A Hitch in the works

Christopher Hitchens executes a journalistic hit on George Galloway

Though I count myself as a fan of neither Sean Connery nor Brian DePalma, I still find myself smirking when I think of the boozy old lawman swearing before his death in The Untouchables: "Just like a wop to bring a knife to a gunfight."

I found that slur echoing in my head a few weeks back after the pugnacious Labour pariah George Galloway brawled his way through a senate subcommittee hearing chaired by Norm Coleman. Our junior senator, you may recall, was once a prosecutor. But the bozos at the defense table never had the liberty to swing back at the grandstander, as Galloway did while being interrogated about his connection to Iraq's oil-for-food scandal.

Coleman's gambit--pioneered by the rightwing commentariat--is to try to bury doubts about the moral authority of our nation's Mideast escapade beneath a mountain of charges involving UN corruption. But as the documents that surfaced at the end of the Blair election campaign suggest, them bones won't stay down.

Nonetheless, war detractors may not want to hitch their wagon to Galloway, who does bear the stink of impropriety. Say what you will of Christopher Hitchens: His takedown of Galloway in the Weekly Standard is a rhetorical showpiece--reminiscent of Gore Vidal's eviceration of William F. Buckley a generation (or two) ago. You see Hitchens tie the knots in the noose throughout the essay, but you're still surprised at the way it cinches around Galloway's throat.

To this day, George Galloway defiantly insists, as he did before the senators, that he has "never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf." As a Clintonian defense this has its admirable points: I myself have never seen a kilowatt, but I know that a barrel is also a unit and not an entity. For the rest, his defense would be more impressive if it answered any charge that has actually been made. Galloway is not supposed by anyone to have been an oil trader. He is asked, simply, to say what he knows about his chief fundraiser, nominee, and crony. And when asked this, he flatly declines to answer. We are therefore invited by him to assume that, having earlier acquired a justified reputation for loose bookkeeping in respect of "charities," he switched sides in Iraq, attached himself to a regime known for giving and receiving bribes, appointed a notorious middleman as his envoy, kept company with the corrupt inner circle of the Baath party, helped organize a vigorous campaign to retain that party in power, and was not a penny piece the better off for it. I think I believe this as readily as any other reasonable and objective person would. If you wish to pursue the matter with Galloway himself, you will have to find the unlisted number for his villa in Portugal.

To see the rest of the arsenal that Hitchens brings to the gunfight, check out the whole article.

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