Friday, June 08, 2007

Latest attack on Galloway: dying before the newsprint cools.

This is one report, and this is the Charities Commission's latest on the Mariam Appeal. The Times explains that Galloway "may have known" about Iraq "funding" the Mariam Appeal. A Charities Commission source explains that "This information was acquired on a confidential basis from a number of sources." These sources appear to have made themselves available during the Commission's fact-finding visits to the UN's Independent Inquiry Committee and to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs-Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations. In other words, it retreads material used in the failed Senate attempt to smear Galloway in 2005. What it does not include is any interview with George Galloway himself, and the reason they gave for not having interviewed him during the gathering of data and writing of the report is that during the first inquiry four years ago they were unable to find a mutually convenient date for an interview.

This third Charities Commission report was ordered by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who is who is a member of the cabinet, sits on the privy council, has a life peerage, is the highest legal authority in the country, and owes all of these positions to Tony Blair. Having suppressed an inquiry into corrupt Saudi arms deals, he is now up to his neck in sleaze, as it has been revealed that he cancelled the inquiry on the basis of known "government complicity" in the corrupt deals. Additionally, the Times report helpfully explains that British diplomats were busy visiting Tariq Aziz in custody to try and get him to assist the Charities Commission's inquiry. British diplomats working for the Charities Commission? On a case that, in its worst possible light, is dwarved by the dealings of both British and American multinationals siphoning of funds from the oil-for-food programme? Yes, it's apparently that important to the British state. The timing of the release is also rather interesting. Initially, the Commission had said that it would release the report on 4th May. Yet it was delayed for a month, with no explanation given as to why.

In its most damning light, this report finds that Fawaz Zureikat engaged in rent-seeking behaviour with the Iraqi state, and consciously decided to contribute some of the profits from the surcharges he obtained to the Mariam Appeal. The Commission estimates that about half of the money Zureikat gave to the Appeal originated from his transactions under the 'oil for food' programme. In one transactionis alleged to have received $740,000 as a commission, and subsequently donated $34,000 to the Mariam Appeal. In bold type, the report states that "The Commission concluded that at least $376,000 donated by Mr Zureikat to the Appeal resulted from contracts made under the Programme." (Not 'surcharges' here, not improper sources, but contracts - the arrangement of information gives the impression, repeated in reports, that all of the funds donated by Zureikat were obtained improperly from surcharges). Well, then, Mr Zureikat, if they have this evidence on him (its sources are not divulged) ought surely to be charged and tried? Yet he continues to travel freely in the US and Iraq, and continues to do oil business in Iraq under the occupation, and in the US. This strongly suggests that any evidence they have to support claims of illicit rent-seeking activity is so poor that it wouldn't make it through a court.

At any rate, this would not impugn Galloway and the Mariam Appeal unless he or other commissioners knew of the 'improper' basis of the donations. There is, as is made perfectly clear no evidence to support this claim. The best that they can say is that they are "concerned" that Galloway "may" have known of the provenance of a fraction of the donations. This flimsy insinuation is made even more ridiculous by the catch-22 they've locked into the report: on the one hand, it is said that he should have been 'extremely vigilant' in the handling of any receipt given that they insist his organisation was a charity (a retrospective finding that Galloway has always disputed); on the other, they insist that he may have known in any case - that is, he should have shown extreme vigilance about something that he 'may' have known. This looks strongly like an effort to cover all bases and 'sex up' some rather shaky findings. This, and the way the enquiry was conducted, should lead to some serious questions being put to its authors.

The 150th British soldier died in Iraq yesterday, in a war undertaken by a government that is up to its neck in scandal and corruption. It has, from the outset, sought to vilify the antiwar movement, usually by slandering its most vocal spokespeople. As is reasonably well-known, several phoney documents have been leaked to smear Galloway: he has received more money in libel compensation than the Mariam Appeal ever received from Fawaz Zureikat. One such concocted document was presented as part of the evidence provided by Norm Coleman and Carl Levin in the failed Senate hearings. At that hearing, too, a number of 'confidential' sources and claims emanating from individuals held in secret US captivity (where they apply miniature shock and awe tactics to extract implausible confessions) were presented. I doubt that this story will have much traction, but it is interesting to observe an unpopular, weak and nasty government on its last legs desperately seeking a patsy.