Galloway is quite the ham pseudo-radical of a species that only Britain, in its venerable, centuries-long tolerance of cranks and eccentrics, could condescend to produce. He is unafraid of abasing himself before tyrant and transsexual alike (see his unforgettable performance as a kitty lapping at a saucer of milk at the behest of Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns on the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother), and he is adept at navigating the fault line between tragedy and farce. Galloway is the suicide bomber of Western politics.
A former member of the Labour Party, Galloway was expelled in 2003 when, as acting vice president of the Stop the War Coalition, he told an interviewer on Abu Dhabi TV that the Labour government had become “Tony Blair’s lie machine” and that “the best thing British troops [in Iraq] can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders.” Since then, he has been an ostentatious member of the so-called RESPECT Coalition, made up of the all-but-irrelevant Socialist Workers’ Party and a hodgepodge of obscurantist Islamists. (RESPECT has since succumbed to a fratricidal dispute that nearly parodies the violent clash between Fatah and Hamas: the unelectable Marxists want dominance over the electable theocrats, and the theocrats want nothing to do with “progressive” events such as gay pride parades.)
There really hasn’t been a totalitarian regime in the last quarter century to which Galloway has failed to lend his support. He once said the disappearance of the Soviet Union was “the biggest catastrophe of [his] life,” prefiguring Vladimir Putin’s woozy nostalgia for good the old days. Although naturally an opponent of the Anglo-American overthrow of the Taliban, Galloway did previously endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He also openly supported Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War, telling the Iraqi dictator in Baghdad, “I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability,” words he has since claimed were — what else — taken out of context. Surely this admission in Galloway’s autobiography I’m Not the Only One is as pellucid as any statement he makes on his largely ignored late night radio talk show: “Just as Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraqis own Great Leap Forward. He managed to keep his country together until 1991.”
Of the jihadists now operating in Iraq, Galloway declared, in a 2005 speech at the al-Assad Library in Damascus, “These poor Iraqis — ragged people, with their sandals, with their Kalashnikovs, with the lightest and most basic of weapons, are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable by the people who occupy it.” Of the Assad dynasty in Syria, he also said on that occasion, “I have one hundred percent agreement with Syria’s policies on the international level, but on domestic level there are points of difference. But, when it comes to defending Syria’s integrity and dignity from foreign attack, this is another point. And I am with Syria.”
Both the U.S. Senate and the independent Volcker Commission implicated Galloway as an illegal profiteer of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program. Although the British House of Commons found “no evidence” to substantiate this charge, the key bank accounts used to funnel the ill-gotten Baathist cash were never examined or audited by the investigating committee. It did, however, suspend Galloway from parliamentary service for a different infraction, this one relating to his affiliation with another dodgy “charity,” Mariam Appeal, whose unstated goal was ending the Iraqi sanctions. Galloway’s Iraq point man for Mariam Appeal was a Jordanian businessman, Fawaz Zureikat, whose name turns up repeatedly in recovered Oil-for-Food documents produced by the former Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization. Indeed, on the substantive merits of the case against him, Galloway has never adequately answered the questions that Christopher Hitchens and I posed to him in our 2005 dossier regarding his involvement in this international crime. (Lest you think it presumptuous of us to have expected him to read our little pamphlet, copies of it were distributed outside the venue in Manhattan where Hitchens that same year debated the Scottish terrier, to the accompaniment of much media coverage.)
Perhaps most relevant to the current news cycle is the fact that Galloway has been to Canada before. Two years ago he visited Ottawa as the guest of honor at the 74th anniversary of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the black shirt outfit responsible recently for roughing up Hitchens, Michael Totten, and Jonathan Foreman in Beirut. The SSNP’s flag carries a logo that is a conspicuous imitation of the Nazi swastika, and its anthem is sung to the tune “Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles.”
How nice, then, that a liberal democracy often assailed for its capitulation to Islamic speech codes and political correctness has managed to turn away an abettor of terrorism and a preening blimp that has never refused an ideology that would gladly have him for a martyr.