Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 20 May 2005

Sure, it was great theatre, with a bravado performance from the leading actor. You certainly have to salute George Galloway’s courage, his strength and his indefategability after his appearance at the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on Tuesday. But did it actually change anything?

People who believe Galloway when he says he knew nothing of the business dealings of Fawaz Zureikat – a Jordanian businessman who was a major donor to and the chairman of Galloway’s campaign against sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Mariam Appeal — still reckon that Galloway has no case to answer over the allegations that he was the beneficiary of money obtained from the UN oil-for-food scheme.

And people who believe that Galloway knew a lot about the nature of Zureikat’s business – which included making substantial sums from oil-for-food – still think that Galloway’s claims that he is the victim of politically motivated forgery are no more than hot air and bluster.

In other words, this one is set to run and run until clear evidence emerges either for or against the Senate subcommittee’s conclusion that the documents it has retreived from Iraq (supplemented by various interviews) show Galloway or his campaign to have received oil-for-food vouchers.

Galloway’s supporters are pinning their hopes on proving that the documents are fake. The latest issue of Socialist Worker, the paper of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party that forms the core of Galloway’s Respect Unity Coalition, tries to do just that with one of them – albeit not very convincingly. If the Senate subcommittee’s allegations are to be taken seriously, it needs to demonstrate that the documents are genuine.

But even if it manages to do this, the show will be far from over. Just because a genuine document shows that someone was allocated oil-for-food vouchers does not mean he or she necessarily received them. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios in which corrupt officials siphoned them off.

Most importantly, though, suspicion of Galloway will not be laid to rest until he opens the books of the Mariam Appeal. He says that the Mariam Appeal was investigated by the Charity Commission in 2003-04 and completely cleared of any wrong-doing, but it’s a bit more complex than that.

In fact, the Charity Commission didn’t have access to the Mariam Appeal’s books, which had been taken in 2001 to Jordan, where Zureikat lived.

As the commission put it in a press release this week: “By 2003, the appeal had been closed and the books and records had been sent to Jordan . . . Our inquiry therefore had to rely on details we were able to obtain from the appeal’s bank accounts . . . We did not undertake a detailed review of sources of income to the appeal because the original concern prompting our inquiry was about the use to which funds had been put.”

Surely Galloway can prevail on Zureikat to put all the Mariam Appeal’s records in the public domain so that a “detailed review of sources of income to the appeal” can now take place? And if not, why not?


Meanwhile, I was amazed to read in The Times last week that the supposedly left-leaning Centre for a Social Europe, which is backed by several left-wing Labour MPs, has decided to throw in its lot with the xenophobes of the free-market right in a single campaign for a “no” vote in the forthcoming referendum on the European Union constitutional treaty.

It’s not just that I can’t see why these chumps think the EU constitutional treaty is so dreadful from their own point of view. Largely as a result of Britain’s insistence during the protracted drafting negotiations, it is the nearest thing there could be to a plan for a European institutional settlement acceptable to sceptical opinion. It is intergovernmentalist rather than federalist in essence, with very little in the way of increased powers for the European Parliament. As an out-and-out federalist, I’m going to have to hold my nose to vote for it.

What I really can’t get my head around, however, is the sheer idiocy of left-wingers deciding to become a tiny, swamped minority in a campaign that will be (a) overwhelmingly dominated by the Tories and far-right loons who want to destroy the welfare state, reduce workers’ rights, send immigrants home and tell the frogs to hop off; and (b), if successful, a massive boost for the Tories’ next election campaign. What on earth is going through the left Europhobes’ minds?

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