The real reasons for Galloway's suspension from parliament

It wasn't only lefties who were calling for an end to sanctions that were killing ordinary Iraqis without removing Saddam from power - Senior US Generals and UN officials were too - but was the chair of the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee ?

George Galloway MP, a leading member of the Stop the War Coalition, was suspended from parliament by the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee last month (July 2007)

It’s worth noting the real reasons for Galloway's suspension. He's accused of having accepted money from Saddam’s regime for the Mariam Appeal a charity he founded which campaigned to have the sanctions on Iraq (pushed through the UN by the US government) lifted , provided medical supplies to Iraqis and flew Iraqi children like Mariam Hamza to Britain for medical treatment.

Sanctions on Iraq - 1990 to 2003 – a form of genocide

Galloway’s call for sanctions to be lifted is routinely misrepresented as extreme or as kow-towing to Saddam. In fact narrowing or lifting sanctions was supported by a wide range of people including high ranking members of the UN staff and US military.

The four star US General Anthony Zinni supported narrowing sanctions to cover only military equipment under Clinton, but was ignored. Colin Powell as Bush’s secretary of state also tried in vain to get Bush to do the same (see Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post’s book “Fiasco” (1).

The reason was that the sanctions killed ordinary Iraqis without removing Saddam from power. Indeed by weakening ordinary Iraqis they made the overthrow of Saddam less likely.

According to two successive UN co-ordinators of the sanctions – Dennis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck, sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis by denying them sufficient food and Iraqi hospitals sufficient medicines and equipment (2). Halliday rightly called the sanctions “genocide” (3).

We’ve heard a lot, 20 years too late, about Saddam’s genocide against the Kurds in the 80s, when he was armed and funded by the American and British governments before and after the gassing of Halabja (4) , (5) , (6) , (7) , (8). Tony Blair refused to sign even one of the many Early Day Motions condemning that atrocity at the time (9). George Galloway did though. How many of the MPs on the Standards Committee did?

So George Galloway stands accused of acting unethically by attempting to stop two genocides which some of the hypocrites on the Standards Committee supported or ignored. It seems lying to start an unnecessary war and bribing torturing dictators with public money to buy a private companies' arms are also apparently considered acceptable .

Accepting money to save lives Vs Bribes to sell arms

There's been blanket coverage of £1.5 million alleged to have been paid to the Mariam appeal by the torturing dictatorship of Saddam Hussein – and much less focus on the reports by the BBC, Financial Times and the Guardian among others that the Blair government approved the payment of £1 billion in public money to Prince Bandar, one of the torturing dictators of Saudi Arabia, as a bribe to get the Saudi monarchy to buy BAE Systems weapons.(10) , (11) , (12)

This is even more surprising since Galloway denies the allegations against him while Blair and Goldsmith admit those against them , only denying that they hid the transaction or that there was anything wrong with it. BAE’s defence is that the payments were approved by the British government. (13).

Isn’t getting money from dictators to treat sick children and end civilian deaths a morally right action ? Isn't giving taxpayers' money to dictators in bribes to get them to buy arms from you wrong ?

Blair's claim that thousands of British jobs are at stake is also empty. If civilian industries got a fraction of the public investment British Aerospace has wasted on bribes and over-charging for inferior products far more jobs would be created for the same expenditure – and the money saved in the process would allow tax cuts or increased spending on public services (such as a decent wage for front line soldiers).

If you want to hear about the (dis-)service provided by BAE to the British military and taxpayers don’t listen to Tony Blair – read former Royal Navy officer (and marine) Lewis Page’s excellent book ‘ Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs’.

The Campaign to Smear Galloway aims to distract us from the real issues

So why is it that the adjective ‘odious’ is so widely used by political commentators against George Galloway when he was one of the few British MPs attempting to stop the needless loss of civilian life just as UN officials and American generals were?

True he's a self-publicist , but no-one who doesn't publicise themselves is likely to get elected or re-elected in politics. He uses hyperbole and over the top language sometimes , but then who doesn't sometimes - and colourful language is sometimes necessary to get media coverage for serious issues. He's made some mistakes, like saluting Saddam's 'indefatigability' but who doesn't make mistakes - and his mistakes havent cost large numbers of lives. I disagree with his claim that the end of the Soviet Union was a tragedy , but then no two people agree on everything.

Could it be that some of those commentators are either ignorant of the subject they're commenting on and have never bothered to do basic research on it? Or do they have guilty consciences? Or are they just from the 'my country right or wrong' brigade? You'd have to ask them.

