British MP Galloway attacks Senate for 'mother of all smokescreens'
...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.” -- Why is there not a single
American politician of national stature capable of articulating these
truths?George Galloway on the Senate floor May 17, 2005
By Philippe Naughton, Times Online
May 18, 2005
The subcommittee, chaired by Norm Coleman,
the Minnesota Republican, had alleged that Mr Galloway
used a charity he established in 1998 to channel funds from allocations
of 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2003.
"I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and
neither has anyone on my behalf," Mr Galloway said.
"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and
American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas."
Mr Galloway, who appeared in front of the committee voluntarily
and testified under oath, used his opening statement to attack the allegations
made against him in a dossier that he said was full of errors.
"On the very first page of your document about me, you
assert that I have had many meetings with Saddam Hussein. This is false,"
Mr Galloway said.
"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in
1994 and once in August 2002. By no stretch of the English language can
that be described as many meetings. In fact I've met him exactly the same
number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald
Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target
He selected Mr Coleman as the focus of his wrath, adding:
"You have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names
from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your
puppet government in Iraq.
"Now I know that standards have slipped over the last
few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with
any idea of justice."
The day-long hearing was reviewing three major reports from
the subcommittee of the US Committee on Homeland Security and Government
Affairs, which studied in great detail how Saddam made billions in illegal
oil sales despite UN sanctions imposed in 1991 after Iraq’s invasion
Mr Coleman alleged that Mr Galloway and others who
received oil allocations, including prominent Russian politician Vladimir
Zhirinovsky, then paid kickbacks to Saddam as part of the deal.
He claimed that Saddam received more than US $300,000 ($237,416) in surcharges
on allocations involving Mr Galloway.
"Senior Hussein regime officials informed the subcommittee
that the allocation holders - in this case, Galloway - were ultimately responsible
for the surcharge payment and therefore would have known of the illegal,
under-the-table payment," he said.
Mr Galloway rejected that and accused Coleman of never having
contacted him about the charges. He also defended his opposition to the
UN sanctions and the US-led Iraq war.
The Oil-for-Food programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was
designed to let Saddam’s Government sell oil in exchange for humanitarian
goods to help the Iraqi people cope with crippling UN sanctions.
But Saddam peddled influence by awarding favoured politicians, journalists
and others vouchers for oil that could then be resold at a profit. He also
smuggled oil to Turkey, Jordan and Syria outside the programme, often with
the explicit approval of the United States and the rest of the UN Security
As well as pointing the finger at politicians from Britain,
France and Russia, committee investigators also argue that a Texas-based
oil company, Bayoil, was involved in Saddam’s Oil-for-Food
schemes. UN Security Council members - including the United States often
looked the other way - they said.
"On the one hand, the United States was at the UN trying
to stop Iraq from imposing illegal surcharges on Oil-for-Food contacts,"
the Democratic Senator Carl Levin said at the start of the hearing. "On
the other hand, the US ignored red flags that some US companies might be
paying those same illegal surcharges."
While many of the Oil-for-Food claims are not new, rarely
have the allegations been spelt out with so much detail or scope. The Senate
investigators have interviewed former top Iraqi officials and businessmen,
who provided a behind-the-scenes look at how Saddam’s grand scheme
Senator Coleman’s committee claims that Mr Galloway
received allocations worth 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2003. It also
alleges that former Charles Pasqua, the former French Interior Minister,
received allocations worth 11 million barrels from 1999 to 2000.
Today's hearing focused largely on the relationship between
Mr Galloway and Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat - whose name also appeared
on some of the allocations mentioning Mr Galloway or his Marian Foundation
charity, which Mr Zureikat took over in late 2000.
Mr Galloway said that he had never tried to hide the fact
that Mr Zureikat was a businessman who traded with sanctions-hit Iraq -
in fact he had proclaimed it loudly. But he said what he was denying was
the Senate investigators' allegation that he personally profited from his
association with Iraq, which he denied.
He said the lists on which his name appeared had been provided
by "the convicted bank robber and fraudster and conman"
Ahmed Chalabi, the former Pentagon ally who fell out of
favour in Washington and is now a Deputy Prime Minister in the new Iraqi
"What counts is not the names on the paper. What counts
is where’s the money, Senator? Who paid me money, Senator? Who paid
me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody and if
you had anybody who paid me a penny you would have produced them here today."
Mr Galloway said one of the Iraq officials who was said to
have given evidence against him was being held in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib
prison on war crimes charges. "I am not sure how much credibility anyone
would put on anything which you managed to get from a prisoner in those
circumstances," he said.
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