Over the course of his long career in the Commons, George Galloway has become a unique figure on the British political landscape. Describing himself as a “revolutionary,” he hates Britain, hates America, hates the West, hates democracy, hates capitalism. And he hates them all so very much that he seems to love every form of despotism that represents a challenge to these things. The worst day of his life, he has said, was the day the USSR fell. As Christopher Hitchens once noted, Galloway has been involved ever since in “the pathetic search for an alternative fatherland.” He found it in Saddam’s Iraq, gushing that “just as Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq’s own Great Leap Forward.”
While savaging leaders in the U.S., Britain, and elsewhere in the West, Galloway was an unapologetic fan of Saddam, whom he visited twice in Baghdad. In a 1994 speech, he addressed the bloodthirsty tyrant directly, saying: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” When Saddam invaded Kuwait, Galloway defended him, calling Kuwait – counterfactually – “clearly a part of the greater Iraqi whole, stolen from the motherland by perfidious Albion.” He also whitewashed Saddam’s massacre of Kurds and Shias, insisting that there was “massive violence on both sides.”
In 2002, the Mail published an “interview” Galloway held with Saddam, in which their chumminess comes through vividly. He also palled around with Saddam’s son Usay, known as “The Wolf,” whose own barbaric practices include the killing of thousands of people and the torturing of athletes who didn’t perform as well as expected. Recordings exist of George and Usay joking about weight loss and putting down the U.S. “I’d like you to know,” the Scots MP promised the Iraqi tyrant’s heir, “that we are with you till the end.”
If he was friendly with Saddam and son, he was even closer to Saddam’s deputy premier, Tariq Aziz. While Aziz was in power, Galloway counseled him on warfare: “Don’t stand in lines, or hunker down in trenches….You will be mown down or buried alive.” When fighting a superpower, he advised, stay in motion. “I brought Tariq Aziz all the writings of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung on the arts of revolutionary war and he had them translated into Arabic,” Galloway later claimed. “Fight a war of movement, take the uniforms off, swim among the Iraqi people and whatever their views on the regime, they will undoubtedly provide deep aquifers of support for a patriotic resistance.”
In 2006, by which time Aziz had been taken into custody by U.S. forces, Galloway wrote him a letter of sympathy that began “Your excellency, dear brother, friend.” Describing Aziz’s detention as “cruel and unjustified,” Galloway told Aziz: “I have thought of you and of the long days and nights we spent in each other’s company….I have made many enemies in this struggle. They are your enemies also. They are my enemies because I am your friend.”
But Galloway’s Iraqi ties are only a tiny part of a very large and ugly picture. More tomorrow.