Two reports last week announced with great sound and fury that they had the “smoking gun” linking Respect MP George Galloway to the payroll of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime.
In fact both signified nothing more than another desperate attempt to distract from the real criminals in Iraq — and to smear those who have campaigned against Bush and Blair’s war.
Neither the US Senate committee nor the United Nations (UN) backed Volcker committee report has found one piece of paper to link George Galloway to money received from Iraq.
Instead both simply proclaim his guilt. They allege that Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad, his estranged wife, received money, or that Fawaz Zureikat, a man who contributed to a campaigning fund set up by George Galloway, did deals with Saddam Hussein and so tainted money found its way to the MP.
This web of lies was originally buttressed by the supposed testimony of Tariq Aziz, former Iraqi deputy prime minister. But as we show on page one this has sensationally collapsed.
Now the claims are largely based on a repetition of “evidence” which was discredited when it was presented in May — and shot down in flames by George Galloway in his appearance before the Senate committee.
Repetition of falsehood does not make it true. It simply shows that some US politicians will stop at nothing in their effort to take attention away from the great lies about the Iraq war.
The central document used last week is a forgery — as Socialist Worker revealed five months ago (How they forged the case against Galloway, 1959, 21 May).
The most recent reports echo an earlier claim about contract M/09/23. This alleges that 1,014,000 barrels of oil were allocated from the Iraqi oil ministry to “Mr Fawwaz Zurayqat — Mr George Galloway — Aredio Petroleum (French)”.
But the most cursory examination shows that the document had been altered to add George Galloway’s name.
Hours after Socialist Worker went to press with this revelation, our story was confirmed by the US Senate itself.
In exhibit #9 presented to George Galloway moments before he spoke to the Senate, the same contract, M/09/23 is discussed in papers which purport to be a translation of a document from the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation from January 2001.
Here the contract is said to be with Aredio Petroleum Company (Fawaz Zuraiqat — Mariam’s Appeal). George Galloway’s name had disappeared!
So after licking their wounds, Galloway’s opponents have made further efforts to set up tenuous links.
They imply that the Mariam Appeal received illicit funding from the Iraqi regime and that the money was then channelled into George Galloway’s personal accounts.
But the appeal has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The Mariam Appeal, established in 1998, was named after Mariam Hamza, an Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia. It raised funds to enable her to receive treatment abroad that saved her life. It also demanded the lifting of sanctions on Iraq.
This exposed the reality of the sanctions regime that killed at least one million Iraqis, more than half of them children.This determined campaigning enraged the Western powers.
In June 2003 the British Charity Commission began an investigation into a complaint that some of the donations were used to pay George Galloway’s travel expenses.
After a year long, extremely detailed audit, the Charity Commission found that the fund did not spend money improperly.
The Charity Commission director of operations, Simon Gillespie, said, “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.”
The other person accused in the reports is Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman. He is accused of taking money from Saddam Hussein and then passing it on to Galloway, to his former wife or to the Mariam Appeal.
It is no secret that George Galloway has known Fawaz Zureikat for many years. But there is absolutely no evidence that George Galloway ever solicited money from Zureikat, asked him to set up oil deals or asked him to act as an intermediary with the Iraqi regime.
If he is so corrupt, how has Zureikat continued with his business deals, including in the US, without any charges being laid against him?
The reality is that Zureikat took part in the oil for food programme within the regulations set out by the UN.
The Senate report relies on alleged statements from former Iraqi regime officials and two oil traders. None of their testimonies is reliable.
The most damning of these was apparently from Tariq Aziz. But Aziz denies ever making any accusation against Galloway — a denial the Volcker report dismisses.
That leaves statements from Taha Yasin Ramadan, the former vice-president, and from Amer Rashid, the former oil minister.
Galloway says he has never met them, and neither the Senate nor the Volcker reports attempt to show otherwise. Both men are being held by the US occupying authorities in Iraq and face charges that could carry the death penalty.
It is likely Ramadan and others have been offered deals similar to the one offered to Tariq Aziz. The US wants us to believe that Ramadan is a genocidal maniac when he is in the dock, but a credible witness when they report him making allegations against a man he has never met.
Statements in the Senate report from anonymous oil traders — “Oil Trader #1” and “Oil Trader #2” — are stunningly vague.
One of them claims to have met Zureikat “approximately in the summer 2000”. The Volcker report names “oil trader one” as Augusto Giangrandi.
Galloway says he has never heard of the companies named in the Volcker report and has never “met an oil trader called Augusto Giangrandi”. The Volcker report presents no evidence to prove otherwise.
The report even says, “Mr Galloway did not state explicitly to Mr Giangrandi that he had received any oil allocations.” According to the Senate report, “Oil Trader #1 retained Oil Trader #2 as a consultant to ‘help [him] get closer to’ allocation holders.”
It appears “Oil Trader #2” was a prominent Iraqi with access to the corridors of power in Saddam’s regime. The same “Oil Trader #2”, according to the Senate report, merely claims to have “understood” that Zureikat was acting for Galloway.
The Senate report says that “… Oil Trader #2’s witness statement does not indicate that Galloway’s name was mentioned during the negotiation…”
It admits that an alleged oil deal between Zureikat and Oil Trader #1 did not take place.
The Senate report did not interview Zureikat. The Volcker report did and acknowledges that it fails to show that Galloway profited from oil for food deals.
More dirty allegations
The Senate and Volcker reports make great play over alleged payments to Galloway’s estranged wife, Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad.
She denies receiving the sums cited in the reports.Those reports do not even claim that Galloway had any knowledge of them.
One of the alleged payments is from Fawaz Zureikat. He and Dr Abu-Zayyad have been family friends for many years, long before either met Galloway.
Dr Abu-Zayyad has researched childhood cancers in Iraq and their link to the use of depleted uranium weapons.
She has raised funds for her research. The Volcker report alleges that she received $120,000 from Delta Services, allegedly owned by Burhan al-Chalabi. Galloway says, “I’ve never heard of this company. My wife has denied ever having received any money from al-Chalabi.”
Neither the Senate nor the Volcker reports claim that Galloway used his wife to funnel money from oil sales. That would mean that one of the most watched politicians thought he could sneak money out of one of the most watched countries and stash it in his wife’s bank account!
Baghdad is a forger’s paradise
The evidence that supposedly proves Galloway benefited from the oil for food programme was exposed by Socialist Worker as a crude forgery in May.
These documents, and many others, emerged during the chaos of the first months of the US occupation of Iraq.
One Arab journalist warned at the time that Iraq was awash with forged documents. Hazim al-Amin, of the London based al-Hayat newspaper, reported that none of the documents relating to the former regime could be trusted.
Al-Amin wrote, “Document experts in Baghdad talk about large numbers of forgeries circulating in Iraq, particularly as a large amount of blank headed paper from the various security agencies had been stolen and spread among dozens of different people.”
In the article written on 13 November 2003, before the oil for food allegations surfaced, he expressed the growing fear in Iraq that these forgeries could be used to slander people with no connections to the former regime. Al-Amin warned journalists to treat all documents with suspicion.
Al-Amin’s article came a month before Sajad Ahmad Ali admitted that he was hired to forge contracts that implicated major opponents of the war in oil for food deals.
On the list were French and Russian politicians, and Arab opponents of the war. Sajad’s testimony was printed in the Palestinian newspaper Dunya al-Watan.
These forgeries can be exposed through simple tests, but all the documents relating to George Galloway are photocopies and cannot be tested. The originals went missing in June 2004. The evidence produced by the Senate committee are photocopies of these documents.
You can read Socialist Worker’s investigation into the forged documents here: How they forged the case against Galloway