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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

British Parliament Member Testifies on Oil-for-Food; Terror: Then and Now

Aired May 17, 2005 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush met this morning with a frail Nelson Mandela. The former South African president and anti- apartheid champion is in the U.S. to raise money for his charities. Mandela is barely able to walk by himself. He uses a cane and he often leans on an aide.
A British lawmaker testifies before a U.S. Senate panel this morning. Iraq War critic George Galloway is linked to the U.N.'s oil- for-food scandal. Galloway met with Saddam Hussein several times in the 1990s, but he denies he bought or sold a drop of Iraqi oil.

Harvard's president is earmarking $50 million over the next decade to programs geared toward women. They include everything from child care to gender bias courses. President Lawrence Summers came under fire last winter for suggesting men are biologically suited for science and math more than women.

And in Paris, a man jumped from the Eiffel Tower today. It was an apparent publicity stunt for a clothing brand, but his parachute snagged on the monument. The man fell to his death.

All right. So you, when you go to the airport, have to walk through a metal detector, even take off your shoes, but most freight carried by passenger planes are never inspected. Two House members warned this morning that terrorists could exploit that loophole to attack a plane. Congressman Ed Markey and Christopher Shays are pushing their bill on air cargo security. It would require an inspector to eyeball every piece of air freight before it's loaded onto a plane.

There's a change to that no lighter policy on airplanes. Now, the Transportation Security Administration says unfilled lighters will now be allowed, as long as they're in the checked baggage. That's a change from the total ban on all lighters. The Fed's faced complaints from both passengers and the maker of Zippo lighters, who said the ban would penalize collectors and hurt sales by as much as 30 percent.

Federal officials could decide as early today what to do with the two pilots who shut down Washington last week. You might remember, they flew a small plane into restricted airspace that caused evacuations at the White House and on Capitol Hill. The likely penalty would be fines and suspensions of their pilots' licenses.

A sea of people protested on the Havana waterfront today. Thousands answered Cuban president Fidel Castro's call, as we look at live pictures today from Havana. This was Castro's call to march pass the U.S. mission. Protesters demanded the U.S. arrest longtime Castro foe Luis Posada Carriles. The Cuban exile recently surfaced in Miami, where he is seeking political asylum. Posada is wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a passenger plane. The attack killed 73 people. Posada denies any involvement. Castro accuses President Bush of hypocrisy for waging a war on terror, but allowing Posada to remain free here in the U.S.

A new book explores the origins of terror and how it morphed into what we know today. "Global Terrorism: A Beginner's Guide" brands terrorism the first war of the 21st century. The author is Leonard Weinberg. He's professor of political science at the University of Nevada in Reno. Professor, good morning.

LEONARD WEINBERG, AUTHOR, "GLOBAL TERRORISM": Good morning to you. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be on your show

KAGAN: Yes, you know, you come -- well, there's practically no day that wouldn't be good to have you here. There's always a topic we could work in here. But the story we were just looking at before, what we see happening in Havana, Cuba, today. At the very nature of what is terrorism, one person's terrorist is another person's hero. There are some Cuban-Americans that think Luis Posada is a hero for what he's done against Fidel Castro.

WEINBERG: Well, as I try to emphasize in my book, terrorism is a tactic rather than an ideology. It's a way of -- a largely theatrical way to influence the behavior of a variety of different audiences. And over the course of the history of terrorism, it's been used by different groups, including the Ku Klux Klan clan in the United States, Marxist/Leninist groups in Europe and now these days, Islamist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere. So terrorism can be used for purposes of freedom fighting, along with any number of other political objectives. So to repeat, terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology or a doctrine.

KAGAN: And there is a lot -- it does create fear by its very nature.

WEINBERG: That's the intent, is to create fear. Whether or not it does or not is a moot point. Sometimes it creates the desire for revenge, stimulates anger, and so on. Witness the effects of 9/11 on the American population.

