Thursday, April 26, 2012

George Galloway has his faults - but compared to Blair, Biden, Bush, Cameron or Clinton he's a model of honesty and decency

Many of by-election winner George Galloway's political enemies condemn him for flattering Saddam in 1994 and saying Assad was a reformer in 2005. Like most people (most definitely including me) he has plenty of faults. He can be a bit over the top, seem arrogant, exaggerate sometimes, make mistakes, be intolerant of those who disagree with him and sometimes (e.g on Tibet) I completely disagree with him.

He also sometimes talks as though anyone who is an enemy of the US government and it's allies must basically be in the right or admirable (though not nearly as often as some of his critics suggest). Those faults pale in comparison with some of his political enemies' statements and actions and duplicity though, but his political enemies don't get nearly the same amount of condemnation that most of the media have for Galloway.

Tony Blair called President Mubarak of Egypt "immensely courageous and a force for good" even after Mubarak had protesters killed by police (1). US Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile claimed Mubarak was "not a dictator" on the grounds that he was an ally of the US and no ally of the US could possibly be a bad man (2). US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's initial view of Mubarak's killing of protesters was that "the Egyptian government is stable and looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people" (3).

To be fair some Republicans were outraged by these statements - they wanted the US government to be even more supportive of Mubarak (4). The Obama administration did eventually call for Mubarak to step down - in favour of his vice President and chief torturer Omar Suleiman (5).

I must have missed Times columnist and Tony Blair fan David Aaronovitch's ringing condemnations of Blair, Biden and Clinton for this pandering to murdering dictators.

Aaronovitch, in one of his Times columns, claims Galloway praised Assad as a reformer in April 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings (6). The only reports from any mainstream source which I can find of Galloway praising Assad as a reformer are from 2005 and 2006, when everyone thought Bashar Al Assad might turn out to be a reformer (at least compared to his father) (7). US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still said Assad was considered a reformer on 27th March 2011, two days after around 23 protesters were reported shot dead in a single protest in Syria (8) - (9). Again, I must have missed Aaronovitch's condemnation of Hillary Clinton for this - I did see him condemn Galloway for saying something similar though.

(Aaronovitch's article includes the line "Mr Galloway would not have stood in Bradford West had it not contained a very substantial Muslim population." which sounds a lot like the kind of prejudice against Muslims that was common against Jews before the Holocaust was widely known about after World War Two)

Galloway had written a blog post in August 2011 condemning Assad's forces' actions as terrorism and those of a police state and saying there was a "genuine popular uprising" in Syria, while also pointing to a minority among the anti-Assad movement of armed sectarian Sunni extremists who are being backed by various foreign powers for their own ends - a much more balanced analysis of what's going on there than Aaronovitch's ridiculously one sided one (10).

This was seven months before Aaronovitch's column, but Aaronovitch made no mention of it.

(Again, I don't disagree with Aaronovitch on everything. Sometimes he's right, but on most things to do with the Middle East, Muslims, Tony Blair or Iraq, Aaronovitch has either fallen for propaganda or else is one of the propagandists - which I don't know)

What's much worse than their statements of support for dictatorships is that the Obama administration (like the Bush administration before it) and the Coalition government, like 'New Labour' before it, have not only praised but also armed many dictatorships as they're committing massacres - just like all their predecessors.

When Saddam was actually committing genocide against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s (during the Iran-Iraq war) the British and US and French and Russian and Chinese governments were arming and funding him against the Iranians under Ayatollah Khomeini. Funding from the US government continued after the gassing of Halabja in 1988 and arms sales and "dual-use" exports to Iraq continued to be quietly approved by the American and British governments until 1990 (see the blog post on this link and sources 5 to 10 on it as well as this document and this one from the US National Security Archive on sales of US helicopters and heavy trucks to Saddam).

While Galloway signed eight parliamentary motions condemning and calling for an end to US and British support for Saddam between the gassing of Halabja and 1990, Tony Blair MP refused to sign any of them (11).

Similarly today the US government has continued it's $1.3 billion a year military aid funding to Egypt (plus approving arms sales ) under it's military regime, just as it did under Mubarak, despite the fact that Amnesty International found Mubarak was having people tortured and killed ; and that they have since repeatedly reported that the military regime that replaced him is as bad or worse than Mubarak was . The decision seems to have been that heavily subsidised arms industry jobs in America were worth more than peoples' lives or democracy in Egypt (12) - (14).

