My old friend and frequent critic Geoffrey Wheatcroft once tried to define a moment of perfect contentment and came up with the idea of opening a vintage wine while settling down to read an undiscovered work by P.G. Wodehouse. Another comrade identified bliss with writing or reading very hard in the afternoon, knowing that someone really, really nice was coming to dinner. I, too, have a taste for the simpler pleasures. Can I convey the deep sense of delight that stole over me when I learned that George Galloway and Jane Fonda were to go on an “anti-war” tour together and that the idea of this perfect partnership had come from Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues?
The pure silliness and risibility of the thing would have been quite beyond one’s power of invention. And, oh, just to be present when they finally meet. Jane can shyly tell George, who yells daily about the rape of Jerusalem by Zionism, of the brave days in 1982 when she and Tom Hayden went to entertain Gen. Sharon’s invading troops in Lebanon. He can huskily and modestly discuss (he says he’s a great admirer of her role in Barefoot in the Park) his long record as one of Britain’s leading pro-life politicians, and his more recent outrage at the judicial “murder” of Terri Schiavo.
Jane Fonda, who the last I heard was in the throes of a post-orgasmic spiritual transfiguration, was a byword for ditziness even on the left when I was young, and she now issues apologies for her past politics almost as rapidly as Barbarella changed positions. Galloway, however, is nothing if not grimly consistent. Here, just for an example, is what he said as recently as July, after speaking at the Al-Assad Library in the Syrian capital of Damascus, about the host after whose foul dynasty that library is named:
We covered the whole world in 60 minutes. I was very impressed by his knowledge, by his sharpness, by his flexible mind. I was very, very impressed. … Syria is lucky to have Bashar al-Assad as her President.
Not that the Syrian people had any say in their good fortune, in being passed from the rule of a megalomaniac father to a feeble son. And not that anyone in Syria is permitted to disagree when Galloway comes to give one of his speeches. More serious still, it had been on the preceding Feb. 14 that Rafik Hariri, a former elected prime minister of Lebanon, was murdered by a bomb of military-grade force. The U.N. investigator of this odious crime, Detlev Mehlis, has since caused the arrests of four senior pro-Syrian Lebanese officers. This week, he travels to Damascus to pursue his inquiries to the source. Bashar Assad, who had been planning to fly to address the United Nations, has decided not to show his weak, slobbering face in New York after all. All or most of this was known or at the least seriously suspected when Galloway went for his asshole dialogue with Assad in July, and also delivered an asshole monologue of his own. Indeed, the outrage in Lebanon had already led to a Syrian “withdrawal,” even though Syria still does not recognize the existence of Lebanon as a state. Galloway publicly deplored this withdrawal, saying that Syria’s presence in Lebanon was “legal,” which it was not after the Taif Accords of more than a decade ago, and adding that “the beneficiary from the absence of Syria is the US and Israel.”
Fawning on dictators, posing and posturing for a state-controlled press in front of a coerced audience, managing to overlook the existence of death squads and torturers, and praising the invasion and occupation of neighboring states—this is the same George Galloway who in 1994 flew to Baghdad and addressed Saddam Hussein in the following terms, commiserating with him on his failure to annex the Arab and Muslim state of Kuwait:
Your Excellency, Mr. President, I greet you in the name of the many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war and aggression against Iraq. … I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.
Now, you can be a flatterer of dictators and murderers and still—just about—be a pacifist, or “anti-war.” But here is what Galloway said about the car bombers and beheaders and suicide fanatics of Iraq, again this July 30 at the Al-Assad Library, as broadcast by Syrian state TV and by Al Jazeera the following day. He informed the Arab world:
Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners—Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. Some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters …
As for the jihadist and Baathist resisters: They “are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day.”
Change only the name, and this is flat-out Bin-Ladenist hysteria. (It also fails to mention the fact that even Saddam Hussein’s constitution recognized that Iraq was a state of Arabs and Kurds. There are at least 1 million Kurds in Baghdad alone, and I doubt that the ancestral Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Russians, and Druse of Jerusalem consider themselves members of “the Arab nation.”) As for the “operations,” they may not amount to 145 per day, but they have included the demolition of the U.N. and Red Cross offices in Baghdad, the deliberate murder of schoolchildren, the video-slaughter of journalists and aid workers, the leveling of Shiite mosques, and the assassination recently of Sheikh Omar Ibrahim al Duleimi, a Sunni cleric who opposes the coalition presence but who urged his followers to vote in the upcoming elections. I might add that the “operations” have also included the killing of hundreds of American soldiers, including Spc. Casey Sheehan, who died in the successful attempt to bring order and water to Sadr City, and over whose graves Galloway invites us to shed the tears of the crocodile—and then to capitulate to the killers. No shame. No shame at all.
Thus, and thanks in part to Eve and Jane, the “anti-war” movement has as its new star a man who is openly pro-war, but openly on the other side. A man who supported the previous oppressors of the region—the Soviet army in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq—who supports its current oppressors—Bashar Assad and his Lebanese proxies—and who still has time to endorse its potential future tyrants in the shape of the jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere. Galloway began his political life as a fifth-rate apologist for the Soviet Union, but he has now diversified into being an apologist for Stalinism, for fascism, and for jihadism all at once! All this, and Jane, too. One’s cup runs over.
There has been a real question as to whether or not Galloway does all these favors to despots for free. A shallow and superficial press has allowed itself to be used as his megaphone and has allowed him to change the subject by means of tirades of abuse that are considered brilliantly apt and witty. At www.hitchensweb.com, you will find a compilation of the hard evidence that he has very good reason to try and change this dangerous subject; you will also find a great deal more chapter and verse about the record and the true opinions of this disgusting figure.
Galloway’s preferred style is that of vulgar ad hominem insult, usually uttered while a rather gaunt crew of minders stands around him. I have a thick skin and a broad back and no bodyguards. He says that I am an ex-Trotskyist (true), a “popinjay” (true enough, since its original Webster’s definition means a target for arrows and shots), and that I cannot hold a drink (here I must protest). In a recent interview he made opprobrious remarks about the state of my midriff, which I will confess has—as P.G. Wodehouse himself once phrased it—”slipped down to the mezzanine floor.” In reply I do not wish to stoop. Those of us who revere the vagina are committed to defend it against the very idea that it is a mouth or has teeth. Study the photographs of Galloway from Syrian state television, however, and you will see how unwise and incautious it is for such a hideous person to resort to personal remarks. Unkind nature, which could have made a perfectly good butt out of his face, has spoiled the whole effect by taking an asshole and studding it with ill-brushed fangs.
I shall be debating him in public in New York on Wednesday Sept. 14, this time on a fair field with no favor. The event will be widely accessible via television and radio, and I do urge you all to tune in and watch the fun.