Monday, May 23, 2005

Mr. Galloway goes to Washington

George Galloway, MP Bethnal Green & Bow (or as they say, BG&B) is someone I never knew of before today, and someone the US Senate probably wishes they had never heard of ever. He is a member of the British Parliament accused of profiteering on the oil-for-food program before it was replaced by a bombs-for-food arrangement. I found background at Crooked Timber.

He’s in many ways an utterly reprehensible character; friend of dictators, self-aggrandising, supporter of a lifestyle seemingly out of proportion to his income, frequenter of the libel courts, stirrer of racial tensions, etc etc. But, he does put on a hell of a show, and that’s why he won in Bethnal Green.

The Bangladeshis and poor whites who live in that area... are not daft. They work in the garment trade, an industry which is not notorious for its fools. They must be aware... that Galloway is going to spend most of his time as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow doing what he spent most of his time doing as MP for Glasgow Kelvin; wandering round the country, making speeches to extreme-left audiences and not showing up in the House of Commons. The major effect of electing Galloway...will be that in general, they will have to put up with somewhat worse housing conditions over the next four years, and that the task of dealing with the labyrinth of local government bureaucracy...will be that much more difficult...

...he puts on a bloody good show, and more importantly... he gets right up in the faces of the people at the top of the tree.

You see, it’s entirely laudable and sensible to vote for someone who will spend morning noon and night tirelessly plodding away making incremental gains on your behalf and trying to smooth over one or two of the little inconveniences that make life slightly, but tangibly and materially, more difficult to live.

No need to go on. We know people like that. In fact, we have a good many in state legislatures, and not a few in Washington. Whatever else he may be, Mr Galloway has to be one of the most colorful political creatures on the world stage today.

All you need to remember is that he was an early and loud opponent of the War in Iraq. His motives may have been as dirty as a honey-wagon, but politically he picked a winning position. The "Global War on Terrorism" is a political construct from Washington, seen in most of the world as yet another US war. We have allies, of course, but it is tenuous to speak of "democracy" when the arithmetic of a majority would not deal our War in Iraq a winning hand in any plebescite. Enough about that.

To get the full enjoyment of the circus that took place this week in Washington, it takes 47 minutes to watch the video of Mr. Galloway's appearance. If time is a problem the video can be moved ahead six minutes, which is how long it takes for the introductory statement and swearing in. A transcript is available, interestingly enough from a London source. Brad Blog complains that no official transcript is yet available, although the event took place nearly a week ago. There is another transcript available at BellaCiao which also has a link to the entire video.

After seeing the video, I understand why it has not been widely shown in the US. Aside from the arcane nature of the discussion, Mr. Galloway stands his ground with the Senate Committee in a way that we have not seen since the McCarthy hearings of the fifties.

I owe Pejman for turning me on to the debate. Having the global view that he does, he presumes that everyone else is as smart as he is, so he left it up to one of Mr. Galloway's countrymen to take him down. Gerard Baker is US Editor for the Times of London. The Queen's English doesn't get any better than this.

The Senate describes itself, without apparent irony or hint of self-awareness, as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Wherever they travel, senators are treated with a sort of scented deference that only a republic could confer on its leaders and not risk revolution. Fawning staffers strew petals in their path; highways are made straight for them; rivers are forded lest they get their feet wet. One observer noted that senators take themselves so seriously that “they’d wear togas if they thought they could get away with it.”
When mortals appear before Senate panels, they are expected to show proper deference to these lawgivers of the American republic. But while senators may consider themselves Solons, Pericles they most assuredly are not. Going through life in an impregnable carapace of sycophancy is agreeable, no doubt, but as Marie Antoinette discovered, it does not tend to sharpen one’s skills in public argument. So when a feisty member such as Mr Galloway shows up in the midst of these august figures, the effect is a little like a character from a Damon Runyon novel let loose among the Gatsbys.

Time permitting, I recommend the whole column. Don't rush it. Savor every word.
Read it to yourself conversationally, imagining the inflection of Alistair Cooke as you read. Better yet, since the last Star Wars Movie is out, remember the voice of Alec Guinness. Younger readers can think of Anthony Hopkins.


Mr. Galloway's appearance (I hesitate to dignify it as "testimony." I found some of the same phrases in an article in Al Jezeera two years old when he was booted from the Labour Party by Mr. Blair. His language was more like what we call a "stump speech.") triggered more outrage than embarrassment other circles.

Ahmad's blog, Iraqi Expat, dripped with sarcasm:

It seems that Galloway learned to talk like his friend, Saddam. Do you remember the mother of all battles in which Saddam defeated the zionist imperialist west in 1991? Well, Galloway said that the accusations levelled against him were the "mother of all smokescreens"!

If you follow the link, go to the homepage and scroll down to the May 20, 21 and 22 posts to see the photos of Saddam in unflattering images. Time permitting, read Ahmad's take on Muslim extremists. Whether you are for or against the US presence in Iraq, it will do your heart good.

Do I blame westerners for hating Islam or having prejudice toward Muslims? Absolutely not; why do we expect them to love us when there are so many of us (Muslims) hate them so much? Unless Muslims work hard to denounce those anti-Westerners, we shouldn’t expect much from them.

The problem is that some Sunnis believe - or try to believe - that there is a real patriotic resistance and there is terrorism, as if that resistance would be in Iraq’s best interest, but never mind! Most Sunnis, however, even those who believe there is resistance, condemn terrorism but at the same time try to deny that terrorism is more of a Sunni problem.

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