The US and British governments have also continued arms and supposedly "non-lethal" tear gas sales ( with tear gas having killed dozens of people when used in high concentrations in Bahrain already) and military training to the forces of the dictators of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (calling them 'monarchies' is supposed to make their torture and murder and dictatorship more legitimate somehow) as their forces torture and kill protesters (15) - (19).

Tony Blair, who claimed he sent British troops into Iraq to free Iraqis from a brutal dictator (before going on to involve them in US led war crimes and torture) ; accepted money from a South Korean oil firm looking for contracts in Iraq - and has since become a paid public relations consultant for the brutal dictator of Kazakhstan who has striking oil workers and protesters gunned down by security forces with machine guns (20) - (22).

So which is worse? Flattering one dictator once and saying another might be a reformer when most other people also thought that was a possibility? ; or arming and funding dictatorships as they torture, kill and even commit genocide?

I don't agree Galloway on everything - for instance his claim that Tibet has always been part of China sounds to me a lot like the argument made by extreme Israeli hardliners that the West Bank has always been part of Israel on the basis of some 4,000 year old biblical Kingdom of Israel.

However, despite all his faults, compared to most of his political enemies and rivals George Galloway is a fairly honest and straightforward man. Compared to snake oil salesmen like Tony Blair and David Cameron he's almost a saint.

(1) = 02 Feb 2011 'Tony Blair: Mubarak is 'immensely courageous and a force for good'',

(2) = ABC News 27 Jan 2011 'VP Biden Calls Egyptian President Mubarak an “Ally” – and Would Not Call Him a Dictator',

(3) = Reuters 25 Jan 2012 'US urges restraint in Egypt, says government stable',

(4) = ABC News 02 Feb 2011 'Republican Presidential Hopefuls Critique Obama on Egypt',

(5) = Observer / 06 Feb 2011 ' Egypt protests: Hosni Mubarak's power fades as US backs his deputy',

(6) = Times 31 March 2012 'So why did he choose to stand in Bradford?' by David Aaronovitch

(7) = BBC News 19 Nov 2005 'Galloway praises Syrian president ',

(8) = Washington Post blog 04 April 2011 'Hillary Clinton’s uncredible statement on Syria' ,

(9) = Haaretz 25 March 2011 'At least 23 said killed as protesters in Syria clash with security forces',

(10) = Vote George Galloway blog 15 Aug 2011 'George Galloway on Syria',

(11) = Guardian 18 March 2003 , 'Diary' ,

(12) = NYT 23 Mar 2012 'Once Imperiled, U.S. Aid to Egypt Is Restored',

(13) = Amnesty International 22 Nov 2011 'Egypt: Military rulers have 'crushed' hopes of 25 January protesters',

(14) = Amnesty 22 Feb 2012 'Egypt: Recent security force policing 'reminiscent of Mubarak' era',

(15) = Independent On Sunday 15 Jan 2012 'Britain accused of hypocrisy over Arab arms sales' ,

(16) = Amnesty International USA blog 30 Jan 2012 'U.S. Arms Sales to Bahrain: 4 Questions for the Obama Administration',

(17) = Physicians for Human Rights 'Tear-Gas Related Deaths in Bahrain : March 2011 - March 2012',

(18) = Observer 28 May 2011 'UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring' ,

(19) = Amnesty International 17 Apr 2012 'Bahrain: Reforms risk appearing hollow as violations continue',
; 'But... in practice, the security forces remain largely unaffected by these institutional forces continue to face protesters with unnecessary and excessive force - particularly tear gas, which has resulted in several deaths in recent months. At least 60 people have now been killed in connection with protests since February the same time as police reforms are being introduced with much fanfare, detainees are facing torture'

(20) = Guardian 17 Mar 2010 'Tony Blair got cash for deal with South Korean oil firm',

(21) = Independent 31 Oct 2011 'The two faces of Tony Blair',

(22) = 16 Feb 2011 'Clashes between police and sacked oil workers in Kazakhstan leave 10 dead',

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