By Wayne Madsen

British Member of Parliament George Galloway presented the U.S. Senate with the best tongue lashing since U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch excoriated Senator Joseph McCarthy over his witch hunt directed at one of Welch’s law firm associates who had been a member of the Lawyer’s Guild: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

The May 17 testimony by Galloway, the newly-elected Respect Party member for East London’s Bethnal Green and Bow constituency was in response to a report issued by Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman’s Permanent Select Subcommittee on Investigations that charged Galloway with personally profiting from Iraq’s United Nations Oil-for-Food program.

For Galloway, it was déj^ vu. He had already successfully fended off charges that he accepted oil money from Saddam Hussein and successfully sued the neoconservative- owned Daily Telegraph for libel. Articles in the Telegraph and Christian Science Monitor citing documents from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry implicating Galloway in the Oil-for-Food scandal were later determined to be forgeries.

Shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. occupation authorities in Iraq invited Telegraph reporters into the bombed out remains of Iraqi intelligence headquarters. Among the documents “found” by the paper’s reporters were those that “revealed” that Galloway had solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from Iraq, funds skimmed from the Oil-for-Food program.

Coleman’s committee resurrected the spurious charges against Galloway in its report. Mark L. Greenblatt, the Counsel for the Committee, relied on new suspicious documents said to have been obtained from the Iraqi Oil Ministry, now run by convicted bank embezzler and disinformation source Ahmad Chalabi. In addition, former Saddam officials Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and an unnamed “senior official” of the regime, who are all incarcerated in U.S. military prisons awaiting trials that could lead to the death penalty, were all cited by Coleman’s committee as supporting the documents used to charge Galloway and his humanitarian charity Mariam’s Appeal with accepting oil proceeds from Iraq. Coleman stated that the ex-Iraqi officials were not looking for leniency in describing Iraq’s oil deals with foreign officials. However, Coleman failed to state that the chief Iraqi prosecutor for the upcoming trials is Salem Chalabi, the nephew of Ahmad Chalabi, whose oil ministry was reported by the committee to have produced the questionable documents. Salem is also a law partner of Marc Zell, the East Jerusalem-based former law partner of outgoing Pentagon official Douglas Feith, whose former aide, Lawrence A. Franklin, has been indicted for passing classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – a major funder of Coleman’s political campaigns and multiple trips to Israel – and Israeli embassy officials.

Poorly reproduced copies produced by the committee indicated that a Jordanian businessman and philanthropist named Fawaz Zuraiqat was the middleman for the oil transactions. Zuraiqat, who did business in Iraq during Saddam’s regime, became the chairman of Mariam’s Appeal after Galloway stepped down.

During the testimony, Greenblatt testified that the unnamed official was asked, “Did Iraq grant oil allocations to Galloway?” The counsel said the official tersely responded with, “Yes.” Greenblatt also testified that the senior unnamed official confirmed “a document” used as proof against Galloway was authentic. Coleman asked Greenblatt how he knew the documents in question were genuine. Greenblatt responded that they “corroborate with other documents.” Galloway later pointed out in his testimony that other documents from the same time period as those produced by the committee were proven to be forgeries.

The committee’s documents allegedly obtained from the Iraqi Oil Ministry contain references to an oil company called Aredio Petroleum Company. One document contains the words “Fawaz Zuraiqat – Mariam’s Appeal” in parentheses after “Aredio Petroleum Company.” Galloway testified that he had never heard of Aredio Petroleum before the Senate hearing. Galloway and observers at the press conference noted that the committee not only translated the Oil Ministry documents and prepared a manipulated version to serve as report exhibits but also covered the poorly-copied Arabic versions with the manipulated English copies, making it impossible to read in their entirety the original Arabic text.

Carl Levin, who once was also accused by neoconservatives of accepting Oil-for-Food money from Saddam Hussein’s government, concentrated on the role of Bayoil, a Houston-based company, in evading Iraqi sanctions and profiting from the Oil-for-Food program.

One “beneficiary list” – supposedly found in the archives of the Iraqi Oil Ministry and translated by the shadowy Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Washington, DC-based group with links to Israel’s Likud Party – contained the name Shaker Al-Khafajji, an Iraqi-American businessman who was reported to have given $400,000 to former UN weapons inspector and war critic Scott Ritter to produce a documentary. According to the alleged oil ministry documents, Al-Khafajji was said to have received a 10.5 million barrel oil allocation from Iraq. That same list contained the name of George Galloway, who was listed as a recipient or co-recipient of 19 million barrels of Iraqi oil. Galloway’s Mariam’s Appeal contributor and later chairman Fawaz Zureikat (the spelling used in the MEMRI documents), was said to have received 6 million barrels. The list was also published in Baghdad by a new independent newspaper named Al Mada,

When pressed by Coleman if he knew that Mariam’s Appeal, named for an Iraqi girl who was battling cancer, had received money from Saddam through Zuraiqat, Galloway said that the Jordanian businessman was the charity’s third largest donor (375,000 British pounds) after United Arab Emirates President Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayan and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Galloway said Zuraiqat made introductions on behalf of Mariam’s Appeal in Baghdad and that he was not aware of all of Zuraiqat’s business dealings. Galloway said that Coleman likely “didn’t know what business his AIPAC donators were involved in.” Galloway drew the committee’s attention to the fact that British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith ordered the British Charity Commission to investigate Mariam’s Appeal and found “no problem” after “every penny in and out” were scrutinized. He said the audit found no donations from Aredio Petroleum as alleged in the committee documents. Galloway said Zuraiqat never gave him any money from “an oil deal, a cake deal, or a bread deal.”

