Among the generally terrible news for Britain that comes with a Cameron majority, a Tory government unrestrained even by the nominal resistance that the Liberal Democrat coalition brought to the most sickly and contemptuous of their policies, there was one good piece of news.
George Galloway finally lost his seat. He’s no longer George Galloway, MP, but George Galloway, just another angry screaming racist bastard. When Galloway represented a district in Glasgow, he was actually the MP for a friend of mine from the Doctor Who community.
|I doubt we've seen the last of him.|
I the Scientist informs me that Galloway “was always a cunt.” As well, he earned the greasily ironic nickname Gorgeous George when he represented Glasgow because of his hilarious personal vanity and his taste for women.
But I remember George Galloway for having done one decent thing: opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I had never heard of Galloway before this moment, when he seemed to be the only MP – hell, the only person in the UK with any kind of public profile and something to lose – clearly opposing George W. Bush’s plan to invade the country into democracy. I admired the advocacy against the invasion that he did with the Stop the War Coalition.
At the time, I thought George Galloway was an admirable man speaking truth to power at personal risk to his career. Being kicked out of the Labour Party and nationally shamed by a warmongering, boot-licking media establishment (esp. the significant parts of the British media that Rupert Murdoch controls) would be an intense hit to someone’s career. All for speaking truth to power against the determination of his Prime Minister to join Bush's ridiculous, disastrous war. I remember how impressive he was as one of the few politicians who refused to be bought by fear.
This is how, in the contexts and conflicts of those terrible times, Galloway seemed heroic and admirable.
Times have changed.
I had an easy ride when it came to the Iraq War in a certain context. I definitely had it a lot easier than the Iraqis did, and they continue to suffer the most from the dunderheaded military thinking of North American and European individual leaders and party-political classes.
I’m Canadian, and my Prime Minister at the time always opposed the invasion of Iraq. Jean Chrétien knew from the start that the Iraq invasion and occupation was going to be a shit show in which the Canadian military simply didn’t have the physical capacity to take part.
If my current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party had been in charge then, he would have embroiled the country in a purposeless war where hundreds of billions would be spent fruitlessly bombing and killing a civilian population, and where our involvement would only make a horrifying political situation even worse. And he would have justified it through facile statements of unconditional loyalty to the United States and a public relations campaign continually encouraging a nation-wide climate of fear and paranoia.
Oh, wait a second.
The material history of Galloway’s involvement with Iraq seems to betray absolutely horrible reasons for his opposition. Tom Dalyell, a fellow Labour MP, spoke admirably of Galloway’s speeches in the 1980s about Iraq. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and Britain was a major arms supplier to Hussein’s regime during Iraq’s conflict with Iran. Galloway frequently was the lone voice denouncing the horrifying human rights abuses of the Iraqi army and state.
Yet in 1994, he was welcomed on a visit to Iraq, and made a public speech praising Saddam Hussein. He backpedaled his words, but they betray the real reason for his opposition to the 2003 invasion. Galloway was no devoted friend of Hussein himself or his violent, authoritarian regime. Galloway is and always was a devoted enemy of the West’s imperialism. At all costs.
This is the solution to the Galloway paradox, that he’s simply one of the most individually prominent useful idiots among the Western dissident left. But there’s more going on with Galloway than this simple explanation. He doesn’t express it himself, but he makes a wonderful symbol, a signification of all in left-wing politics that the Utopias project will critique. . . . To be continued.
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Galloway was hardly the only MP opposing the war. Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, took what was at the time a politically brave decision to lead his entire party of 62 MPs in opposition to the war. Unfortunately, enough Labour and Conservative MPs voted in favour and the UK went ahead with the war, but it was a close run thing.ReplyDelete
Kennedy is a more modest and decent man than Galloway - which is hardly difficult - but for all Galloway's success in transatlantic self-publicity, Kennedy's opposition was roughly 62 times more significant.
You make a solid point. My own perspective comes from my memories of how the British debate over going to war in 2003 appeared on my side of the ocean. Basically, Galloway became the voice of opposition, and the media barely mentioned the organized and articulate opposition from the Liberal Democrats.Delete
Honestly, this is genuinely news to me. The only dissident voices among British parliamentarians that made it into the North American media were Galloway's. He made a lot of allies and supporters among the dissident left here. The Liberal Democrats' narrative just never made it over.
Kennedy was well-liked, gentle and funny, and his deputy, Menzies Campbell, was an elder statesman well-respected for his expertise in foreign policy. (I'm using the past tense because they are no longer MPs, not because they have lost these qualities.) With those two going around arguing against the war, and their party behind them, the media could not portray the anti-war movement as a bunch of Saddam-loving extremists, which was certainly the line they took on Galloway and he dissident left. Opposing the war became something that reasonable, respectable people did, and that changed the political narrative significantly.Delete
It also meant that, when Iraq did go to shit, the excuse proffered by many MPs including the Conservative leadership that they had been deceived by Tony Blair didn't hold much water. After all, Charles Kennedy wasn't fooled,so why were they?