KAGAN: Right. Let's talk about some of the real fears that are out there right now. I think there's a big fear that terrorist groups are going to get weapons of mass destruction. You say if you're going to be scared, that's not really the thing that you should be scared of.

WEINBERG: Well, I think it's a legitimate concern. And certainly American decision-makers and the policy-makers in other parts of the world have a legitimate concern with the use of weapons of mass destruction. But the track record suggests that terrorists have been relatively conservative over the years in their choice of weapons. They've relied pretty much on the bomb and the gun since the end of the 19th century. So it's at least conceivable that a terrorist might try to use weapons of mass destruction. There have been some attempts along those lines. But the track record suggests that, compared to conventional military forces, terrorists have been relatively conservative in what -- on the weapons they've chosen.

KAGAN: Well, let me just jump in here and say when you talk about being conservative or using more conventional weapons, I think definitely the world changed on 9/11. They used bombs, but those bombs were airliners.

WEINBERG: Right, right. Well, let's not forget that the 9/11 killers used box cutters that you could -- to take over the airplanes that you could buy in a hardware store, in fact, probably did buy them in a hardware store. So it was the use of conventional devices in an unconventional kind of way, rather than some kind of radiological or chemical or biological form of attack.

There have been incidents of the use of these kinds of weapons of mass destruction. In particular, the Japanese group, The Aum Shinrikyo used sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995. And then there was the anthrax business following 9/11 in the United States, et cetera, et cetera. In 99 times out of 100, terrorist attacks are carried out by -- through the use of bombs, guns or what gets called in Iraq these days, improvised explosive devices, the one innovation that's come...

KAGAN: Professor, I'm sorry...

WEINBERG: ... online recently has had to do with the suicide bombings. But those are, once again, conventional weapons used in kind of unconventional ways.

KAGAN: I'm sorry to jump in here, but we do have some live news we need to dip into. I want to -- people know the boo is "Global Terrorism: A Beginner's Guide." It's by Leonard Weinberg, Professor Leonard Weinberg, and it's a topic that touches our lives every day. Professor, thank you.

WEINBERG: You're welcome. Thank you.

KAGAN: Yes. We go live now to Washington, D.C. This is British parliament member George Galloway. He is speaking before a U.S. Senate panel probing the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq. Allegations that he took part illegally in that program with Saddam Hussein. He denies that. Let's listen in.

GEORGE GALLOWAY, BRITISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky and even Pasquale (ph), they would have been up there in your slide show for the members of your committee today.

You have my name on lists provided to you by the Darfur inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bankrobber and fraudster and conman 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.

There were 270 names on that list originally. That somehow has been filtered down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names included: the former secretary to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress presidential office, and many others, who had one defining characteristic in common. They all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you've vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

You caught Mr. Taha Yassin Ramadan. Well, you have something on me. I've never met Mr. Taha Yassin Ramadan. Your subcommittee apparently has. But I do know he's your prisoner. I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he's facing war crimes, charges punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Air Base, in Guantanamo Bay, including, 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.

But you quote thirteen words from Taha Yassin Ramadan, whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong. And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this commitment today.

Because I agreed with your Mr. Greenblatt (ph). Your Mr. Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the ones on the paper. What counts is where's the money, Senator. Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them here today.

Now, you refer at length to a company named in these documents as Radial (ph) Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today, I have never heard of this company. I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me. And I'll tell you something else, I can assure you that Radial Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Miriam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime.

I don't know who Radial Petroleum are, but I dare say if you were to ask them, they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

While I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the committee and the public have a right to know who this senior regime official you were quoting against him, interviewed yesterday, actually is? No.

One of the most serious of the mistakes that you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert, on page 19, not once, but twice that the documents that you're referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by "The Daily Telegraph," which were the subject of a libel action won by me in the high court in England late last year. You state that "The Daily Telegraph" article cited documents from 1992 and 1993, whereas you are dealing with documents dating from 2001.

