Friday 25 April 2003

Galloway's a crook - how convenient

These dramatic revelations come just when Britain needs an outspoken voice of dissent more than ever

by Scott Ritter

I was shocked to read about the allegations, ostensibly based upon documents discovered in Iraq, that George Galloway was somehow compensated financially by the Iraqi government for championing its cause. I was shocked because, if these allegations prove to be true, then the integrity and credibility of a man for whom I have great respect would be dramatically undermined.

But I was also shocked because of the timing of these allegations. Having been on the receiving end of smear campaigns designed to assassinate the character of someone in opposition to the powers that be, I have grown highly suspicious of dramatic revelations conveniently timed to silence a vocal voice of dissent.

George Galloway - He may look scary, but he isn't. It seems to be something common to people hailing from Glasgow. They're lovely... But scary looking. The charges made against Galloway are serious and they should be thoroughly investigated. Do these charges have any merit? I will continue to operate under the assumption of innocence until proven guilty. I hope the charges against George Galloway are baseless but, to be honest, I simply don't know.

But I do know a few things about George Galloway and the cause he championed with regards to Iraq. I know that he helped found the Mariam Appeal, a humanitarian organisation established in 1998 initially to raise funds on behalf of an Iraqi girl who suffered from leukaemia and who, because of economic sanctions, was unable to receive adequate medical care. I met Mariam in 1999, when she was a guest of the Bruderhof Society here in the US, a religious movement that eschews individual wealth and promotes a simple, communal life. She was getting treatment for the onset of blindness caused by medical neglect related to her leukaemia treatment.

Mariam is a real person, not some political stunt. Her suffering was genuine. So, too, was the joy of her maternal grandmother, who accompanied Mariam to the US when she realised that while Mariam might be blind, she was going to live, thanks in no small part to the work of people like George Galloway, whose dramatic intervention got Mariam out of Iraq and into the hands of those who could care for her.

I know that Galloway helped set up the British-Iraqi friendship association. I know because he invited me to come to London and speak at the association's inaugural meeting. The message I heard him deliver that night was one of human kindness and compassion. He spoke out against the suffering of the Iraqi people under the effects of a decades-long economic embargo. I heard him decry the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. But I also heard him lambast the policies of his own country, and those of the US, which were subjecting the innocent people of Iraq to such suffering.

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