George Galloway answers Cambridge audience questions

Middle East Crisis: What should Britain do?

Answers by George Galloway, M.P. to questions at a public meeting in Palmerston Room, Johns College Cambridge, Friday 12 July 2002, organised by Campeace

[Audience comments and questions are summarised in square brackets like this. See links below for George Galloway's preceding speech. ]

[ Request for tips for dealing with Anne Campbell, MP ]

Well Doctor Johnson said that the knowledge that one is to be hanged in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully and members of parliament are metaphorically speaking hanged every four years and Mrs. Campbell is a prime candidate for the hanging and you are the people who can hang her or not hang her. And you have to find a way of impacting that upon her. Never mind winning her heart and mind just - I don't want to develop the metaphor anatomically - but that's the way to do it - to impress upon her that there are so many people in Cambridge outraged at her failure to support the right thing and to side with the executioners that she's in very real danger of losing her precious PPS, MP and every other initial that she has got after her name.

And while I've got the microphone can I just say in relation to what the last friend said [links with trade unions] you know you must make these links. The firemen are being told, the fire fighters are being told that there's not enough money to pay their wage claim, so there's not enough money to pay the people who put fires out in our own country, but we've got plenty of money to go around setting fire to other people's countries. [audience applause]

[ Question about evidence Iraq has weapons of mass destruction including report in today's Times about a defector or claimed defector being debriefed ]

Very well put and important points. The best thing on the evidence is to demand that it be produced. The best evidence we have you heard on Newsnight last night from Scott Ritter and we have him speaking in parliament next Tuesday. It's the second time he's been there. In the past people didn't want to hear what he had to say. I suspect that the audience will be greater now that the moment is more dramatic. He was the man whose job it was to go round Iraq destroying the weapons that we're talking about. He was a hawk, a right-wing republican ex-marine officer with no conceivable axe to grind. He insists that he personally oversaw the destruction of the weapons. He said two years ago in parliament - and will say so I'm sure again on Tuesday - that the hoax - that's what he calls it - the hoax around Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction is the longest running fraud on the international community: that as long ago as 1998 Iraq was to all intents and purposes bereft of weapons of mass destruction making it he says - HE says - the only country in the region which doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. So we have to call this what it is, a hoax.

And the war propaganda, the drums of which are now beating louder, as you say very well, is that it runs out of the same stable as the Germans raping nuns in Belgium in the first world war and the Germans catching babies on their bayonets in the first world war and every war propaganda story you ever heard to justify marching men to the slaughter, including - we don't have look in the distant history - including the Gulf war in 1991 itself [ suggestion from audience concerning Yugoslavia ] - and in Yugoslavia, and in Yugoslavia - but staying with Iraq for a minute - we saw a tearful young woman on the eve of the attack in 1991 telling us how the Iraqis had unplugged incubators from the walls of the hospitals, thrown Kuwaiti babies on the floor and shipped the incubators back to Baghdad. She wept, she said, as she told us how she as a nurse could do nothing to save those children.

Six months after the war it was revealed that far from being a nurse she was the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States of America. She had never been in a hospital. There had never been any such incident and the whole thing had been concocted by Hill and Knowlton the public relations company which had been paid tens of millions of dollars by the government of Kuwait in order to build the coalition for war. And her testimony tipped the balance in the United States senate, which voted - I remind you - by a majority of only two, to support the war in 1991. And that majority was obtained on this hoax perpetrated by a public relations firm employing the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador.

So beware of these stories. Treat them with the contempt that they deserve and expose them by reference to previous war propaganda which has only one purpose. We saw it - we've got them in our own country - John Sweeney on the BBC the other week, the cheerleader in chief for imperialist wars everywhere on the globe - can always be dragged out to make up and make a propaganda film. We have to be on the alert for them. We've got to be on the alert for these defectors, who if they exist - if they exist - and on Sweeney's program a week past Sunday their faces were pixelated, we didn't get told their names and their voices were spoken by an actor. If they exist, then they're singing for their supper, now that they've defected, as any defector does, and if they don't exist and are just chimera, like the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter then they should be treated equally with contempt.

[Question suggesting not boycotting Israel, but pushing NATO to be there instead]

Well I think the very last thing in the whole world we need is NATO there. NATO has committed many crimes of its own and of course NATO...

[ correction - questioner meant UN not NATO - Chairman "does that change your response?"]