Senator, "The Daily Telegraph's" documents date identically to the documents that you're dealing with in your report here. None of "The Daily Telegraph's" documents dealt with a period of 1992 to 1993.

I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993, never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to oil-for-food matters in 1992-'93, for the oil-for-food scheme did not exist at that time.

And yet, you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to "The Daily Telegraph" documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and "The Daily Telegraph" documents deal with exactly the same period.

But perhaps you were confusing "The Daily Telegraph" action with "The Christian Science Monitor." "The Christian Science Monitor" did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents, which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by "The Christian Science Monitor" themselves as forgeries.

Now, the neocon Web sites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, Senator, were all actually cockahoot at the publication of "The Christian Science Monitor" documents. They were absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam Hussein regime, and they were all lies.

In the same week as "The Daily Telegraph" published their documents against me, "The Christian Science Monitor" published theirs, which turned out to be forgeries, and the British newspaper mill on Sunday purchased a third set of documents which also on forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this, nothing at all fanciful about it. The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

Now, senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq, which killed a million Iraqis, most of them children. Most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis, With the misfortune to be born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq.

And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies. 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. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

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.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we're in today.

Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth. Have a look at the real oil- for-food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months, when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and the other American corporations that stole Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer. Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where. Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it. Have a look at the real scandal, breaking in the newspapers today. Revealed in the (INAUDIBLE) testimony in this committee, that the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians; the real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Galloway. Mr. Galloway, can we start by talking about...

KAGAN: We've been listening into British parliament member George Galloway. He has gone before the Senate committee that looking at U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq. They are making accusations that that man, the British parliament member, George Galloway, received some 20 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003. As you can hear, there's accusations that he adamantly denies. And he also has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. war led -- the U.S.-led war in Iraq. More on that just ahead.

I want to get to you this story that is breaking. This is coming from Rome. An Alitalia flight that was on its way from Milan to Boston has been diverted to Bangor, Maine. Apparently somebody on board has a name and a birth date that matches somebody on the no-fly list. Our Kathleen Koch is in our Washington, D.C. bureau with more on that story -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, it's a very similar situation to what we had just less than a week ago. It was last Thursday. In this case, however, this plane, again, as you said, was bound from Milan to Boston when officials realized that there was what the Transportation Security Administration is telling us an exact match of a name on the no-fly list with a passenger who is on this plane. So out of an abundance of caution, just as they did last Thursday, this plane is being diverted to Bangor, Maine.

Now, last Thursday, what happened was that when they got on the plane, federal officials -- federal agents, they checked with this individual who was traveling with his wife and two children. They found out while his name was a near match to one on the no-fly list, he was not actually someone who was a suspected terrorist or someone who supported terrorists.

And in this case, again, the TSA is telling us they have a precise match. Of course it remains to be determined when this plane lands. We're being told -- one source said 12:20, a source at Logan Airport said it would be closer to 12:45. It's only when the plane is on the ground and federal officials have a chance to get on board and question the individual that we'll find out for certain whether it's a precise match or another false alarm -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And of course, Kathleen, the reason that the system works this way, why it's diverted in flight is because the U.S. government doesn't receive the passenger list until the plane has already taken off.

KOCH: Quite so. What the TSA does is it sends to airlines around the world a no-fly list on a regular basis, e-mails it to them. And they're supposed to check it before the passengers board. But then, as soon as that plane backs out from the gate, the actual passenger manifest is sent to the U.S. government, to U.S. security officials. They then check it against their own no-fly list and actually a bigger list of known or suspected terrorists. And it's often at that point, then, when they get a hit, perhaps the airline itself hasn't done a good check. Perhaps they don't have the most updated list. So in any case, we don't know what happened here, but we'll be finding out once the plane gets on the ground -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. Kathleen Koch, in Washington, D.C. Thank you. More on that story straight ahead. Also, the cross-examination of George Galloway, this member of the British parliament, with very strong words before the U.S. Senate. We're going to have more on that just ahead. Right now, a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: And we want to go back live now to Capitol Hill. A chance for U.S. senators to cross-examine George Galloway, this British member of parliament who had very harsh words for this panel on the oil-for-food program and the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Let's listen in.

