Galloway speaks Baathism in Damascus
Visiting Syria, Britain's rebel MP raises a pan-Arab flag to rapturous applause and a few eyebrows, reports Sami Moubayed
British MP George Galloway's visit to Syria last week and his thunderous statements at Damascus University supporting the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad have raised many questions in Syria. Some were reminded of visits he had made to Iraq prior to the US invasion in 2003. It is not his first visit. In July 2005, Galloway spoke at Al-Assad National Library, saying, "Syria is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her president."
In a remarkable speech, this time at Damascus University, Galloway said: "You know, it never ceases to surprise me that Arab governments can allow a foreigner to come to their country and sit at their tables with their leaders to insult and attack another Arab country. This is the behaviour of slave governments, and the Bahraini regime should have asked Condoleezza [Rice] to leave when she insulted Syria in their presence, in their capital. In fact, maybe it's the rulers who should leave." Galloway was referring to a meeting in Bahrain where Rice fired off provocative statements against Syria in the presence of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Shara.
Galloway added, in front of Syrian officials who were all smiles, that "All dignified people in the world, whether Arabs or Muslims or others with dignity, are very proud of the speech made by President Bashar Al-Assad a few days ago here in Damascus," referring to Assad's speech of 10 November where he spoke of steadfastness; rhetoric popular in Syria since the 1960s. Assad, Galloway said, "is the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of remaining dignity of the Arabs."
He then slammed British Prime Minister Tony Blair for criticising the Syrian president, reminding the world that Blair had been the one to take Assad into Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth II in 2001. If Assad was dangerous, Galloway noted, why then had Blair introduced him to the Queen of England? "The truth is, Mr Blair changed his policy towards Syria because President Bush ordered him to... Blair, too, is a slave of the slaves."
Almost mirroring Syrian rhetoric, Galloway went on to say: "The reason why Syria is being threatened is not because of anything bad which she did, but because of the good which she is doing. That's the reason why Syria is being threatened -- because she will not betray the Palestinian resistance, because she will not betray the Lebanese resistance, Hizbullah, because she will not sign a shameful surrender-peace with General Sharon, and above all -- more than any of these others -- because Syria will not allow her country to be used as a military base for America to crush the resistance in Iraq."
To the further pleasure of Syrians, Galloway said that he had warned them "against this character Mehlis" (a reference to UN judge Detlev Mehlis). Galloway added, "And please don't call him Sayyed (Mr) Mehlis. I am not calling him Sayyed Mehlis." He went on: "Because somebody came through the UN doesn't make them a saint. Mehlis is not a saint. He is a policeman with a record of framing Arab governments, and this is why he was given this job. He was the one who investigated the so-called La Belle disco explosion in Berlin. He named Libya as the responsible party for this crime, and Ronald Reagan used this finding to send a massive and violent attack against Libya, which killed innocent people, including the daughter of Muammar Gaddafi. This was Mehlis' job; to falsely accuse Libya of this crime, which everybody now knows Libya was not responsible for."
Galloway then echoed a statement made repeatedly by Syrian officials, saying: "Everybody should be aware that the verdict of the Mehlis inquiry was already fixed before he began his investigation. This murder of Hariri was deliberately planned and executed precisely to implicate Syria and to set in train the events which have unfolded." Sounding almost the same as Syria's three state-run dailies, Galloway continued: "The political strength of George Bush is beginning to seep away into the sand" and "in Britain, these are the final days of Tony Blair." He then added, "When Hitler was on the French coast and my country stood alone, when the Americans were watching the war on television before they joined it, we faced a violent foreign military invasion. And, of course, there were collaborators in Britain who would have collaborated with Hitler if he had landed, but the vast majority of British people would have fought Hitler, with their teeth if necessary, because no free people will allow itself to be occupied by a foreign army, and Syria is a free people and will never agree to such an invasion."
Wrapping up with classic pan-Arab rhetoric, Galloway said: "What your lives would be if from the Atlantic to the Gulf we had one Arab union -- all this land, 300 million people, all this oil and gas and water, occupied by a people who speak the same language, follow the same religions, listen to the same Umm Kulthum. The Arabs would be a superpower in the world if they had this unity, instead of the shameful situation in which the Arabs find themselves today. Hundreds of thousands are ready to fight them (the Americans) in the Middle East, and in Latin America there is revolution everywhere. Fidel Castro is feeling young again. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile are all electing left-wing governments which are challenging American domination. And in Venezuela, the hero Hugo Chavez has stood against them over and over and over again. So I say to you, citizens of the last Arab country, this is a time for courage, for unity, for wisdom, for determination, to face these enemies with the dignity your president has shown, and I believe, God willing, we will prevail and triumph, wa-salamu aleikum (peace be upon you all)."