flock, "was directly answer the charges made against him in the subcommittee's report, collected and compiled in wonkish, earnest American fashion by Senate staffers and officials working in Iraq, or discredit their work overall."

One wonders why the esteemed senators could not bring up all those "wonkish" points in debate. One imagines it was those "clever phrases" the devious, unfairly eloquent Britisher used that kept America's illustrious kakistocrats well and truly "flummoxed."

It's true that Galloway actually won a libel suit against the London Daily Telegraph, whose charge that he was connected to Saddam was shown, wonkishly enough, to be based on forged documents. But that doesn't matter, according to the Establishment media on this side of the pond, because the Senate sleuth-wonks relied on other documents — bona fide ones this time. Your servant H.G. likes to take everyone at his word, but the incurably skeptical among my readers may wish to start counting out their grains of salt, in light of the fact that those same Establishment media kept repeating the Bush administration's WMD nonsense right through the American invasion of Iraq, and only belatedly claimed to have been "misled."

Still, for the sake of argument, let's make the best case for the subcommittee's wonky shamuses by accepting a number of most improbable assumptions. Let us assume that their evidence is totally unlike all the intelligence coming from the Bush executive branch — the variety that has been "fixed around policy." Let us assume also that the wonk minions of the Senate do not provide the information that their paymasters actually want but rather that they deliver forth the objective truth, letting the chips fall where they may. And let us assume as well that somehow, by pure chance, this objective truth meshes completely with the party line of the Bush administration and its congressional backers, whose fundamental wish is to discredit all critics of the war.

Let us go on to assume that all major opponents of the war on Iraq received bribes. And let us go even further and assume that those opponents of war — the governments of France, Germany, and Russia, and even Galloway himself — opposed the war only because of Saddam's bribes, without which they would have avidly supported the attack on Iraq.

Now, having strained to entertain all those improbable assumptions, let's at last ask: Would accepting bribes be a greater wrong than initiating a criminal war of conquest, based on a lie, that has slaughtered more than a hundred thousand people and is far from being finished? — an imperial adventure that is also costing hard-pressed American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and has inflicted horrendous destruction on the infrastructure of Iraq?

From my perspective, if bribery were needed for truth to prevail, if bribery were required to prevent the existing bloody fiasco of Iraq, one could only have prayed for Saddam to pour more of his oil millions into the hands of American congressional kleptocrats. Then, perhaps, they would have done the right thing and resisted this war for a lie. Then the thousands of victims of the war, both American and Iraqi, would be alive and whole today. In our hypothetical country, only partly rational and only partly honest, that would certainly be considered a wholly good thing. A blessed peace preserved by corrupt pols is to be preferred to a wicked war waged by honest tribunes.

May 26, 2005

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