Monday, May 30, 2005

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm..."


Despite the unsuccessful efforts by British MP George Galloway to turn
yesterday's Senate hearing on the oil-for-food scandal into a circus, Sen. NormColeman, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations,continues to make headway. Late last week, the panel issued its latest report --based in large part on interviews of former senior officials in Saddam's government, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and Vice President TahaYassin Ramadan -- which suggests that Mr. Galloway, French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and members of Russia's Presidential Council were recipients of illicit oil-for-food largesse.

Unfortunately, the most talked-about aspect of all of this is Mr. Galloway's vitriolic attack on the integrity of Mr. Coleman and the subcommittee, hisdenunciation of the war to liberate Iraq and his assertions of persecution atthe hands of Zionists, Christian fundamentalist and other alleged malefactors.

None of this is out of character for a man who has described the fall of Soviet Communism as a tragedy, who openly attacked his own government for opposing Saddam and who depicts Iraq's terrorist insurgents as liberators. Mr. Galloway's reprehensible political views aside, proving he was paid offby Saddam has been no easy task.

Last year, he won a libel suit against a British newspaper that reported, apparently based on forged documents that included correspondence from as far back as 1992, that he had benefited from the oil-for-food program. The Coleman panel uses a different set of documents, allof them issued since 2001.

The subcommittee concluded that Mr. Galloway was granted oil allocations as part of a complex series of oil transactions aimed at concealing the source of ill-gotten gain. (Last year, the CIA's Iraq SurveyGroup concluded that Saddam gave Mr. Galloway 20 million barrels of oil.)

"Galloway appeared to use a charity for children's leukemia to conceal payments associated with at least one such allocation ... according to senior officials [from Saddam's government], the oil allocations were granted by Iraq because of Galloway's support for the Hussein regime and his opposition to U.N.sanctions," the panel report said.

The report also raises serious questions about the conduct of Mr. Pasqua. It uncovered internal documents from the Iraqi Ministry of Oil suggesting that Mr.Pasqua received 11 million barrels of oil from the Ba'athist regime. Former aides to Saddam told the Senate subcommittee in interviews that former top Kremlin aide Alexander Voloshin and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a Russian ultranationalist and an outspoken supporter of Saddam, also earned millions in oil deals.

Things are becoming increasingly uncomfortable for some of Saddam Hussein'sstaunchest supporters.



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