As for the politicians this is just part of a long campaign of attempts to smear Galloway by his political opponents who have failed to provide any evidence to support the slanders made by their allies in the newspapers of Rupert Murdoch in court cases, which these newspapers have lost time and again. The politicians who supported blanket sanctions on Iraq and then an un-necessary war for control of oil supplies have no excuses for their behaviour so they resort to throwing lots of mud at those who did oppose both in the hope that some will stick. I hope people will see this shoddy tactic for what it is.

Why sanctions aren’t just a historical issue

Nor is the sanctions issue merely historical. The same kind of blanket economic sanctions are being imposed on Palestinians in Gaza who are dying due to lack of food and medical supplies because they voted for Hamas not Fatah . Fatah are favoured as "the forces of peace" by the Israeli , US, Egyptian and EU governments (including the British government) but Fatah lost elections to Hamas (even if they didnt lose by much) due to their corruption and misappropriation of aid money. The Israeli government permitted Egypt to arm Fatah with tens of thousands of AK47s and ammunition for them last year while the US government sent officers to provide training and uniforms to the Presidential Guard of Mahmoud Abbas of Hamas. (14), (15), (16), (17), (18), (19), (20).

Hamas won Palestinian elections but the US , EU , Israeli and Egyptian governments refused to recognise them as Hamas refuses to recognise Israel until it stops forcing Palestinians off their land to make way for more Israeli settlers and unless Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders. Some Hamas spokesmen have even suggested they refuse to recognise Israel full stop. The result of the refusal to recognise the results of the Palestinian elections (which observers said were as free and fair as was possible under Israeli military occupation and with Israeli checkpoints being widespread) was civil war between Hamas and Fatah which Hamas won in Gaza but lost (so far) in the West Bank. The Us, EU and Israeli governments then lifted sanctions on the West Bank (or at least sent more funds to the office of Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah) while continuing them to this day on Gaza (21), (22), (23), (24), (25), (26), (27), (28).

So what will happen this time? Will we repeat the slow motion genocide of blanket sanctions meant to force an entire people to replace their government with one our governments prefer (despite the fact the current government was democratically elected) or will we demand an end to comprehensive or blanket sanctions as a barabaric and ineffective form of warfare that kills innocent adults and children (29), (30).

It would be justifiable to have a ban on arms sales - but that would have to apply to all sides. Instead Fatah has been armed by Egypt and the US with Israeli collusion (while Iran funds and arms Hamas and Islamic Jihad) and the US has increased military aid to Israel and is selling billions in arms to it , Egypt and other Sunni regimes such as Saudi Arabia's.

The choice for Scots and why all this is relevant to us

The question is do we want peace in the Middle East or just to continue attempting to maintain and expand US and EU dominance of it by backing undemocratic and torturing client regimes comparable to Saddam's (another of our former clients) as long as they are 'pro-western' or anti-Iranian. We can be sure that if we choose the latter many civilians - including the people of Gaza starved of medicines and food - will continue to die as a result of our governments' actions.

We can also be sure that Iran will respond by increasing its military and its support of armed Shia groups across the Middle East as its government and many of its people percieve our governments' current actions as a serious threat. Nor are this perception wrong given the Bush administration's actions so far and the history of relations between Iran and the US/UK which are still defined by the US and British backed military coup against the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953 and the 26 years of western-backed dictatorship under the Shah which followed (31), (32).

Nor will the Chinese or Russian governments hold back from competing for power with us if we choose to attempt to continue dominating the Middle East through client regimes. Both have been arming and trading with Iran to try to prevent the US monopolising the world’s oil and gas supplies for itself and its allies – and to secure and expand their own power no doubt.

This may seem a long way away from Scotland but Scottish troops are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and the attempted attack on Glasgow airport shows that Scots are not immune from the effects of the British government’s foreign policy any more than Londoners are. Lifting sanctions on Gaza and ending British (or , if we becomne independent, Scottish) involvement in military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq could not only save the lives of Palestinians, Iraqis or Afghans but those of English, Welsh and Scots people too.

