WASHINGTON, May 17: Anti-war British Member of Parliament George Galloway told a US Senate committee on Tuesday that the allegation he had profited from oil dealings with Saddam Hussein were baseless. Accusing American senators of being “remarkably cavalier” with justice, Mr Galloway declared: “I am not now nor have I ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one and neither has anybody on my behalf.”
Senator Norm Coleman, who heads the committee investigating Saddam Hussein’s oil deals, had earlier accused Mr. Galloway of receiving allocations from the former Iraqi dictator for up to 20 million barrels between 2000 to 2003. Mr. Galloway forcefully defended his position soon after taking the oath and said he had been a stronger opponent of the Saddam regime than any member of the British or American governments.
“I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas,” he declared. Mr. Galloway said he had met Saddam Hussein on two occasions — the same number of times as US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and maps — the better to target those guns. I met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war,” he said.
He said the biggest sanctions busters were American companies with the connivance of the US government. Companies like Halliburton, he said, were stealing Iraqi money and the money of US taxpayers. Mr. Galloway denied being an apologist for the former Iraqi leader and Said that all the documents purporting to be evidence against him were forgeries.
The MP said he gave his “heart and soul” and “political life blood” to oppose sanctions against Iraq, and the disaster of invading Iraq. Mr. Galloway was forced to listen to over an hour of evidence against him presented to the Senate committee.
“I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice,” he said.
“I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever and you call that justice.”
He flatly rejected an accusation that he was the owner of a company which had made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil. He said the lists on which his name appeared had been provided by “the convicted bank robber and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi.”
“What counts is not the names on the paper. What counts is where’s the money, Senator? Who paid me money, Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody and if you had anybody who paid me a penny you would have produced them here today.” he said.
Mr. Galloway said one of the Iraq officials who was said to have given evidence against him was being held in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib prison on war crimes charges.
“I am not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything which you managed to get from a prisoner in those circumstances,” he said. Mr Galloway said the sub-committee had committed a schoolboy howler in its presentation of the documents which had undermined its whole case.
He said it was a proven fact that there had been forged documents circulating linking him to the oil-for-food programme. He described the sub-committee’s claims as the “mother of all smokescreens” intended to divert attention from the crimes committed in the invasion of Iraq.
“Senator, in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies,” he said.
Agencies add: Far from showing the usual deference of witnesses before Congress, the Scotsman defiantly told the Senate committee its evidence against him was false, condemned its investigation and demanded to know why it had not checked with him first before making its allegations.
Mr Galloway bluntly confronted the Republican chairman of the committee, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and challenged the attorney to back up claims the British MP profited handsomely from the now defunct oil-for-food program. Some of his harshest remarks concerned Mr Coleman’s support for the invasion of Iraq.
Mr Galloway later told reporter he felt Coleman had failed in his cross-examination. “He’s not much of a lyncher,” he said. Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee, told senators Galloway had used his cancer charity “Mariam’s Appeal” to conceal these allocations and provided several Oil Ministry documents referring to the charity.
Greenblatt said a senior Iraqi official interviewed by the committee’s investigators again in Baghdad on Monday, had confirmed allegations against Galloway and authenticated Iraqi oil ministry documents.