A Member of the British Parliament from 1987 to 2010, George Galloway was born into a socialist family in Dundee, Scotland in August 1954. At age 13 he joined the British Labour Party, and within five years he was secretary of the Scottish constituency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
In the mid-1970s, Galloway became deeply involved with the pro-Palestinian movement. After visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in the Middle East, he returned home and began flying the Palestinian flag over the Dundee town hall.
From 1983 to 1987, Galloway served as the general secretary of War On Want, a human-rights NGO that works closely with the Union of Palestine Medical Relief Committees. At the time, the British newspaper Daily Mirror accused Galloway of “living the high life at the charity’s expense.” Although an independent auditor cleared him of any misdoing, Galloway in 1988 admitted to having had a number of sexual liaisons while attending to overseas business for War On Want.
Describing himself as being “on the anti-imperialist left,” Galloway ranks among the most impassioned advocates of the de facto alliance that has been forged between Western leftists and radical Islamists, unlikely allies that joined their efforts to oppose America’s war in Iraq specifically, and its larger war on terror generally.
Galloway once told the late Saddam Hussein: “I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability. I can honestly tell you that there was not a single person to whom I told I was coming to Iraq and hoping to meet with yourself, who did not wish me to convey their heartfelt fraternal greetings and support.” More specifically, Galloway praised Saddam for giving financial rewards to the families of deceased Palestinian suicide bombers.
Recalling the “disappearance of the Soviet Union” as “the biggest catastrophe of my life,” Galloway said: “Just as Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq’s Great Leap Forward.” When Britain joined the United States in the military mission to overthrow Saddam in March 2003, Galloway called for a jihad against British and American troops; he exhorted the troops themselves to disobey the “illegal” orders they had been given to fight an “illegal” war.
In an October 2003 speech, Galloway characterized the West’s war-on-terror and the tactics of al Qaeda as “two sides of the same evil coin.” “I will not condemn the just war of populations of occupied territories when they resist, in any way that they can, uninvited invaders on to their sovereign soil,” he said.
That same month, Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party because of his harsh criticisms of British participation in the Iraq War. In 2004 he established his own political party, whose acronym, RESPECT, stands for: Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community and Trade Unionism. Galloway stated that the fledgling party’s purpose was to offer “an alternative to imperialist war, unfettered global capital, and the rule of the market.”
In February 2004 Galloway spoke out against a French ban on the wearing of the hijab (veil) by Muslim women in France, calling the ban “an attack on the right to have the freedom to practice one’s chosen religion.” “The banning of the hijab in France,” he added, “is the flip side of the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the British Home Secretary and his draconian anti-terrorism legislation which imprisons Muslims without charge and trial — in direct contravention of international human rights standards.”
On May 17, 2005, Galloway testified in a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (SPSI) probe regarding corruption in the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program. Five months later, the Subcommittee released a report citing evidence that between 1999 and 2003, Galloway himself had solicited and received from Saddam Hussein some 23 million barrels of oil which instead should have been exported, under the Oil-For-Food Program, to raise money to feed Iraqi children while the UN sanctions against Iraq were in place. Galloway’s subsequent sale of this oil ultimately earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits each year.
In exchange for the cash, Galloway publicly adopted pro-Saddam, anti-West positions with regard to the UN sanctions. A letter accompanying one Iraqi payment to Galloway — in the amount of $3 million — praised the recipient, “in the name of President Saddam Hussein,” for “his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British Prime Minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient [Iraqi] people.”
Galloway funneled much (at least $446,000) of this illicit Iraqi money through a pseudo-charity, the Mariam Appeal, that he himself had created in 1998. The Mariam Appeal was ostensibly an anti-sanctions campaign whose stated purpose was “to provide medicines, medical equipment and medical assistance to the people of Iraq.” But a four-year inquiry by the House of Commons Select Committee on Standards and Privileges found massive amounts of incontrovertible evidence, including bank records and Iraqi government vouchers, that Galloway had used the charity largely to conceal his oil transactions and thereby enrich himself — and that, by so doing, he had “damaged the reputation of the House.” The SPSI’s October 2005 report concluded that “Galloway [had] knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath before the Subcommittee at its hearing on May 17, 2005.” Twenty-six months later, Galloway would be suspended from the House of Commons for his egregious breach of ethics.
On April 25, 2005, Galloway was interviewed by the Iraq News Network on the subject of the war on terror. He was asked: “You often call for uniting Muslim and progressive forces globally. How far is it possible under current situation?” To this, Galloway replied:
“Not only do I think it’s possible but I think it is vitally necessary and I think it is happening already. It is possible because the progressive movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies. Their enemies are the Zionist occupation, American occupation, British occupation of poor countries, mainly Muslim countries. They have the same interest in opposing savage capitalist globalization which is intent upon homogenizing the entire world … So it’s necessary to unite these two great forces.”
Following a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that killed more than 50 people on the London transportation system on July 7, 2005, Galloway told the British House of Commons that Londoners, victimized by those attacks, had “paid the price” for their country’s involvement in the Iraq War.
In a July 2005 appearance in Damascus, Galloway stated that he was “very, very impressed” by Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s “knowledge,” “sharpness,” and “flexible mind.”