This is not to say terrorist attacks are justified. Two wrongs don’t make a right and if our foreign policies were morally right and saving lives it would be right to keep our troops in place no matter whether we risked terrorist attacks as a result or not. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq though are neither justifiable nor winnable though. The former is about securing a pipeline route for the oil and gas supplies of former Soviet Republics to the ports of Pakistan (33), (34), (35), (36) (see (37) for a correction on a report that Musharraf's government gave a pipeline contract to a US firm in August 2007.)The latter is about controlling the second largest known oil reserves in the world. Our troops are being made to act as junior partners a US administration which Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report has a policy of torture – sometimes torture to death – from Iraq to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan (38) , (39), (40), (41). So far this year in Afghanistan NATO forces have killed more civilians than the people they’re fighting – and five years into that war the Taliban can still make rocket attacks on Kabul (42), (43). As a PM with a Scottish granny once said “It’s time for a change”. We should all let our governments know our views on this - in letters, in protests and by voting against them until they bring our troops home from Iraq and from Afghanistan and end the sanctions on Gaza.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007

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Sources and Footnotes

(1) = Thomas E . Ricks (2006), ‘ FIASCO – The American Military Adventure in Iraq ’, Penguin Books, London & NY , 2006 , page 18

(2) = Guardian 29 Nov 2001 ‘The hostage nation : Former UN relief chiefs Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday speak out against an attack on Iraq’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,608578,00.html

(3) = CNN Transcript Jan 16th 2001 , ‘Former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Denis Halliday opposes U.N.’s sanctions’, http://www.cnn.com/COMMUNITY/transcripts/2001/01/16/halliday/

(4) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2002), ‘The Threatening Storm, Random House, New York, 2002 - pages 18-20 Pollack mentions Reagan administration financial aid and arms sales to Saddam - and that these continued after Halabja - but pretends that only "the Germans(among others)" provided Saddam with dual-use equipment they knew was being used for Saddam's chemical and biological weapons programmes. In fact the "others" included the Reagan administration , which provided chemical and biological weapons and delivery systems to Saddam. The Reagan and then Bush senior administrations also continued financial aid to Saddam up until May 1990 (see 13 , 14 and 15 below).

(5) = Washington Post 22 Mar 1992, ‘Gonzalez's Iraq Expose: Hill Chairman Details U.S. Prewar Courtship, Washington Post archive article here ; full article also reproduced at the Federation of American Scientists' website here ; This gives an account provided by A US Congressman based on information provided to congressional committees by the CIA.

(6) = Washington Post 5 Aug 1992, ‘GOP Seeks Probe of Gonzalez Over Iraq Data, Washington Post archive article here ; also reproduced at http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1018781.html Far from disputing the accuracy of Gonzalez's claims the Bush (senior) administration and the CIA instead stopped providing Gonzalez with intelligence briefings and attempted to have him censured by congress for releasing the information to the public

(7) = 'U.S. chemical and biological warfare-related dual use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the health consequences of the Persian Gulf War'/ A report of Donald W. Riegle, Jr. and Alfonse M. D’Amato of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with respect to export administration, United States Senate (1994) - Link to Library of Congress record

(8) = Aburish, Said K.(2000), ‘Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Bloomsbury, London, 2001(paperback) - pages 241-250 - esp.249

(9) = Guardian 18 March 2003 , 'Diary' , "http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,916313,00.html

(10) = Financial Times 07 June 2007 , 'BAE Systems faces allegations of secretly paying Saudi prince' , "http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e37553d2-147f-11dc-88cb-000b5df10621.html

(11) = BBC News 8 Jun 2007 , 'Goldsmith denies BAE cash claim' , "http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6732921.stm

(12) = Guardian 7 Jun 2007 , 'GBAE accused of secretly paying £1bn to Saudi prince' , "http://www.guardian.co.uk/baefiles/story/0,,2097149,00.html

(13) = Financial Times 07 June 2007 , 'BAE Systems faces allegations of secretly paying Saudi prince' , "http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e37553d2-147f-11dc-88cb-000b5df10621.html

(14) = UN News Centre 24 Nov 2006 , ‘Financial boycott sends Palestinian poverty numbers soaring, finds UN report’, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=20725&Cr=Palestin&Cr1

(15) = Oxfam Apr 2007 , ‘Poverty in Palestine: the human cost of the financial boycott’, http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/briefingnotes/bn070413_palestinian_aid_boycott

(16) = Guardian 22 Mar 2006, ‘Gaza rations food as Israel cuts supplies’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1736323,00.html

(17) = The Independent 01 August 2007 ‘Under siege: drug shortage 'is killing patients in Gaza'’, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2823095.ece

(18) = Associated Press 26 Jan 2006 , ‘Hamas Wins Landslide 76 Seats’, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/01/26/international/i094327S41.DTL&feed=rss.news (cites Fatah corruption as major cause of Hamas victory)

(19) = Haaretz (Israel) 28 Dec 2006 , ‘Israeli defense official: Fatah arms transfer bolsters forces of peace’, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/806603.html

