WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Things are getting very grim here in Washington. The Democrats are fighting a desperate rear-guard action against the Republicans on several fronts. They are fighting to maintain their death grip on federal judicial appointments. They are resisting Social Security reform. They are using every expedient to scandalize the president's designated UN ambassador, John Bolton. This is not a constructive use of power, for the Democrats have no constructive proposals to advance. It is merely a grim assertion of "no" to the political party now controlling the White House and Capitol Hill.
That is why I, as a professional observer of Washington politics, want to thank the Hon. George Galloway, the offbeat member of Parliament, for traveling all the way to Washington from London to provide us with a comic interlude. He has been accused by Senate investigators of profiting from Saddam Hussein's manipulation of the UN oil-for-food scam. Blustering and shaking in what sounded to me like a Scottish accent -- though it could have been the consequence of strong drink -- the Hon. Galloway informed the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that the charge is "utterly preposterous." "I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader, and neither has anyone on my behalf," he solemnized.
This line, of course, is an adaptation of the line once used by American Communists and fellow travelers while appearing before congressional investigations of Communist subversion during the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. Galloway is a ritualistic leftist. He is so left-wing that he was given the heave-ho by his own Labour Party. Somehow he thought it clever to portray himself in the role once made famous by American leftists testifying before Congress. After his appearance, a tumescent Galloway went before the cameras to boast of how his British parliamentary style had bested our more "sedate" congressional proceedings.
Galloway seems unaware that modern America does not feel much sympathy for left-wing subversives. Moreover, with the publication of documents from the intelligence archives of the Soviet Union, it is clear that many of those leftists and Communists from the past really were engaged in subversion for Moscow. The "Red Scare" was a Red Reality. As to how effective this master of British parliamentarian style was before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, consider this. After Galloway proclaimed his innocence and denounced President George W. Bush's Iraqi war as the result of a "pack of lies," Republicans and Democrats came to amiable agreement for the first time in months. As the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Carl Levin, put it, Galloway's performance was "not credible." Levin, like Galloway, opposes the war.
The reason Galloway is not credible is that Levin's committee has documents, mounds of documents, linking European officials to profits from the oil-for-food scam that now appears to be the largest case of political graft in history. Saddam used it to arm himself, buy political allies around the world and fund terrorists. Galloway admits that he met repeatedly with Saddam's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and even with Saddam, twice -- as frequently as did Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Galloway admits puckishly and pointlessly. Galloway does not deny the import of documents showing him working with a Jordanian businessman, Fawaz Zureikat, in various deals in Baghdad. He simply denies that he received money from the 20 million barrels of oil documents say he and Zureikat got.
Galloway's buffoonery aside, the evidence now being displayed by our government explains why so many European politicians were so patient with Saddam's numerous breaches of UN resolutions. There was money in it for them personally. Up until the revelations of the oil-for-food scam, I had thought that the Europeans' refusal to attack Saddam was simply another example of European cowardice. There was in the months before the invasion of Iraq no great debate over weapons of mass destruction. There was only the Europeans' feigned claim that we had not exhausted every diplomatic approach to Saddam. He ignored UN resolutions. He rejected international inspections. He acted willfully and with impunity. Yet at the UN, officials refused to take action. Now we know why: There and in many foreign capitals officials were on the take.