Monday, September 5, 2005

LONDON — Jane Fonda will join George Galloway, the most radical member of the British parliament, on a tour of the United States to accuse the Bush administration of spending money on Iraq that should be spent to help the poor of New Orleans.

The argument, likely to offend many Americans, follows British newspaper and television coverage of Hurricane Katrina that focused on the bungled handling of the aftermath of the storm.

Mr. Galloway, a passionate supporter of anti-Western causes in the Arab world, has been sneered at in Parliament as the “member for Baghdad” because of his regular trips there before the U.S.-led invasion.

He also has been accused of receiving allocations to buy and sell 20 million barrels of Iraqi oil, a charge he has strongly denied.

Miss Fonda was persuaded to join Mr. Galloway’s eight-city traveling show later this month by a friend, Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues.” Mrs. Ensler had been impressed by Mr. Galloway’s pugnacious performance in May in front of a Senate committee investigating the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, the London Sunday Times reported.

At the hearing, Mr. Galloway, just re-elected after a fiercely fought campaign exploiting Muslim anti-war sentiment, described the accusations against him as “the mother of all smoke screens” and said they were aimed at diverting attention from America’s role in the war and its aftermath.

Chris Dols, an organizer of the U.S. tour, said, “Jane Fonda and George Galloway will point out how much money is being wasted on the war when it is needed to help people at home.”

Mr. Galloway’s speaking tour, Stand Up and Be Counted, starts in Boston on Sept. 13 and will end at a rally scheduled for Sept. 24 in Washington.

He says he has received more than 20,000 messages from U.S. residents asking him to return to the United States. He will also be promoting a new book, “Mr. Galloway Goes To Washington.”

British newspaper and television stations, meanwhile, were filled over the weekend with stories suggesting that the Bush administration’s international standing had suffered a severe blow after the response in New Orleans.

“The Waters Rose and Bush’s Credibility Sank with New Orleans” ran a two-page headline in the normally pro-American Sunday Times. Above a picture of survivors in the Superdome, its headline read: “City of the Damned.”

Perhaps the biggest blow to America’s image came in a report in the London Observer that New Orleans police refused to evacuate British families from hotels before the hurricane struck, telling them that priority was being given to Americans.

The newspaper quoted Gerrard Scott, 35, speaking from the Ramada Hotel in New Orleans, where he has been stranded without assistance with his wife and 7-year-old son since Katrina struck.

“Those that didn’t fit their criteria were told to help themselves,” he told a relative by telephone. “The police said they were evacuating Americans and took away the majority.”

Mr. Scott’s brother, Peter, who received the phone call, was quoted as saying, “The British who were left all thought the police would come back, but nobody has. They have just been left.”

There is a pay phone in the hotel lobby, but U.S. telephone operators have been refusing to connect collect calls from stranded Britons, the newspaper was told.

“Some of them are just hanging up even after they have explained they are trapped in New Orleans. It’s like — what emergency?” Mr. Scott said.

At the Superdome, by contrast, British visitors said they were rescued ahead of many locals, who hollered and shouted abuse as the British were led to safety.

Several newspapers criticized British diplomats for failing to go to the Superdome to offer help or solace, even though British journalists managed to get there days ago.

But the government said last night that its officials had been banned from entering by the state governor and were still being barred last night. The Foreign Office said 131 Britons were still unaccounted for in the storm-struck area.

Distributed by World News & Features.

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