Well no it doesn't, it doesn't. First of all you have to be realistic when you calibrate the political balance inside Israel. There are many fine Israelis and many of them are comrades and friends of mine and they are supporting the boycott campaign just as the fine South Africans - including Jews - in the ANC and in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa supported the boycott of their own country because they knew that it was necessary to deliver their own country from savagery into civilisation. But you must count them properly. Barak told the Israeli electorate the day before the election if you vote for sharon tomorrow you're voting for war. And the next day they voted overwhelmingly for sharon and endless war has been the result. If sharon leaves office tomorrow he'll be replaced by Netanyahu who's worse than Sharon. We mustn't overstate or overestimate the proportion of Israeli citizens who are for a peace with justice and those who are for peace with justice are in favour of the boycott and that's why I have absolutely no equivocation in urging people to support it. The United Nations is imprisoned, hijacked by the United States. It's paralysed. When Kofi Annan met the Iraqi foreign minister last week in Vienna, if there hadn't been and invisible hand sticking his hand up his back, then the problem would have been solved there and then. The United States will not allow the United Nations to solve the problem of Iraq because it has its own plan to solve the problems of Iraq.

[Question about supposedly democratic opposition to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and those backed by the CIA and what can you tell us about genuine opposition? ]

Well it's easier to identify the ones that are not genuine and those are the ones that are sitting on a mountain of American dollars. No patriotic opposition could possibly support the starvation of their own people and war against their own people in exchange for American dollars and that's what the so-called Iraqi National Congress and the military officers who are meeting as a kind of rival outfit in London tomorrow. So I don't think you should be fooled that these people have any constituency in Iraq. They're despised and hated in Iraq. Most of them have never set foot in Iraq. Some of them want to be crowned king of Iraq. One of the leaders of the INC that we've talked about, who was on the BBC this week, left Iraq when he was six months old and he wants to go back as the king. Others are representing small confessional segments of the population [inaudible] Syrians other small minority nations - they say they're representing them [inaudible] difficult [inaudible].

Saddam Hussein is a dictator. Every Arab government from the Atlantic to the Gulf is a dictatorship. There is no reason why we should be murdering Iraqis because they happen to have the misfortune to live under a dictator. For a start we're not doing anything about the other dictators except arm them and give them every kind of political and diplomatic help that we can. Of course there will be opposition inside the country, patriotic opposition, and there will be political change in Iraq whatever happens but the only people who have a right to change the politics in Iraq are the Iraqis. We and George W Bush have no right or authority whatsoever. As Gore Vidal said in the Daily Mirror - I bet that's a sentence you never thought you'd hear - never thought you'd hear that sentence - as Gore Vidal said in the Daily Mirror this week, America has made 400 un-provoked attacks against other countries in the last 40 years. They are the last people and we are the second last, having an empire on which the sun never set because God would never trust the English in the dark, [audience laughter] we're the second worst, qualified people in the whole world to tell anybody else we should be the president of their country and I think that's an important point that we have to make to our own people.

[Comment that so often it is the US that sends what appears to be an effective mediator but an effective mediator should be impartial so who could be an effective mediator in Palestine or in the emerging situation between Iraq and whatever coalition? ]

Well look the mediation's already been done in Palestine. The Palestinians already accepted to make a state on 22% of the land that was once all theirs before it was stolen from them. The Palestinians agreed to accept and recognise the state on the remaining 78% of the land stolen from them, as a legitimate neighbour. The Palestinians already accepted that not all of the refugees who were driven out in 1948 and who have multiplied and multiplied ever since will be able to return to their homes. How much more mediation can the Palestinians be allowed to accept? What's required now is not mediation but somebody to insist that israel implements that which it's already signed. It's signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn. It must implement them. It must implement international law like anybody else must implement international law. And if it doesn't do so it should be punished for not doing so. No more mediation. The only sanction placed on israel is forcing them to participate in the eurovision song contest, rewriting the geography of the world to let them participate in the European football championships.

[audience discussion including the comment that people are afraid of accusations of anti-semitism]

But it's time we stopped being afraid of that. It's time we stopped being afraid of that. First of all the Arabs themselves are semites. If there had been arabs in Europe at the time, hitler would have gassed them as well. Marx was a Jew. Trotsky was a Jew. Some of the finest, progressive, liberators of mankind were jews. We shouldn't allow a group of gangsters called zionists to hold us to ransom on the issue of anti-semitism. [audience applause]