(20) = Christian Science Monitor 25 May 2007, ‘Israel, US, and Egypt back Fatah's fight against Hamas’, http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0525/p07s02-wome.html

(21) = Telegraph 09 Feb 2006, 'Hamas offers deal if Israel pulls out', http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/09/wmid09.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/02/09/ixworld.html

(22) = Guardian 4 Mar 2006 , ‘Hamas says peace possible at Moscow talks’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1723217,00.html

(23) = Guardian 10 Feb 2007 , ‘Hamas deals swift blow to peace deal hopes’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2009867,00.html

(24) = Guardian 22 Jun 2006 ‘Climbdown as Hamas agrees to Israeli state’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1803184,00.html

(25) = House of Commons Library Research Paper 06/17 ; 15 Mar 2006 , ‘The Palestinian Parliamentary Election and the rise of Hamas’, Section C, page 12, http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2006/rp06-017.pdf

(26) = New York Times 25 Nov 2005 , ‘EU critical of Israelis on East Jerusalem’, http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/11/24/news/mideast.php

(27) = Europa (EU) News Service 27 Jan 2006 ‘Palestinian elections: MEPs hail success of democratic process but urge Hamas to take the path of peace’, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/030-4661-026-01-04-903-20060124IPR04643-26-01-2006-2006-false/default_en.htm

(28) = BBC News 16 Nov 2006 , ‘Foreign aid reaching the Palestinians’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6124160.stm (see third section under the sub-heading ‘BYPASSING HAMAS’)

(29) = Guardian Unlimited 16 Aug 2007, 'US offers Israel $30bn in military aid', http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2150248,00.html

(30) = Guardian 30 Jul 2007, ‘US accused of fuelling arms race with $20bn Arab weapons sale’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/armstrade/story/0,,2137577,00.html

(31) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 27-140

(32) = Curtis, Mark (1995), ‘The Ambiguities of Power : British Foreign Policy since 1945', Zed Books, London & New York, 1995 paperback edition - pages 87-96

(33) = U.S. INTEREST IN CENTRAL ASIA:JOHN J. MARESCA , TESTIMONY BY JOHN J. MARESCA VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS UNOCAL CORPORATION TO HOUSE COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON ASIA AND THE PACIFIC , FEBRUARY 12, 1998 WASHINGTON, D.C., http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0f.htm

(34) = Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1997), ‘The Grand Chessboard’ – especially map on page 146

(35) = Guardian 24 Oct 2001, ‘Route to Riches’ , http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,579401,00.html

(36) = BBC News 27 Dec 2002 , ‘Central Asia pipeline deal signed’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/2608713.stm

(37) = In August 2007 Geo News TV of Pakistan reported that Pakistan's government had given a $10 billion contract to International Oil Company (IOC) of the United States to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline. Geo were quoted by the Daily News newspaper of Pakistan (Daily Times 20 Aug 2007, ‘Govt awards TAP pipeline contract to US company’, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C08%5C20%5Cstory_20-8-2007_pg1_3) who were quoted by Alexander's Oil and Gas Connections (Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections 11 Sep 2007, ‘Pakistan awards TAP pipeline contract to US companyhttp://www.gasandoil.com/goc/company/cns73711.htm). Geo's transmissions (based in Dubai) were closed down by Dubai's government after the TV station showed film of anti-Musharraf demonstrations in November 2007 (CNN 16 Nov 2007 , ‘Dubai agrees to pull plug on Pakistani TV networks’, http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/11/16/pakistan.tv/index.html . Since i can find no company of the name "International Oil Company" based in the U.S its hard to know what its based on. The report may be true with the identity of the company not known by the Geo reporter, or it may be a false rumour, or it may be a confusion with the Indian Oil Corporation which also has the acronym IOC.

(38) = Human Rights Watch March 2004, ‘“Enduring Freedom:” - Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan’, http://hrw.org/reports/2004/afghanistan0304/

(39) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 - ‘Torture and Inhumane Treatment: A Deliberate U.S. Policy’, http://hrw.org/wr2k6/introduction/2.htm

(40) = Human Rights Watch 20 May 2005 - ‘Afghanistan: Killing and Torture by U.S. Predate Abu Ghraib', http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/20/afghan10992.htm

(41) = Amnesty International 6 Mar 2006 - ‘Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq', http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engmde140012006

(42) = USA Today 24 Jun 2007, ‘Afghan civilians reportedly killed more by U.S., NATO than insurgents’, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-06-24-karzai_N.htm

(43) = Times 11 Jun 2007 , ‘Taleban fail in rocket attempt on Karzai’s life’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article1913019.ece

copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007

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copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007