The charges brought by Coleman’s committee largely rehashed the original accusations contained in the MEMRI-laundered documents. Those same MEMRI documents contained the names of French Senator and former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, who was also cited in the Coleman Committee documents. Other recipients named in the MEMRI-tainted documents included the very same Russian political parties and leaders mentioned in the Coleman Committee report, including Vladimir Zhironovsky’s Russian Liberal Democratic Party. Even an adviser to anti-war Pope John Paul II, French priest Father Jean-Marie Benjamin, was implicated in the MEMRI documents. Benjamin was accused of accepting 4.5 million barrels of oil because he arranged a meeting between Tariq Aziz, an Iraqi Christian, and the Pope. Benjamin is Secretary General of the Assisi-based Beato Angelica Foundation and once served as a special events official for UNICEF where he collaborated with the late actors Peter Ustinov and Audrey Hepburn.

In addition to anti-Iraq war political parties, politicians, and businessmen in France, Russia, Britain, Indonesia, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Serbia, Canada, Lebanon, Palestine, Brazil, Egypt, India, South Africa, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, China, Vietnam, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, Pakistan, Chad, Myanmar, Belarus, Austria, and Ukraine, U.S. politicians who opposed the Iraqi war were also implicated because they supposedly (according to the neocon spin machine of newspapers and web sites) accepted campaign contributions from Al-Khafajji. Among Al-Khafajji’s recipients were Michigan Democrats Carl Levin, David Bonior, and John Conyers, as well as Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s 1996 presidential campaign. The neocons claimed that all five Democratic leaders were involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal by association with Al-Khafajji’s political donations.

According to the Calgary Sun, Canadian Arthur Milholland, the CEO of Calgary-based Oilexco (which allegedly received 9.6 million barrels of oil from Saddam), directly implicated MEMRI in the forgeries of the documents used by the Telegraph and Al Mada (also cited by the Coleman Committee). He told the paper, MEMRI “has some motives.” Leith Shbeilat, chairman of the anti-corruption committee of the Jordanian Parliament was alleged to have received 15.5 million barrels of oil from Saddam. It is noteworthy that Shbeilat heads a committee that has jurisdiction over calls to have current Iraqi Oil Minister Ahmad Chalabi extradited to Jordan to serve a long prison sentence for his conviction for embezzling $300 million from the collapsed Petra Bank of Jordan, the third largest bank in the country.

Galloway testified that Coleman, a lawyer, had been “cavalier with justice” in his investigation and accusations. Galloway also noted several errors in the committee documents and report. He said he met with Saddam twice – in 1994 and August 2002 and that did not constitute “many meetings” as stated in the Republican majority report. Galloway said he met with Saddam as many times as Donald Rumsfeld. However, Galloway said while that he met with Saddam to avert war, Rumsfeld met with him “to sell him guns and give him maps.”

When Coleman accused Galloway of being an outspoken supporter of Saddam’s regime, Galloway responded by emphasizing that he condemned Saddam in outspoken terms and provided the committee with a dossier containing Hansard parliamentary records of those denunciations. Galloway said he had a better record of opposition to Saddam than Coleman or “any other member of the American or British governments.”

Galloway also criticized Coleman for quoting an unnamed source without finding out if the allegations were true. He asked Coleman, “Who is this senior former official? Don’t I or the committee or the public have a right to know?” In a dramatic moment, Galloway thundered, “You have nothing on me Senator other than my name on lists from your puppet government in Iraq.” Galloway added, “Knowing how you treat prisoners, I’m not sure how much credibility can be placed on the statements of prisoners.” He said, “Iraq never paid a cent to me or to Mariam’s Appeal.”

Galloway said that one of the Coleman committee’s most serious mistakes was stating that its alleged newly discovered documents covered a different period of time than the Daily Telegraph 2001 documents. He pointed out that the Telegraph documents covered 2001 and that they dated identically to the documents in the committee’s report. Galloway stated that the Christian Science Monitor published documents from 1992 and 1993 alleging that Galloway accepted Iraqi oil money but that these were unmasked as forgeries. Although the 1992 and 1993 documents were said to deal with the Oil-for-Food program, Galloway emphasized that the program did not exist then. However, Ga,oway said that neocon web sites and papers were “all cock-a-hoot over the documents,” later proven to be forgeries.

Galloway said the case for war was “a pack of lies” and that the Coleman Committee hearings was the “mother of all smoke screens” to divert attention away from the real Oil-for-Food scandal. He said that Halliburton had stolen Iraq’s money and that $8 billion of Iraq’s wealth had been stolen since the war. In addition, Galloway pointed out that $800 million in cash was given out in Iraq by U.S. military commanders. Galloway said told the committee that the “real sanctions busters were your own companies and politicians.”

Galloway was correct in criticizing the Coleman Committee for not concentrating on U.S. violations of Iraqi sanctions and pay-offs to Saddam in the Oil-for-Food program. The U.S. oil companies involved in the sanctions busting have long-standing connections to the Bush family and their largest corporate benefactors. The Democratic minority report stated, “From 2000 to 2002, Bayoil (USA), Inc., and its affiliates, operating out of Houston, Texas, became one of the largest importers of Iraqi oil into the United States.” The report also states, “Samir Vincent, an Iraq-born American, obtained Iraqi oil allocations through his company Phoenix International LLC (McLean, Virginia), and sold them to Chevron Products Company, a division of Chevron USA, Inc.” Federal authorities later indicted Vincent for his role in the oil-for-food scheme. Vincent pleaded guilty. Vincent was a close confidante of 1996 Republican Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp, who had opposed the Iraqi sanctions. Newsweek magazine reported that in October 2004, the FBI interviewed Kemp about his relationship with Vincent. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat on the board of Chevron before she joined the Bush White House as National Security Adviser. The company named one of its oil supertankers the SS Condoleezza Rice.

End Part I