British Labour MP George Galloway speaks on The Truth About The War On Iraq in an event sponsored by the Muslim Canadian Congress at the Music Hall Sunday (October 19) at 2 pm. Galloway, a vociferous critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, shot into international prominence earlier this year after reports in the Christian Science Monitor and Daily Telegraph alleged he was on Saddam Hussein's payroll. The CSM has since apologized for its story. Galloway spoke to NOW from his home in London this week. An excerpt:
QUESTION: The Christian Science Monitor has apologized for its story, but the Daily Telegraph has not backed down. They have in fact posted documents on their Web site.
ANSWER: The Telegraph is not claiming in its statement of defence that the story was true, but merely that documents existed and that they had a qualified privilege, a public interest right, to publish them. They do not assert that what is in those documents is true, and neither should anybody else. But, for the record, I'll be very clear. The explicit message in the documents that I was financially benefiting from the Iraqi regime either from contracts or in any way is an odious and fantastic lie.
QUESTION: Who is out to get you, George Galloway?
ANSWER: You don't need to be a genius to work out who has a reason to damage or maybe even destroy one of the leaders of the anti-war movement in Britain. It wouldn't be the first time a person like me has been singled out for that kind of smear and dirty-tricks conspiracy.
QUESTION: Obviously, other MPs have spoken out against the war, but you're facing expulsion from the Labour party?
ANSWER: It hasn't happened in the last 50 years. But yesterday's British press reported that Glenda Jackson, the Labour MP (and former Oscar winner), is now being threatened with expulsion because of her criticism of the Blair leadership. It would appear to me something's catching. I can only put it down to the insecurity of the Blair clique in the wake of this fantastic blunder they have committed. They realize that public opinion is marching steadily away.
QUESTION: The director of prosecutions is also seeking to have you tried as a traitor?
ANSWER: It's not quite as bad as that. The Sun newspaper, owed by the esteemed Robert Murdoch, has financed a group of so-called forces families to bring a private prosecution against me under the 1923 Treason Act.
I have never believed in the concept of 'my country, right or wrong." Once when I was at primary school I came home and told my Irish grandfather that the teacher had said the British had an empire so vast the sun never set on it. And my grandfather answered, 'That's because god would never trust a Brit in the dark." I never had any cause to doubt him.
QUESTION: You're married to a Palestinian woman. How did your interest in the Arab world develop?
ANSWER: I wouldn't want you to think that I approve all things Arab, that I'm some sort of Lawrence of Arabia figure. I got into all of this really quite by chance. I was in the Labour party office in the Scottish city of Dundee in the early 1970s when a young Palestinian student, an Omar Sharif look-alike, came to the door and said he wanted to speak about Palestine, and after two hours of listening to him I was signed up.
QUESTION: You have met Mr. Hussein on two occasions?
ANSWER: As many times as Donald Rumsfeld has, except Rumsfeld was trying to sell him guns and gas and I wasn't.
QUESTION: I read that he offered you candy?
ANSWER: It's funny you say that, because I'm just writing in my book that the last time Tariq Aziz saw Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld tried to get the Iraqi government to buy saccharin.
QUESTION: What do you think of Mr. Hussein? What is it that we Westerners don't understand about him?
ANSWER: We're being encouraged to have a double standard. Alongside Iraq is Saudi Arabia, one of the most brutal, medieval and undemocratic societies in the world, and it's our best friend. This is immoral.
QUESTION: Even the actor John Malkovich has said he'd like to take a shot at you, literally. Are you afraid for your safety?
ANSWER: I fear only God.
QUESTION: One of your critics says you suffer from over-the-top-ism and pariah worship, and you glory in the ability to rub people the wrong way. How do you respond to that?
ANSWER: That's Andrew Roth. He's an American Zionist enemy of mine.
QUESTION: Your critics paint a portrait of you as rather vain, someone who likes to wear Armani suits and hear himself speak.
ANSWER: I have never owned an Armani suit. I never in my life had a silk shirt. I have two cars, one second-hand and one third-hand. I smoke cigars, but I don't drink alcohol or gamble. This is cheap tabloid journalism.
QUESTION: I've read that you consider Che Guevara a hero of yours. Che Guevara's face is all over the world on T-shirts. I see that your face is on T-shirts as well, only they say 'Enemy of the State."
ANSWER: I've seen pictures of them on the Internet. But I wouldn't like you to think I compare myself to Che Guevara.
QUESTION: Where did the nickname 'Gorgeous George" come from?
ANSWER: I think the Artist formerly known as Gorgeous George would be more like it. I wasn't bad- looking in my early years.
QUESTION: So those stories about your exploits...
ANSWER: I'm afraid they belong in the drawer marked 'myth."
QUESTION: And no sex orgies with (Saddam's son) Uday?
ANSWER: (Laughs.) Make my day and publish that. If your libel laws are as strict as you say they are, I'll see you in court.