GALLOWAY: ... where they got the money from.

SEN. NORM COLEMAN (R), MINNESOTA: So Mr. Galloway, you would have this committee believe that your designated representative from the (INAUDIBLE) appeal becomes the chair of the (INAUDIBLE) appeal, was listed in Iraqi documents as obviously doing business, oil deals with Iraq, that you never had a conversation with him in 2001 of whether he was doing oil business with Iraq.

GALLOWAY: No, I'm doing better than that. I'm telling you that I knew that he was doing a vast amount of business with Iraq. Much bigger, as I said a couple of answers ago, than any oil business he did in the airport. He was the representative of some of the world's biggest companies in Iraq. He was an extremely wealthy businessman doing very extensive business in Iraq. Not only did I know that, but I told everyone about it. I emblazoned it in our literature, on our Web site, precisely so that people like you could not later credibly question my bonafides in that regard. So I did better than that. I never asked him if he was trading in oil. I knew he was a big trader with Iraq and I told everybody about it.

COLEMAN: So in 2003, when you said you didn't know whether he was doing oil deals, were you telling the truth at that time?

GALLOWAY: Yes, I was. I've never known until the "Telegraph" story appeared that he was alleged to be doing oil deals. But his oil deals are about one-tenth of the business that he did in Iraq. So I did better than telling people about his oil deals. I told him he was doing much, much more than that.

COLEMAN: So exhibit 14, which purports to be a contract with Middle East Semiconductor, Contract M12-14. Middle East Semiconductor, again, is Mr. Zureiqat's company, is that correct?

GALLOWAY: Yes, it is.

COLEMAN: So do you have any reason to believe that this document is false?

GALLOWAY: Well, the parenthesis, if the parenthesis implies, as you've been arguing all morning that it implies, that this was being signed for by Middle East advanced semiconductors in order to pass the money on to me, is false. Mr. Zureiqat and Middle East semiconductors or any other company have never given me money. And if they had, you would have it up here on a board, and in front of the committee here.

COLEMAN: I take it, Mr. Galloway, that in regard any surcharges paid to Saddam, in I think it's Footnote 89, which refers to the surcharge for the contract, focused on Miriam's Appeal, you're saying that that document, first of all, any contract between Iraq and Miriam's Appeals is false?

GALLOWAY: Well, Senator, I had gotten used to the allegation that I was taking money from Saddam Hussein. It's actually surreal to hear in this room this morning that I'm being accused of giving money to Saddam Hussein. This is utterly preposterous, utterly preposterous, that I gave $300,000 to Saddam Hussein. This is beyond the realms of the ridiculous. No. The Miriam Appeals finances have been investigated by the charity commission on the order of Lord Goldsmith. You'll recall him, Senator. He's the attorney general, probably the only lawman in the world, that thought your war with Iraq was legal, thought Britain joining your war with Iraq was legal.

He ordered the charity commission to investigation to investigate the Miriam Appeal. Using their statutory powers, they recovered all money in and all money out ever received or spent by the Miriam Appeal. They found no impropriety, and I can assure you, they found no money from an oil contract from Aredio Petroleum, none whatsoever.

COLEMAN: And the commission did not look at these documents relating to this contract with Iraq. Is that correct?

GALLOWAY: No, but they looked better than that, Senator.

COLEMAN: I'm not asking you better. I'm asking the question whether they looked at these documents.

GALLOWAY: Senator, you're not listening to what I am saying. They did better than that.

They looked at every penny in and every penny out. And they did not find, I can assure you, any entries of a donation from a company called Aredio Petroleum, or, frankly, a donation from any company other than Mr. Zureiqat's company. That's a fact.

COLEMAN: If I can get back to Mr. Zureiqat one more time. Do you recall a time when he specifically -- when you had a conversation with him about oil dealings in Iraq?

