By Sacha Ismail
George Galloway is facing a renewed scandal over his links with Iraq’s former Ba’thist regime, with both the US Senate committee which he savaged in May and a separate United Nations inquiry alleging he received money from Saddam Hussein’s oil-for-food programme.
On Tuesday 25 October, the Senate sub-committee investigating corruption in the $64 billion oil-for-food programme, which was intended to alleviate the humanitarian impact of economic sanctions on Iraq, published a new report claiming that Galloway’s estranged wife, Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received$150,000 (£85,000) from the Jordanian Ba’thist businessman Fawwaz Zureikat. Then, two days later, the UN inquiry headed by former head of the US Federal Reserve Paul Volcker claimed that Dr Abu-Zayyad had received $120,000 (£68,000) from Burhan Chalabi, an Iraqi businessman then living in Britain.
The Senate committee’s latest report accuses Galloway of personally soliciting and being granted eight oil allocations totally 23 million barrels from Saddam’s regime between 1999 and 2003. In addition to the $150,000 alleged to have been paid directly into Dr Abu-Zayyad‚s bank account, it claims that at least $446,000 was funnelled into Galloway’s anti-sanctions Mariam Appeal campaign.
The committee attributes its findings to personal interviews with high-level members of the Saddam Hussein’s government, oil traders with direct, personal knowledge of Galloway’s involvement and extensive bank records. Norm Coleman, the Republican Senator from Minnesota overseeing the investigation, has accused Galloway perjury, claiming that the report’s “evidence… clearly demonstrates that the testimony Mr Galloway provided to the sub-committee was false and misleading.” The information has been turned over to the US Department of Justice and to the British authorities, and rumours abound that Galloway will be indicted for perjury.
The Volcker inquiry, which started a process resulting in the establishment of the US Senate sub-committee, was set up in April 2004 after an Iraqi newspaper published a list of 270 people from 40 countries — including UN officials and businessmen — who it claimed had benefited from the illicit sale of Iraqi oil. Its report alleges that 2,200 companies from Britain, the US, France, Germany and Russia paid a total of $1.8 billion in kickbacks to the Iraqi government during the oil-for-food years.
It claims that Galloway and his associates received more than 18 million barrels or oil.
Galloway has come out fighting, dismissing both reports, challenging Norm Coleman to a public debate and promising to fly to the US straight away if the Senator will accuse him of perjury outside the protection of congressional privilege. He also claims to have spoken to lawyers for Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister who the Senate report cites as a major witness against him, and says they deny that Aziz has given any such evidence.
We simply cannot know how accurate the accusations against Galloway are; and we should refuse to trust bourgeois operators like Coleman and Volcker on principle. Nonetheless, Galloway’s defence is not very convincing.
His claim that he had no knowledge of his wife’s financial dealings — “she is not my goods or my chattel” — is obviously nonsensical given that both of them acknowledge extensive dealings with Zureikat. In May 2005, Solidarity pointed out Galloway had acknowledged taking money from Zureikat for the Mariam Appeal, saying that he had never asked where the money came from. This should be enough for the left to disown him.