In the last few days, I have received e-mails that are routinely issued by journalist Greg Palast. These concerned the British MP (Member of Parliament) in the House of Commons, George Galloway. Mr. Palast admixed criticisms of Mr. Galloway with generous helpings of name-calling abuse; examples of the latter included such things as “Brit-hole”, “arse-licking”, “self-promoting fart,” and “swamp-thing”…among others.
I didn’t expect this. Even in his most trenchant criticism of that other George, the one we Americans know better than we’d like, Mr. Palast has never, to my knowledge, engaged in similar flame-throwing. Mr. Palast -- Greg -- are you all right? I ask not only because of this venom that I haven’t seen you use before, but also because of the target: a person even you have acknowledged as a strong voice in opposition to the war against the Iraqi people. Further, the specifics of your emails lead me to feel a strong concern that animus has overcome your deserved reputation for having facts well marshaled and ready to be effectively presented. Let me give you some examples from your two e-mails, and illustrate for you the way in which I find them disturbing.
First from your email dated September 14th, you quote Mr. Galloway as having said, during a 1994 meeting with Saddam Hussein, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength your indefatigability. And I want you to know that we are with you until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem.” Mr. Galloway explained in his book, I’m Not The Only One, that he intended ‘you’ to mean the Iraqi people, and not the person of Hussein. Why do you challenge that? There is no obvious reason for you to doubt his sincerity, and in his book he hugely regrets the damage this did to himself as a critic of the U.S.-led attack upon the Iraqis. You characterize this explanation as “prevaricating”…but why? Your email states that
In fact, your [Mr. Galloway’s] words were very specific: “Your Excellency, … I thought the president would appreciate to know that even today, three years after the war, I still meet families who are calling their newborn sons Saddam.”
These are not the words about which you were just fulminating, Mr. Palast. It is perfectly understandable that some people named their sons Saddam -- just as they named some of them Scud, after the Iraqi missile of that name. Again, it is an expression of resistance to the attacks upon Iraq. Do you find this difficult to understand? Perhaps it is the ‘Your Excellency’ that really upsets you, and I sympathize; there are quite a few “Your Royal Highnesses,” “Mr. Presidents,” and other persons in this world who are unworthy of receiving such honorifics. Saddam Hussein is certainly one of the undeserving. It’s a good thing that unlike Mr. Galloway, neither you nor I were involved in face-to-face contact with him; we very likely would not have been allowed to meet with anyone else, and worse could have happened.
So, Mr. Galloway used some words you did not like. What else is bothering you? There is the matter of the Miriam Appeal, a charity initiated by Mr. Galloway to help provide medicines and medical help for Iraqi children. Although you never quite say it, you strongly imply that Mr. Galloway stole a million or so dollars from this charity for unspecified personal use, and that this was all done through a payback arrangement with an oil-for-food trader. This is all couched with “is that correct,” and similar rhetorical devices, but you never openly state any of this to be so. Is this because Mr. Galloway very recently won a libel trial in Great Britain against media that had accused him of being an agent of Saddam Hussein? Are you taking care to not fall afoul of similar difficulties?
I honestly wonder, because all of this speculative nuance and maybe-if-not-contradicted stuff isn’t what I came to expect from you. Rather, it was specifically in the documented dynamite you provided in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, a book I read, recommended, and gave as a present to friends. These latest emails seem a far cry from that kind of journalism; is it possible that email is not your most effective medium?
Let us look at an item from your September 17th email. You open it with the following:
During his debate with Salman Rushdie at the recent Edinburgh TV Festival, someone asked George Galloway if television should broadcast an adaptation of Rushdie's novel, "Satanic Verses." According to Rushdie, Galloway replied, "If you don't respect religion, you have to suffer the consequences."
Your response to this is to say that Mr. Galloway was clearly endorsing the death sentence against Mr. Rushdie decreed by the Ayatollah Khomeini! Mr. Palast, get a grip. There is another, far more plausible and far less sinister meaning here. Remember what the question is: not whether Mr. Rushdie should be executed, but whether TV should broadcast an adaptation of his work. Those are two very different things, Mr. Palast. If you don’t respect religion, one of the things that might happen is that your works will not be shown on TV. Such things do happen, as perhaps you are aware…even here, in the citadel of free speech, the good old USA. It is not explicit that Mr. Galloway would himself not like to see such a program; what his words say is that there are consequences when someone is viewed as being a critic or slanderer of someone else’s religion. That is hardly an endorsement of a death sentence.
You allege in your second email that Mr. Galloway is opposed to abortion, and thus consigns countless women to death. Have you ever heard of Dennis Kucinich, Mr. Galloway? Mr. Kucinich is a Representative in the U.S. Congress, and probably the best-known opponent of the war against the Iraqi people. He opposes abortion but not a woman’s right to choose. This is a difficult but not impossible position, and I point it out to you so that you might consider whether you have oversimplified Mr. Galloway’s position on the issue.
All of us who want this war stopped, want to be effective. To do that, we must unite and not attack each other for failure to adhere and agree on a long list of issues. This sort of practice is beloved by political sects safely insulated from reality and given to internal disputes. The war will not be stopped if we fall into this mistake of finding every and any failing in each other, unproven though they may be. I have an open mind about Mr. Galloway, and have not hesitated to praise him for his undeniable contributions in the past. I also have an open mind about you, Mr. Palast, for similar reasons. What I don’t have an open mind about, is substituting innuendo for proof and turning our energies against each other. Let’s stop the war, and leave the task of dividing us to our real enemies -- the ones who are directing the killing right now.
Dan Raphael has been an activist since the Vietnam war was heating up, and is a member of the Green Party of the United States.
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