I received the following note in response to the October 25 Pundita post, George Galloway found lying under oath to US Senate subcommittee:
Galloway and who else? He was a teeny little cog in the UN Oil for Food gravy train."
And here I thought of George Galloway as a cog in al Qaeda's war against America. Silly Pundita! But let's indulge my silliness a bit -- after all, it is Halloween -- and struggle to comprehend how Pundita got such a silly idea lodged in her head.
We'll have to track back almost a decade, to June 25, 1996, when 19 US soldiers were killed and 386 wounded by a truck bomb at the US military base of Khobar near the town of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. Although al Qaeda did not overtly claim credit for the attack, it was demonstrably their work.
Just in case anybody missed the message, the day after the attack an old chum of Osama bin Laden's, Saudi Mohammed al-Massari, made statements on the BBC in London that practically shouted the Khobar attack was the work of al Qaeda, and which gave an explicit warning to the United States to clear out of Saudi Arabia if they didn't want to see more attacks. (1)
Al-Massari was the head of the London-based Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights. Just a few months before the Khobar attack he had been granted asylum in England because he'd had to flee Saudi Arabia. He fled because he'd repeatedly called for the overthrow of the Saudi government and demanded the government be replaced with a Muslim fundamentalist regime.
George Galloway never denied his involvement with the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights or al-Massari. And al-Massari denied that he was involved with al Qaeda. And Mr Galloway has always denied involvement with al Qaeda and terrorism, although the last is a bit tricky because many acts that the United States and Israel and now much of the world deem terrorism, Mr Galloway wouldn't. (2)
However, George Galloway was unable to deny his involvement with an al Qaeda operative named Saad al-Fagih. That's because in 1996 Galloway held a "secret" meeting with Morocco's Crown Prince Mohammed (now king) and a senior Moroccan intelligence official. (Clearly, the meeting didn't remain secret for long.) Galloway was in attendance to represent the interests of various Saudi 'dissidents,' including Saad al-Fagih, who was involved with al Qaeda. (3)
Al-Fagih purchased and gave a satellite phone to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The phone was used by Osama bin Laden and his associates to plan the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which left close to 250 Africans dead and injured nearly 5,000 while taking 12 American lives.
Al-Fagih was not a nobody in the al Qaeda network. He purchased the phone at the behest of bin Laden's representative in London, Khalid al-Fawaaz. The phone was shipped to bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Mr Galloway refused to discuss the nature of his relationship with al-Fagih when questioned about the Morocco meeting.
Correct me if my reasoning is screwy, but if George Galloway was involved with a man who was known to be an al Qaeda operative, and involved enough to "secretly" negotiate for his interests with a foreign dignitary -- wouldn't that mean George Galloway was involved with al Qaeda or at least supporting their interests, at least during 1996?
1) "[The US military presence in Saudi Arabia] is obviously not welcomed by a substantial fraction of the population there. And they are ready to go to the execution stand for it ... There are so many underground parties -- so many splinter groups, many of them made up of people who fought in Afghanistan ... I expect more of the same..."
2) In 1997, while he was a Labor Member of Parliament, George Galloway blocked proposed legislation (the "Conspiracy and Incitement Bill") to ban foreign terrorists residing in Britain from "plotting and conducting terrorist operations overseas."
The bill was introduced in the wake of concern in Britain that Mohammed al-Massari was involved with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. This would be the same al-Massari who headed the Committee for Defense of Legitimate Rights.
Galloway's somewhat tortured argument against the bill amounted to saying that it's not terrorism if you're trying to overthrow a regime you consider repressive, and that foreigners shouldn't be penalized for plotting on British soil to overthrow wicked governments.
By blocking the bill, Galloway in effect made the British government a co-conspirator in all subsequent attacks launched by al Qaeda and other terror organizations with a base in Britain. That would include the attack against the British people in July 2005.
3) April 2003 Guardian The Observer: Fresh doubts surface over embattled MP