GALLOWAY: I have already answered that question. I can assure you, Mr. Zureiqat never gave me a penny from an oil deal, from a cake deal, from a bread deal, or from any deal. He donated money to our campaign, which we publicly brandished on all of our literature, along with the other donors to the campaign.

COLEMAN: Again, Mr. Galloway, a simple question. I'm looking for either a yes or no. Did you ever have a conversation with Mr. Zureiqat where he informed you that he had oil dealings with Iraq, yes or no?

GALLOWAY: Not before this "Daily Telegraph" report, no.

COLEMAN: Senator Levin.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Galloway.

Mr. Galloway, could you take a look at the exhibit number 12...

GALLOWAY: Yes.

LEVIN: ... where your name is in parenthesis after Mr. Zureiqat's?

GALLOWAY: Before Mr. Zureiqat if I'm looking at the right exhibit. LEVIN: I'm sorry. I was going to finish my -- my question, though. My question was, where your name is in parenthesis after Mr. Zureiqat's company.

GALLOWAY: I apologize, Senator.

LEVIN: That's all right. Now, that document, assuming it's an accurate translation of the document underneath it, would you -- you're not alleging here today that the document is a forgery, I gather?

GALLOWAY: Well, I have no idea, Senator, if it's a forgery or not.

LEVIN: But you're not alleging.

GALLOWAY: I'm saying that the information insofar as it relates to me is fake.

LEVIN: I -- is wrong?

GALLOWAY: It's wrong.

LEVIN: But you're not alleging that the document...

GALLOWAY: Well, I have no way of know, Senator.

LEVIN: That's fine. So you're not alleging?

GALLOWAY: No, I have no way -- I have no way of knowing. This is the first time...

LEVIN: Is it fair to say since you don't know you're not alleging?

GALLOWAY: Well, it would have been nice to have seen it before today.

LEVIN: Is it fair to say, though, that either because you have not seen it before or because -- otherwise, you don't know. You're not alleging the documents are fake, is that fair to say?

GALLOWAY: I haven't had it in my possession long enough to form a view about that.

LEVIN: All right. Would you let the subcommittee know after you've had it in your possession long enough whether you consider the document a fake.

GALLOWAY: Yes, although there is a -- there is an academic quality about it, Senator Levin, because you have already found me guilty before you -- before you actually allowed me to come here and speak for myself.

LEVIN: Well, in order to attempt to clear your name, would you... GALLOWAY: Well, let's be clear about something.

LEVIN: Well, let me finish my question. Let me be clear about that, first of all.

Would you submit to the subcommittee after you've had a chance to review this document whether or not, in your judgment, it is a forgery? Will you do that?

GALLOWAY: Well, if you will give me the original. I mean, this is not -- presumably, you wrote this English translation.

LEVIN: Yes, and there's a copy underneath it of the...

GALLOWAY: Well, yes, there is a copy of a gray blur. If you'll give me -- if you'll give me...

LEVIN: The copy of the original.

(CROSSTALK)

GALLOWAY: (INAUDIBLE) then of course I'll...

LEVIN: That would be fine. We appreciate that.

GALLOWAY: Yes.

LEVIN: Now, at the bottom of this document, assuming -- assuming it's not a forgery for a moment, it says "surcharge." Are we together?

GALLOWAY: Yes.

LEVIN: As per the instructions of your excellency over the phone on 12/11/01 of not accepting the company's proposal unless they pay the debt incurred since phase eight. If, in fact -- if, in fact, Mr. Zureiqat's company paid a surcharge or a kickback to the Iraqi government in order to obtain...

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Senator Carl Levin is questioning George Galloway, a British member of parliament, a fierce opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq who just delivered a blistering statement before this Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations chaired by Republican Senator Norm Coleman. A statement completely denying any accusations that he did anything wrong in the U.N.'s oil- for-food program. But going beyond that, going on the offensive, taking on -- especially the Republican members of this committee, led by Senator Coleman.

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