First Published: 2005-05-18

Galloway turns tables on Washington

US, British press describe how Britain’s 'Street fighter' humiliated his accusers on Iraq.


Middle East Online

By Lachlan Carmichael - LONDON

Guradian: He scored several points, especially with his jibe at Rumsfeld

Britain's 'street fighter' George Galloway turned the tables on his accusers at a US hearing into charges he received kickbacks from Saddam Hussein, newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic said Wednesday.

Galloway, who has a reputation as a controversial but wily politician, gave a spirited defense Tuesday in Washington before the US Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee investigating the UN oil-for-food scandal.

"It wasn't supposed to be like this. Even when Daniel was in the lion's den, he didn't humiliate and torment the lion," said Britain's mass-circulation Daily Mirror, which opposed the March 2003 US-led war that overthrew Saddam.

"But that's what George Galloway did in Washington to the senator who accused him of making millions from Saddam oil," it said.

"Galloway not only defended himself robustly but also threw the charges back in the face of the American administration," it added.

"The jibe which must have stung them was when (Galloway) pointed out that their own Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had twice met Saddam to sell him arms," said the Mirror.

The anti-war Guardian newspaper said the 50-year-old Scotsman was "in street fighting form," though it also pointed out that Norm Coleman, the committee's Republican chairman, "stayed cool" during the British lawmaker's counter-attacks.

Galloway insisted under oath that he had never benefited from any oil sales, "a point he has made in successful libel actions against the Daily Telegraph and the Christian Science Monitor and on many other occasions," it recalled.

"He scored several points," especially with his jibe at Rumsfeld, the Guardian said.

"If there was a chink in Mr. Galloway's armour it concerned his friend Fawaz Zureikat, the Jordanian contributor to the Mariam charity appeal who documents did show trading oil with Iraq," it said.

"But of proof of wrongdoing on his own part, there was none," the Guardian said.

The Mariam charity was set up by Galloway in 1998 to provide medical treatment for Iraqi children in Britain.

Leading US dailies meanwhile stressed Galloway's strong testimony before the US Senate.

"British Lawmaker Scolds Senators on Iraq," said The New York Times, adding that the Senate committee appeared to be caught off-guard when he used his testimony "to turn the tables on his accusers."

Galloway "forcefully denied allegations," said The Washington Post, which described him as "a formidable debater."

The Wall Street Journal qualified Galloway's rare intervention in the US senate as "a bitter exchange between lawmakers of two allies."

The harshest criticism of Galloway, however, came from the ultraconservative Washington Times in describing his "unsuccessful efforts... to turn yesterday's Senate hearing ... into a circus."

Galloway's "vitriolic attack on the integrity" of the Senate subcommittee and its chairman and his denunciation of the Iraq war, said The Washington Times, is not "out of character for a man who has described the fall of Soviet Communism as a tragedy, who openly attacked his own government for opposing Saddam and who depicts Iraq's terrorist insurgents as liberators."

Despite being renowned as one of the best orators in modern British politics, Galloway has renounced any chance of high office to pursue his own individual aims, the most controversial of which relate to Iraq.

A fierce critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Britain joined, Galloway was expelled that year from Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, which he had represented in parliament since 1987.

In the May 5 election, Galloway won a seat in parliament from a constituency in London where many Muslims live under the banner of his own left-wing Respect party.


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