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George Galloway's antiwar speaking tour
Standing up to the war makers

By Alan Maass | September 23, 2005 | Page 7

BRITISH ANTIWAR leader George Galloway's return to the U.S. provided several of the highlights of the stepped-up antiwar activity leading to the national demonstrations on September 24. The man who last May launched, in the words of CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "a blistering attack on U.S. senators" during testimony before a congressional subcommittee returned this month for a speaking tour across North America.

Sponsored nationally by the New Press (which published Galloway's new book), the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, International Socialist Review magazine and the National Council of Arab Americans, Galloway started out at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston on September 13. Galloway told the crowd of some 400 people that the antiwar movement could stand proudly in the tradition of the British member of parliament Charles James Fox, who was expelled from his seat for supporting the American Revolution against British colonial rule.

The next night, Galloway debated former leftist Christopher Hitchens in front of a full house of 1,200 people at Baruch College's Mason Hall. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman introduced and moderated the "Grapple in the Apple," as the rowdy crowd, divided between supporters of both speakers, made their feelings known.

Hitchens and Galloway traded pointed barbs, as Hitchens disavowed his anti-imperialist past, coming out as a raging supporter of the "war on terror" and spokesperson for many of the U.S. government's most discredited justifications for the invasion and distortions about the people of Iraq. Shocking many in the audience, Hitchens even defended the Bush administration's response to the Hurricane Katrina.

"What you have witnessed," Galloway declared, "is something unique in natural history--the first-ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug." "People like Mr. Hitchens," he added, "are ready to fight to the last drop of other people's blood, and it's utterly contemptible."

Over the weekend, Galloway was in Toronto for two huge meetings--one at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, and a second at a conference of the Canadian Muslim Association and the Islamic Circle of North America. Galloway began the new week speaking out at the University of Wisconsin to a crowd of 1,000. In Chicago, he spoke at a meeting of 500. In both cities, actor Jane Fonda was set to speak with Galloway, but she had to cancel at the last minute because of health problems.

As Socialist Worker went to press, Galloway was headed to the West Coast for meetings in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, before heading to Washington, D.C., for the September 24 antiwar demonstration and an evening panel discussion.

At the New York debate, Hitchens tried to smear Galloway with long-discredited charges that he collaborated with the former Iraqi regime in stealing money from the United Nations oil-for-food program--the same false claims that brought Galloway to the U.S. last May to testify about them before the Senate subcommittee.

Galloway shot back with the facts--that he has answered these accusations many times, including in court. The newly elected member of parliament from the left-wing Respect Coalition recently won a libel case against a British newspaper that accused him of being an agent of Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, the right wing isn't alone in recycling old slanders against the British antiwar leader. Investigative journalist Greg Palast and LA Weekly columnist Marc Cooper both chose the days surrounding the New York debate to denounce Galloway as corrupt--as well as a "Brit-hole," "arse-licking" and "swamp thing."

Palast claimed that the British Charity Commission investigation of the Miriam Appeal--an organization formed by Galloway and others after the first Gulf War to oppose the barbaric regime of U.S.-backed economic sanctions--found that "nearly a million dollars can't be accounted for."

Problem: the commission's report of its investigation says nothing of the sort. In announcing the findings in June 2004, the director of operations for the Charity Commission, Simon Gillespie, told reporters, "The commission's thorough inquiry found no evidence to suggest that the large amounts of money given to the Mariam Appeal were not properly used."

Palast went on to make equally wild charges that Galloway has issued "deadly anti-abortion threats" (in reality, Galloway says that, though he is personally opposed to abortion, he supports women's right to make the choice for themselves)--and that he supports death threats against author Salman Rushdie issued by Iran's former Ayatollah Khomeini (a charge fabricated from Rushdie's distorted account of a recent Galloway speech).

For his part, Cooper calls for antiwar activists to "show...up to one of the Galloway events to let him know that apologists for murderers are not welcome amongst us."

These bitter denunciations--recycling old slanders as if they have never been disproved--are indistinguishable from the hyperventilating of the right wing. As Green Party member Dan Raphael wrote in an article posted on the Dissident Voice Web site, "Even in his most trenchant criticism of that other George, the one we Americans know better than we'd like, Mr. Palast has never, to my knowledge, engaged in similar flame-throwing. Mr. Palast--Greg--are you all right? I ask not only because of this venom that I haven't seen you use before, but also because of the target: a person even you have acknowledged as a strong voice in opposition to the war against the Iraqi people."

Petrino DiLeo and Lee Wengraf contributed to this report.

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