In August 2005 Galloway was praised by the head of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, Dr. ‘Azzam Al-Tamimi, a self-described a “sympathizer and supporter” of Hamas who believes that Israel is a “Zionist, racist, and fascist State” which has no right to exist.
On September 13, 2005, Galloway launched a twelve-city speaking tour in the U.S. for the purpose of condemning the American and British war effort in Iraq as both illegal and immoral. The tour was sponsored jointly by the National Council of Arab Americans, the Traprock Peace Center, the International Socialist Review, and The Nation Institute. Among its high-profile supporters were Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda, the latter of whom was originally scheduled to tour with Galloway but later cancelled, citing health concerns.
During the tour, Galloway condemned American support for Israel; praised antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan; laid blame for the Hurricane Katrina disaster on President Bush; impugned the U.S. for having “created the swamp of radical Islam” from which the 9/11 attackers arose; blamed the Bush administration’s war on terror for creating “hundreds of thousands” of “new terrorists”; and accused the U.S. of “going around the world occupying countries and stealing their things.”
On September 24, 2005, Galloway spoke at the “Call to United Mass Action,” an anti-Iraq War rally in Washington, DC that was co-organized by International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice. Other speakers at the event, which was attended by an estimated 300,000 people, included Ramsey Clark, Cindy Sheehan, Ralph Nader, Lynne Stewart, Mahdi Bray, Dolores Huerta, Elias Rashmawi, Larry Holmes, Brian Becker, Michael Berg, Michael Shehadeh, and Al Sharpton.
In November 2005, Galloway delivered a speech to an audience at Damascus University. In his talk, Galloway praised President Al-Assad for “not betray[ing] the Palestinian resistance” or “the Lebanese resistance, Hizbullah.” He stated, approvingly, that “No American soldier who leaves his barracks can be sure that he will come back alive.” He urged nations “from the Atlantic to the Gulf” to form “one Arab union” of “300 million people,” which would make “the Arabs … a superpower in the world.” He characterized America’s and Britain’s hardships in the Iraq War as illustrations of Mao Zedong‘s assertion “that sometimes the enemy struggles mightily to lift a huge stone, only to drop it on its own feet.” And he lauded “left-wing governments which are challenging American domination” in the Western hemisphere, most notably the regimes of Fidel Castro and “the hero Hugo Chavez.”
In May 2006, Galloway appeared on Cuban television praising Fidel Castro as a “lion” of world politics and dismissing a Forbes magazine report naming the dictator as one of the wealthiest rulers in the world (with a $900 million personal fortune).
In an interview that same month with GQ magazine, Galloway stated that the assassination of British Prime Minister Tony Blair would be “morally justified” because of Blair’s active role in the Iraq War.
On August 8, 2006, Galloway appeared on the Arabic television station Al Jazeera and likened the relationship between Blair and President Bush to the adulterous affair between Monica Lewinsky and former President Bill Clinton. The American-British relationship, Galloway said, is “the same kind of relationship that Ms. Lewinsky had with the former U.S. president. It’s dishonorable, disreputable, unequal, and humiliating for a once great country to be the tail of the American dog, when the head of the dog is as crazy as Bush is.”
During an August 2006 press conference in Beirut, Galloway said the following about Israel’s then-active military operations in Lebanon, where the Israeli Defense Forces were engaged in combat against Hezbollah:
“I came here to extend my congratulations to the Lebanese people on a great and historic victory against this [Israeli] aggression. I want to congratulate the Lebanese resistance and their leading edge, Hizbollah, whose martyrs and heroes have achieved this great victory. And in particular to their leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose name now rings in joy around the world.”
In 2008, Galloway endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama for U.S. President. In a May 2008 interview that appeared on Al-Aqsa TV, Galloway declared that America had been defeated in the Iraq War, and that he prayed for Obama to be victorious in the November election so “he can shift the United States’ attitude … Allah willing.”
As of 2008, Galloway served as an endorser of, and spokesman for, “Iran Watch,” a campaign of the anti-war collective Peace No War. Iran Watch sought “to stop the War on Iran before it starts” — a reference to a possible U.S. military strike aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Galloway’s fellow endorsers of this initiative included, among others, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Professor Howard Zinn, playwright Harold Pinter, and International Action Center founder Ramsey Clark.
In 2009 Galloway founded Viva Palestina as “a fundraising project for the Palestinian people.” Since its inception, the organization has given given millions of dollars, as well as much non-cash assistance, directly to Hamas. In July 2009, Galloway participated – along with such notables as Charles Barron and Cynthia McKinney – in a Viva Palestina expedition to Gaza. There, Galloway announced that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez would join the group in one of its future trips to the same location.
In 2010, Galloway was unsuccessful in contesting the parliamentary seat of Poplar and Limehouse.
Galloway is the author of several books, including his 2005 autobiography I’m Not the Only One, which Nick Cohen of the New Statesman describes as being “packed with apologetics for Saddam’s slaughters of Kurds, Shias, democrats and socialists.” That same year, Galloway released Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington: The Brit Who Set Congress Straight About Iraq. And in 2006 he published the Fidel Castro Handbook, a hagiography of the Cuban president he admired so greatly.
Galloway is also a host/presenter for Press TV, the English-language channel run by the Iranian government; another noteworthy host/presenter is Tariq Ramadan.