Monday 7 April 2003

My views are those of millions

I am not a traitor and I will not be gagged over this war

by George Galloway

Last week the government enlisted the Murdoch press to launch an assault on me with the journalistic equivalent of a cluster bomb. The central thrust of their attacks, that I am a traitor not fit to sit in parliament, was scattered over the Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times. Some bomblets were designed to wound now (like the incitement to pound me with hate mail and threatening phone calls), others to explode later, and with terminal effect (like the order to strip me of parliamentary rank through withdrawal of the Labour whip, followed by expulsion).

In a world where thousands of civilians are being minced by the real thing, this would not ordinarily detain us over-long, but both the medium and the message are significant. That Tony Blair has taken New Labour into the outer limits of social democratic politics, a kind of twilight zone where, in the dimness, an axis of Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, Aznar and Sharon can just be glimpsed, is pretty much a given. But his alliance with the cheap jingo press, which is spreading racist hatred in this conflict, is a key development in the war for Labour's future. This latest attack on me, for example, was fed to a willing press by Labour sources. I know this because the national newspaper editor who was first offered the "story" (a transcript of a translated interview I gave to Abu Dhabi TV) turned it down and alerted me. It was then given to the Sun. The transcribed words were mine; the spin was all New Labour's.

The Sun (whose columnist, Richard Littlejohn, called me a "cocksucker" last week and assaults Muslims every time he takes out his armour-plated lap-top - "You're Shiite and you know you are") and the News of the World (which told us yesterday that model Nell McAndrew was sending her knickers to Our Boys at the front) are Mr Blair's new friends, and the principal cheerleaders for his war of agression.

Mr Blair, it seems, wants free speech in Baghdad, but not in the British parliament. He wants to use his systems of regime control - the whips, the emasculated national executive committee and the party conference (now dragooned more carefully than a Ceausescu mass wedding) - to ensure that only "licensed" and low-key opposition is heard.

It's true that some of my words have been harsh, but that's because I'm expressing the views of the millions who remain fiercely angry at the government's taking us into a war in defiance of the UN, in the teeth of overwhelming international opposition, on bogus and fabricated grounds, and to such disastrous effect. Not least, I'm speaking for the many in the British Muslim community - Shi'a or otherwise - who feel powerless and virtually voiceless amid the slaughter of Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and now Iraq.

Whole regiments of journalists and commentators have thrown objectivity to the desert wind and signed up for the war effort, endlessly parroting propaganda, wheeling this way and that, virtually on command. Parliamentary sketch-writers openly deride hostile questioning in the Commons as "suicide missions" on the part of MPs whose right, indeed duty, it is to stop our own parliament becoming a rubber-stamp assembly like those in Baghdad and elsewhere. The threat to discipline me is also crucially aimed at muzzling the others in what is at risk of becoming a frenzy of intolerance, shredding the very values for which the "coalition" claims to be fighting.

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