Sunday, May 15, 2005

Good morning, and welcome to today’s edition of “What’s News?” A Senate committee has released a report alleging two prominent European opponents of the Iraq war were paid off by Saddam Hussein as part of the U.N. Oil for Food program. I’ll reveal their names in a moment.

You will search in vain for this story on the print or Web versions of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, or the Chicago Tribune. I found it in The Washington Times and the New York Sun.

The point here is not to beat up the liberal media for their lack of coverage, but merely to observe that news judgment — that sacred totem of journalism — is not and probably never can be a neutral or unbiased matter. What the New York Times and New York Sun respectively believe about the world around them is reflected in what they put on Page One — or cover at all. That’s why it is essential to get news from multiple sources — preferably sources with differing biases. As for me, I like to get both sides of the story — the right and the far right (kidding).

That much said, the majors are missing a helluva tale.

You may remember George Galloway of Great Britain. He is the former Labor member of Parliament who compared U.S. and British troops in Iraq to Nazi occupiers of France during World War II and defended the “right” of the terrorists in Iraq to “resist foreign occupiers of their country.”

Mr. Galloway garrulously praised Saddam, effusing to the dictator during one visit, “I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” (He claims he was praising Iraqis, not Saddam, but in context it amounts to nearly the same thing.)

Mr. Galloway was expelled from the Labor Party in 2004 and founded his own party with the acronym RESPECT, which stands for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community and Trade Unionism (shouldn’t it be RESPECTU?), which is pretty self-explanatory — but Mr. Galloway clarifies that the party is founded to offer “an alternative to imperialist war, unfettered global capital and the rule of the market.” In May, he was re-elected to Parliament.

In 2004, Mr. Galloway’s name appeared on the list of 270 individuals, political parties and government officials who received valuable oil allocations from Saddam (and who took positions favorable to Saddam within their own governments and in the United Nations). Mr. Galloway has vociferously denied the bribery charges. But the Senate subcommittee, headed by Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman and fully backed by ranking Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, presents new evidence Mr. Galloway and a charity he founded were indeed profiteers in the Oil for Food Scandal.

Relying on information in the Duelfer Report, as well as documents from the Hussein-era Iraqi Oil Ministry, the subcommittee also interviewed key members of Saddam’s regime, including Tariq Aziz and the former vice president of Iraq, Taha Yassin Ramadan.

According to these sources, Mr. Galloway got six allocations totaling 20 million barrels of oil. When Mr. Galloway sold these allocations, he stood to collect between 3 cents and 30 cents a barrel. I thought we were against “unfettered global capital.”

Mr. Galloway has not been silent on the latest charges against him. As the New York Sun reports, he denounced the Senate committee as a “lickspittle Republican committee, acting on the wishes of George W. Bush.” He further reiterated his claim “no one has acted on my behalf, trading in oil — Middle Eastern, olive, patchouli or any other” which certainly qualifies Mr. Galloway for the Most Colorful Denial Award. It would be the most convincing — if not for the mountain of evidence.

The Senate Committee on Investigations has also pointed the finger at Charles Pasqua, former French interior minister (now senator) and close associate of President Jacques Chirac. Mr. Pasqua argued passionately in the 1990s for lifting economic sanctions against Saddam’s regime and declared France erred by siding with the allies in the 1991 Gulf war.

Where was U.N. oversight of all this graft? Why, in the hands of Kofi Annan, of course. Feel better? Democrats do.

While one arm of the Senate indicted Mr. Galloway and Mr. Pasqua (and by inference the U.N. itself), Democrats paraded their disdain for John Bolton, whose great shortcoming appears to be insufficient adoration of the United Nations.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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