CXX – An Evening With Mr. Galloway

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The most shocking fact about war
is that its victims and its instruments are individual
human beings, and that these individual beings are
condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics
to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.

~ Aldous Huxley

My wife and I attended a talk by British parliamentarian
George Galloway, given at a Presbyterian church within
walking distance from my law school in Los Angeles.
Arriving early, we had good seats for what proved
to be a well-attended program. Galloway's appearance
was organized by various socialist organizations,
and so it was neither surprising nor upsetting that
leftist banners, t-shirts, buttons, and the one-paged
printed handouts were in abundance.

A number of speakers preceded Mr. Galloway's talk,
with two of them — an Afghan woman who reminded the
audience of the horrors still being perpetrated in
her homeland, and a former soldier representing Iraqi
Veterans Against the War — receiving well-deserved
responses. To their credit, the organizers and speakers
managed to keep the program focused on opposition
to the war in Iraq, with only an occasional reference
to the u201Cevilsu201D of capitalism, or the need for u201Cjustice.u201D
As one who regards u201Cjusticeu201D as u201Cthe redistribution
of violence,u201D I thought it ironic that so many opponents
of the Iraq war would fail to see the contradictions.
But as this inconsistency is endemic to socialists,
I was not surprised by its appearance here.

George Galloway presented an impassioned, factually-focused
critique of the war and the confluence of American,
British, and Israeli political interests that underlay
it. His words stormed through the church not as irrational
rage, but as principled, sincere anger. What a contrast
— both as to style and substance — this man's presentations
are to the wimpy babble of American politicians who
function as if on Valium overdoses. It is pathetic
that the fiery rhetoric that used to attend political
debates in America must now be imported from abroad!
Galloway's initial remarks informed us that he was
not moving to America to run for public office, a
statement that confirmed his awareness of just how
distant he is from the anesthetized, emotionally languid
mindset of most Americans and their politicians.

To those who cannot distinguish deranged screaming
from a genuine passion for life, the Galloway phenomenon
must be confusing. Though a socialist, his plea for
an end to the systematic plunder and slaughter that
represents the war system was nonpartisan. His closing
comments, in fact, were to remind people not to allow
the antiwar movement to become a front for polarizing
political or social agendas. Political and religious
groups — whatever their persuasion — needed to understand
and oppose the destructiveness of war.

The theme that ran through his presentation was the
presence of the u201Cdouble standardu201D by which Western
and Middle Eastern interests are measured. The attacks
of 9/11 emerged u201Cnot out of a clear blue sky,u201D but
from a u201Cdeep swamp of anger and hatredu201D generated
by decades of American, British, and Israeli atrocities
committed against Arab and Muslim people. He emphasized
that the core of the u201Cterroristu201D problem can be traced
not to religious differences, but to over fifty
years of u201Cinjustices imposed upon the Palestinian
peopleu201D by American and Israeli politics. The 1982
slaughter — with the sanction of Ariel Sharon –
of helpless men, women, and children in Beirut refugee
camps, also came in for discussion.

Perhaps the most poignant example of the double standard
that presumes u201Cthe blood of Americans, or Israelis,
or Europeans, to be of greater value than the blood
of Iraqis or Afghans,u201D was found in the earlier American-enforced
trade sanctions that led to the deaths of over 500,000
Iraqi children. Madeleine Albright — Clinton's Secretary
of State who oversaw the slow death of Iraqi children
u201Ceven before they were old enough to know they were
Iraqisu201D — wrote off this atrocity as a price she
was willing to pay. Americans may remain oblivious
to the consequences of this double standard, u201Cbut
it doesn't escape the attention of any Muslim in the
world.u201D

Galloway went on to remind people that the families
of those who died on 9/11 did not suffer any greater
pain than did the relatives of Iraqis and Afghans
who died from American and British bombings. Each
suffered unjustifiable deaths delivered from the sky.
He then reiterated what every factually informed person
(i.e., non-Fox News viewers) knows to be true: that
there were no u201Cweapons of mass destructionu201D in Iraq;
that Hussein had no connection to 9/11; and that Al-Qaeda
did not have any bases of operation in Iraq. Because
of Bush's war, however, Al-Qaeda is now quite active
in Iraq, meaning that Bush has provided recruiting
incentives for terrorists.

