He had crossed the Atlantic to clear his name. But, far from showing the usual deference of witnesses before the US Congress, George Galloway went on the attack. Appearing before a Senate committee, the maverick British member of parliament rejected charges that he profited from Iraq’s oil-for-food programme. It is claimed options to buy and sell Iraqi oil were given as rewards for supporting Saddam Hussein’s regime, with Galloway accused of owning rights to 20 million barrels under the defunct humanitarian scheme.
It is alleged he paid kickbacks in return. “It is actually surreal to hear in this room this morning that I am being accused of giving money to Saddam Hussein,” Galloway told the committee. “This is utterly preposterous, utterly preposterous. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one and neither has anybody on my behalf.”
Galloway, who was thrown out of Britain’s ruling Labour Party for his comments on Iraq, used the hearing as a platform to attack the US-led invasion. He told the committee, chaired by Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, that its evidence against him was false. “Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad,” he said.
Galloway also told the committee that he had met Saddam twice – the same number of times, he said, as the US Defence Secretary. “The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns” he said. “I met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war.”