Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Star-Telegram | 05/29/2005 | Now that's entertainment

The George Galloway hearing. In addition to being the funniest biter-bit performance in years (if you missed it, the transcript and the video are floating around on the Internet), it was yet another victory for the Brits over the Americans when it comes to spoken English.

Holy cow, what a display of pyrotechnic mastery of language. The American senators were left with so much egg on their faces that they looked like a bad day at a Tyson chicken plant.

As one of those slow-spoken Americans often out-tap-danced on panels by the nimble-tongued Brits, I defensively assert that they don't really think faster and better than we do -- they just talk faster and better.

Galloway, a member of the British Parliament, simply danced rings around the clumsy Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and the others. The hearing bore an uncanny resemblance to the scene in Leonardo DiCaprio's popular bio-pic about Howard Hughes, The Aviator, in which the deteriorating Hughes triumphs over a low-rent, witch-hunt committee.

In case you missed the flap, Galloway is a way-left Brit MP who actually did defend Saddam Hussein before the war, which may or may not have been based on his position that the pre-war boycott of Iraq did nothing to topple Saddam but was a humanitarian nightmare for Iraqis.

In fact, the boycott, as has long been documented, did kill tens of thousands of Iraqis, in particular babies and small children. An insane policy. The United Nations' effort to mitigate it was the oil-for-food program, and Galloway was accused of being a beneficiary of the corruption of that program via a charitable foundation he had set up.

He has won two libel suits over the accusation, against The Christian Science Monitor and the London Telegraph. The Monitor, by mishap, used crudely forged documents, later discredited, to go after him.

Now, British libel law is, frankly, hideous. How its press continues to function in such a lively fashion under that load of legal bull is a mystery to me; the burden of proof there is on the defendant.

Beyond the specifics of those cases, Galloway is generally in bad smell in Britain. This may or may not be attributable to his political enemies, but it is certainly attributable to more journalists than the neo-neo-con Christopher Hitchens, who described Galloway in London's The Independent as "a thug and a demagogue, the type of working-class-wideboy-and-proud-of-it who is too used to the expense accounts, the cars and the hotels -- all the cigars and backslapping." (Only a Brit could have written that sentence.)

So here is the irony of ironies: Into our midst comes this one Brit, who deservedly or not carries with him the whiff of bad reputation, to confront our Puritan-pure, sea-green, incorruptible politicians. (Heh? Our guys never carry water for their campaign contributors, do they?) And in 20 minutes, he tells more truth about our policy and our war in Iraq than any of our politicians have in years.

Reduced to this: George Galloway as truth-teller.


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