Mr. Galloway then criticized those who try to associate
the anti-war people with Bin Laden, noting that u201CBin
Laden was invented by the United States and Britain,u201D
who put Bin Laden into Afghanistan. The Americans
and British later went into Afghanistan and began
killing people as part of an effort to capture the
man these Western forces had put there in the first
place!

While Bush and Blair are able to bamboozle their
own citizenry with claims that their current
purpose in being in Iraq is to promote u201Cdemocracyu201D
and u201Cfreedom,u201D the Muslim world can see what these
abstractions mean in practice, and wants no part of
it. The Muslim world is ruled, Galloway went on, by
u201Cpuppet kings, presidents, and other dictatorsu201D propped
up by Western governments. If true u201Cdemocracyu201D was
ever to emerge in any of these countries, he added,
the first thing the ensuing Muslim governments would
do would be to evict the United States from their
lands.

Galloway later offered the sharp contrast between
Cindy Sheehan — whose name evoked great applause —
and the reincarnated Marie Antoinette, in the form
of Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush commented that the refugees
from New Orleans who were huddled in Houston's Astrodome
u201Cnever had it so good.u201D Such an attitude, he noted,
is representative of a government that u201Ccannot remove
dead bodies from the streets of one of its major cities
seven days after a natural disaster, but is prepared,
at a moment's notice, to impose more destruction on
other nations.u201D

The threat of future u201Cterroristu201D attacks cannot be
dealt with by continuing the policies and practices
that create them. u201CIf you live next to a swamp,u201D Galloway
intoned, u201Ca fly-swatter will let you take care of
a few mosquitoes, but others will get through to attack
you. The only way to stop the attacks is to drain
the swamp of the anger and hatred in which the mosquitoes
breed.u201D This draining can be accomplished, he went
on, only by ending the colonialism that prevails in
the Middle East, and to have the governance of Iraq
determined by the Iraqi people alone. To those who
conjure up the specter of bloodshed and destruction
should Americans pull out of Iraq, he observed that
bloodshed and destruction are increasing in that country
because of the American presence.

George Galloway, like Cindy Sheehan, represents what,
in the study of chaos, is known as the u201Cbutterfly
effect,u201D (i.e., the capacity for individuals to affect
change through the reiteration of their influences
upon a system). Such people serve as u201Cattractorsu201D
to others who share their sentiments. Through such
spontaneous and open-ended means as the Internet,
men and women are able to create networks of shared
opinions. They become catalysts for change, a process
upon which all creative and productive systems depend.

There is a rapidly emerging network of opposition
to the Afghan/Iraqi wars which, contrary to the screeching
war-lovers at Fox News, is not confined to u201Cleft-wingu201D
groups. Liberals, conservatives, socialists, Republicans,
libertarians, anarchists, Democrats, and Marxists,
are discovering that the integrity of their souls
can no longer withstand the burden of their support
for wars against the innocent. In the spirit of George
Galloway's passionate plea for the lives of both the
Iraqi people and the soldiers sent to kill them, we
must pull the rug out from beneath the feet of those
who shed crocodile tears for the continuing deaths
of American troops while calculating the slaughter
of foreigners.

For those of you who e-mail me asking u201Cwhat can we
do?,u201D what about demanding the impeachment and criminal
prosecution of President Bush and his co-conspirators?
If you were among those who insisted upon the impeachment
of Bill Clinton for telling lies about his sexual
peccadilloes, what about a president whose lies are
far more destructive of the lives and liberties of
people, not to mention the civilization that has been
mortally wounded? For those who, in the Clinton years,
expressed concern about u201Cmoral values,u201D the ball is
now in your court. There is nothing more at stake
than the wholeness of your character and the nature
of the world you are to leave to your children.

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