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George Galloway returns for a speaking tour
Exposing the big lie

September 16, 2005 | Page 4

GEORGE GALLOWAY is the British antiwar leader and newly elected member of parliament who electrified the U.S. in May when he put George Bush's congressional allies on trial during an appearance before a Senate subcommittee.

The subcommittee's investigation of the United Nations oil-for-food program accused him of corruption, but the fiery Galloway--fresh from an election victory against an ally of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had engineered Galloway's expulsion from the Labour Party--turned the tables on them. CNN's Wolf Blitzer described Galloway's speech in the Senate as "a blistering attack on U.S. senators rarely heard" in Washington.

This month, Galloway returns to the U.S. for a speaking tour called "Stand Up and Be Counted: No to War and Occupation."

The tour is attracting widespread attention, even from the prowar media--especially one of the early highlights: Galloway's debate with ex-leftist-turned-right-wing-pundit Christopher Hitchens in New York City on September 14 (the debate will be streamed on the Internet). Galloway will be joined along the rest of the tour by opponents of Bush's war--including actor Jane Fonda, Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace, singer Joan Baez and military resister Camilo Mejía.

Here, Socialist Worker reprints excerpts of an interview with Galloway that was published in the current issue of the International Socialist Review--one of the lead sponsors of the speaking tour. You can read the full interview at the ISR Web site.

TODAY, PEOPLE who are apologists for the occupation of Iraq say that without U.S. or British forces there, there would be civil war. What's your view?

I KNOW the Iraqi people very well, and I have the fullest confidence that they are not in need of foreign forces to mend their broken state. There are people who are trying to foment one--some of them, playing with fire, don't really want one, but want to keep the danger of one right at the top of the agenda for their own political purposes. But there is no civil war in Iraq. There's a war by the Iraqi resistance against the occupying foreign forces and their domestic collaborators.

This is the case in every anti-colonial struggle. In Vietnam, the Vietnamese people's resistance was meted out both to the foreign army and their domestic collaborators. In every anti-colonial struggle, that is true.

Now, it does happen to be the case that most of the collaborator forces of the puppet regime in Baghdad are Shiite Muslims. They are being attacked not because they are Shiites, but because they are collaborators, because they are part of the occupation state. That does not constitute a civil war.

Of course, there's an absolute requirement on the resistance, and this is something I say in every one of my speeches here and in the Middle East, and in my daily communication with Iraq. It is an obligation of the resistance to so conduct its resistance as to minimize the danger of civil war--to conduct itself in a way that is tending toward bringing the Shiite Muslim population into the resistance.

Many, of course, are in the resistance--some of them armed, and some of them not armed. In the latter case, some of them not armed, but who have been armed in the past and might be armed again in the future. I'm thinking, for example, of Moqtada al Sadr's group, and his Mahdi Army, which is not involved in armed struggle at the moment, but is collecting signatures--has collected more than a million signatures--demanding an end to the occupation. It regularly organizes demonstrations and other mass activity. They are a part of the resistance, albeit one that at the moment is not actually fighting the occupation militarily.

But there are many Shiites in the resistance fighting the occupation. And we must all conduct everything that we do with a view to maximizing the unity of the Iraqi people, and struggling against any tendency towards division on a confessional, sectarian, or ethnic basis.

But much more has been made of this than is the case. If you talk with Iraqis, there's far less of this apparent confessional strife than is routinely reported and puffed up here in the Western media. Most Iraqis, including most Shiites, believe themselves to be Iraqis first, Muslims next, and Sunnis and Shiites third. So we shouldn't exaggerate this problem, but we must struggle to address this problem, and I am all the time trying to encourage that.

Now, as to the danger of civil war if the occupier withdraws--that is, of course, what every occupier always says: We have more experience of this here than you do. We've occupied more countries for longer. And it is always the case that the occupier claims that he'd like to go, but he can't really go because the natives would tear each other apart. That simply isn't true.

WHAT DO you think accounts for the U.S. quagmire in Iraq?

I THINK, as George Bush himself might put it, they "misunderestimated" the Iraqis. They thought that this would be a pushover, and they thought that it would then act as a terrorizing big stick for others, and the other dominos in the region would fall, and the world would take note and be suitably terrified of American power. But, of course, if I may be allowed to quote Chairman Mao in your magazine, the enemy sometimes struggles mightily to lift a huge stone, only to drop it on its own feet. And that's precisely what they've done.

Instead of terrorizing the world with American power, they have demonstrated the limits of American power. They have demonstrated that America has ferocious power in the air, above rocket-propelled grenade range, but they cannot control a single street in a country that's resisting them. And that has effectively stopped them in their tracks. So I think it was an opportunistic attack by Bush on Iraq. He thought in the wake of 9/11 that it was a smart idea to achieve both the goal of taking control of Iraq, but also terrorizing the world and knocking over a few dominos in the region, principally Iran and Syria, and no doubt forcing countries like North Korea and others to bow the knee to American power.

YOUR SPEECH in May before a U.S. Senate subcommittee electrified debate in the U.S. about the war on Iraq and inspired antiwar activists across the country. It was such a breath of fresh air when you told Reuters in plain terms: "I have no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chair-man-ship of a neocon George Bush who is prowar. I come not as the accused but as the accuser." And it brought a smile to the faces of many antiwar activists when you called Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), the chair of the committee, a "prowar, neocon hawk and the lickspittle of George W. Bush." But did you expect that you'd have such an impact, that your appearance and criticisms would make headlines around the world?

NO, I really didn't. I was extremely keen to have a go, and many years of pent-up wishes came true, and I knew that it had gone well when I walked outside the door. But my first indication was when a Black janitor in the building punched the air and said, "Way to go, bro. You sent George Bush back to his ranch." He was the first person I encountered as I came out of the building. I better not identify him further, in case he loses his job, but he is an employee of the U.S. government.

I then went to the Aljazeera studios in Washington, and they told me that it had been broadcast live by them--the whole thing, forty-five minutes or so--and I later learned that twenty-three million people had watched it on Aljazeera live. Frankly, a good proportion of them wrote to me and phoned me since. And I had a hero's welcome, really, in the Middle East over the last two weeks. I got more than 22,000 e-mails from the United States alone, which is pretty phenomenal. Almost all of them were friendly, and that's funny, because whenever I write an article, say, in the Guardian, most of the e-mails I get are from the United States, and most of them are hostile, and some of them in the most lurid and awful terms. But, on this occasion, so complete was the victory, I think, that the enemy went back into its Foxhole (emphasis on Fox with a capital "F").

I DID read an article by one detractor you may be familiar with, named Christopher Hitchens, who wrote that he was appalled that you would be so rude and contemptuous towards a body so esteemed as a U.S. Senate Subcommittee.

TOWARDS MY betters, yeah. I noticed he reached for the phrase "working class" when describing me. That seemed to be the thing that stuck in his throat, that unlike him I had no gilded youth or Oxbridge education, I left school and went to work in a factory, and I learned my trade in the labor movement. He accentuated that in everything that he wrote--"working-class white boy" and insults like that. He is the perfect definition of Ernest Hemingway's description of a popinjay in Death in the Afternoon. I commend it to you--the word could have been invented for Christopher Hitchens, possibly with prescience, was. But I don't honestly take him seriously. Very few people in Britain do, and I hope fewer people in America do--now that he has crawled across the political terrain to the extent that he is virtually a George Bush script writer and cheerleader.

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