Is This Man a Traitor?

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He walks into the council chamber of the town hall, dressed in a black leather jacket and jeans, and proffers his hand firmly when I introduce myself. This was the man who in 1987 beat incumbent Roy Jenkins, the late Chancellor of this Univeristy, in Glasgow Hillhead to enter the Commons for the first time. And he’s been a rebel there ever since. Galloway was recently suspended by the Labour government, pending an inquiry for alleged “behaviour that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party.” He is now pursuing a libel suit against the Telegraph, which accused him of accepting money from Saddam Hussein. He calmly told me he believed the allegations against him by the Telegraph and the establishment were racist or connected to the fact that his wife is Palestinian. “Anyone who wants to smear anyone associated with the Middle East or Arabs will pick on two things – homosexuality and money – and 20 years ago the Telegraph tried that on me.” He paused before adding, “There is a lot of Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment in the West. Muslims are being accused of many things and anyone who stands with them is among the accused.” His composure turned into fiery oratory as he began his speech moments later. Part defence statement and part political rally, tinged with occasional humour about escaping hanging thanks to the EU, about continuing to speak his mind inside or outside Wormwood Scrubs, about intelligence dossiers Austin Powers would be embarrassed by. It wasn’t hard to see why “Gorgeous” George has retained his current support despite recent troubles. Galloway takes a tough stance against his accusers, warning any paper repeating “crude forgeries” that his lawyers would “severely punish those who publish those lies about me.” Galloway believes he is “fair game for the most brutish assaults because the stances that I make are intensely controversial. People can attack me in a vicious way at will, but I will not allow people to tell lies about me.” He slams those controlling the Telegraph – Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher – for pursuing their own agendas against him and attracting applause as he said “if you can measure someone by their enemies, well I’m particularly blessed.” He is confident of his case, as he tells reporters outside later, “I don’t require you to believe or not believe. The important point is that the High Court in London will adjudicate on this matter.” He challenges the enraptured audience, and his popularity isn’t restricted to those against the war, “This is the point I was trying to make to you earlier about freedom of speech. Are we really content to live in a country, where an elected politician or any citizen, should be threatened with going to prison for speaking their mind?” He further maintains that he did not call on British soldiers to refuse to obey orders as alleged by The Sun, rather he called on them to refuse to obey illegal orders, “which happens to be a legal requirement on all armies and on all governments in the world since Nuremberg.” Nevertheless, The Sun intends to prosecute him for treason. Galloway makes his stand against the occupation of Iraq. The “real criminals” were those who “took us to war on an entirely bogus false prospectus” to enrich George Bush. The real looters of Baghdad were “the men in pinstriped suits who would arrive and begin looting Iraq’s oil wealth and parcelling out the contracts for the reconstruction of a country they have only just finished deconstructing.” No-one is spared Galloway’s fury in his attack against neo-imperialism. George Bush is “a man with the mind of a child”. Jay Garner, “a redneck Texan”, is “an ignoramus in an American uniform”, telling Iraqis what to do. “This is rejected in the world”, Galloway states. The anti-war movement is not an isolated one, he reassures the audience. It is part of a global movement, the biggest of its kind. Britons have been “grievously compromised by Mr Blair’s decision to put us in the first ranks of the hated. We marched a lot of people to the top of the hill, we’re not going to march them down again until we’ve changed this country for good.” As for the future of the party that suspended him, it “has to be recaptured by its membership to its ideals, or a new party has to be born. Thatcher left Downing Street in tears, and I predict that Tony Blair will go the same way.” His strong words weren’t just for “the real criminals”. Mobbed by reporters as he left the town hall, he expresses his disapproval of protestors from the East Oxford anti-war movement disrupting Andrew Smith MP at a recent event. “I think demonstrating outside is fine, but everyone has their right to speak, just as I have the right to be heard.”
ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2003

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