UK ovation for U.S. showdown MP
LONDON, England -- British MP George Galloway returned to London to a standing ovation after a fiery showdown with U.S. senators who have accused him of profiting from the U.N.'s defunct oil-for-food program in Iraq.
Galloway said he was "absolutely" convinced he had been vindicated from allegations that he received vouchers for 20 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein's regime.
"These people think they can smear people without them having the right to speak back and this time I got that right and I knocked them for six," he told reporters before leaving Washington.
He said after his appearance before the Senate panel Tuesday that his accusers had little credibility "outside of Washington."
But the panel's Republican chairman, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, hit back, telling media after the session that Galloway's credibility was "very suspect."
On his return to London Wednesday night, Galloway appeared at a packed rally to celebrate his recent parliamentary election victory.
Galloway told the crowd of hundreds he would become "the enemy within" and said he had received e-mails from around the world about his Senate performance.
"There was a worldwide audience out there waiting for someone to speak the truth," he said.
Referring to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said: "We are the enemy within, Mr. Blair, the enemy of all your wars, the enemy of all your betrayals, the enemy of all your lies."
Galloway, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, told CNN that while Saddam's regime shared a "lot of responsibility" for deaths in Iraq, so too did the policies of Washington and London.
He called the Senate panel's investigation the "mother of all smokescreens" used to divert attention from the "pack of lies" that led to the 2003 invasion.
"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001," he told Coleman.
"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And 100,000 people have paid with their lives -- 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies, 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever, on a pack of lies."
He added: "Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported."
The Respect MP said he would continue to demand the withdrawal of U.S. and UK forces from Iraq following his appearance in Washington.
He told CNN the U.S. and British governments were no longer believed in their statements on Iraq and that their forces could not be part of any solution there.
Galloway's appearance before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee was the first by a politician allegedly involved in the oil-for-food corruption scandal.
In a report last week, the subcommittee stated that deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam granted Galloway vouchers for 20 million barrels of oil between 2000 and 2003.
Galloway strongly disputed that allegation Tuesday.
"I am not now or ever been an oil trader and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf," Galloway testified.
He also said he did not own a company that trades in oil.
"If you had any evidence of that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this (committee today)," Galloway said.
Coleman, a former district attorney, told Galloway before his sworn testimony that "senior Iraqi officials have confirmed that you, in fact, received oil allocations and that the documents that identify you as an allocation recipient are valid."
Galloway challenged that accusation in his opening statement.
"Now, I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," he told Coleman.
Galloway, 51, is a leading critic of Blair and his alliance with U.S. President George W. Bush in the war in Iraq. He was re-elected on an anti-war platform earlier this month.
He said he was "friendly" with former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and met him many times but that he met with Saddam only twice -- in 1994 and in 2002 -- the last time to persuade Saddam to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country.
He said he had met with Saddam "exactly as many times as Donald Rumsfeld has met with him."
"The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and give him maps," Galloway said in his heated opening statement.
"I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second occasion, I met him to try and persuade him to allow Hans Blix and U.N. inspectors back into country."
Rumsfeld visited Baghdad to meet Saddam as President Reagan's Middle East envoy in the 1980s, when the U.S. sided with Iraq in its war with Iran. Blix was chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq before the war.
Galloway complained that the panel had determined his guilt without speaking to him.
"You have my name on lists provided to you... by the convicted bank robber and fraudster and con man Ahmed Chalabi, who many people, to their credit, in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq," Galloway told the panel.
Other allegations reportedly came from Iraqi detainees.
"In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Air Base [Afghanistan], in Guantanamo Bay -- including, if I may say, British citizens being held in those places -- I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances," he said.
The Senate subcommittee has alleged in recent days that a number of European politicians were rewarded by Saddam for supporting Iraq's bid to lift economic sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
In addition to Galloway, the panel also implicated former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, who allegedly was allocated 11 million barrels.
"I wrote to Mr. Coleman," Pasqua said Sunday, "and I told him that all allegations about myself are false."
Russian Deputy Parliament Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was accused Monday of receiving 76 million barrels of Iraqi crude oil, denied the accusation.
"I've never signed any contract and never received a cent from Iraq," Zhirinovsky told a Russian TV interviewer.
CNN's Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.