In March last year, Ben Bradshaw (for whose Parliamentary Office I worked in 2001), then Junior Minister in the British Foreign Office, answered to the House of Commons in a debate regarding the British government’s stance on the then emerging war-on-Iraq-question. This House sitting even made it into the Bagehot column of the Economist – for it was suspended after a heated exchange in which the MP for Glawgow, Kelvin, George Galloway, accused the Minister of being a liar (which I think some say was a premier for the mother of Parliaments). The most important part is the following (from the Parliamentary Stationary Office) –
Mr. Bradshaw : … My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin made his familiar views known in his inimitable way. Some of the good points that he made on the middle east peace process would, I believe, carry more credibility if he had not made a career of being not just an apologist, but a mouthpiece, for the Iraqi regime over many years.
Mr. Galloway : Why do you not give way on that slander?
Mr. Bradshaw : We are not discussingï¿½
Mr. Galloway : The Minister is a liar.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. John McWilliam) : Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that statement.
Mr. Galloway : The Minister told a lie about me.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that statement.
Mr. Galloway : Why? The Minister told a blatant lie about me. What else could I do. What else can I call it? I demand that he withdraws the allegation against me.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw immediately.
Mr. Galloway : An allegation of dishonorable conduct has been made against me by the Minister. It is an assumption in the House that Members are honorable gentlemen and ladies. His imputation that I am a mouthpiece for a dictator is a clear imputation of dishonor. He is the one who should be withdrawing, not me.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I have no alternative, but to report this matter to the House. I must immediately suspend the sitting for 10 minutes.
Mr. Galloway later apologized to the Speaker and withdrew his statement, while Mr. Bradshaw apologized for applying to Mr. Galloway the phrase he had used (BBC). But according to the Daily Telegraph of March the 7th, 2002, –
Mr Galloway was incandescent. “If I truly was not just an apologist but a mouthpiece for a dictator, whom I was marching in the streets against before Ben Bradshaw had ever been heard of in politics, then I would be dishonourable.”
Well, it looks like Ben Bradshaw was right last year and George Galloway is just that. If a story run yesterday by the Daily Telegraph turns out to be true, he was indeed a mouthpiece for the Iraqi regime, and a well paid one at that – according to documents allegedly recovered from the looted Iraqi foreign office by the newspaper’s reporter David Blair, his annual share of alleged deals with Saddam Hussein’s regime are said to have totalled about ï¿½375,000 (the documents are from early 2000).
Mr. Galloway is going to sue the newspaper for libel so an immediate (more politically motivated) expulsion from the Labour party will be difficult given a pending trial. And, of course, the source of the story as well as the circumstances of the documents’ appearance led to some questions about their credibilty. According to the Guardian –
Yesterday, MPs on the Labour left cast doubt about the validity of the documents, and voiced skepticism at the Daily Telegraph having found them in a bombed and looted room. “I think it’s a miraculous set of circumstances that the Daily Telegraph walks through all the rubble of Baghdad and manages to find a file on George Galloway,” said anti-war MP Jeremy Corbyn.
Galloway himself publicly claims that he is being framed by western intelligence services and the conservative media – he told the Daily Telegraph –
“Maybe it is the product of the same forgers who forged so many other things in this whole Iraq picture. Maybe The Daily Telegraph forged it. Who knows?”
Well, who knows? He probably does. And some “intelligence experts” quoted by the Guardian apparently believe they do, too –
Most intelligence experts claimed yesterday that the documents obtained by the Daily Telegraph are probably the real thing.”
Journalists are always happy to have “experts” backing up their claims. It’s a bit like a footnote in a scientific paper – only very few people will actually question the validity of a reference, and even if, who can claim to have the definitive interpretation? And if “most” intelligence experts agree, that inescapably means “some” do not. Sure, these documents could be forged. But is that likely?
Why kill a dead man? Why try to get rid of the “MP for Baghdad Central” now that he lost his constituency (about which he is said to be happy ;-))? Why plant something like this now that the whole thing is over? If the British government is behind this, and all the evidemce is forged, why not find something intimidating before the war to discredit the opponents? The usual conspiracy-theory-suspects would have screamed then as they do now. Why do it in such a way that more people than necessary actually do contemplate about this possibility?
In think, this is a classic example of one of the sociological reasons for conspiracy theories – apparently we (read: human beings) have a tendency not to believe that important things in public life can happen by pure chance, despite our likely overwhelming personal experience that points to the opposite (or even chaos theory). If a reporter accidentally stumbles over a card-board box labeled “Galloway”, this reminds us of a James Bond screenplay. And in a movie, we do know that, things never happen by chance. Maybe we have all watched too many films to quietly accept that in real life even important events can be triggered by a strange coincidence.
Like it or not, sometimes life seems to follow a C-movie screenplay.