Big Day for Bush Foes

By Jefferson Morley Staff Writer
Thursday, May 19, 2005; 8:30 AM

Tuesday was a very good day for two of the fiercest foreign critics of the Bush administration, according to the international online media.

George Galloway, antiwar member of the British House of Commons, and Cuban President Fidel Castro, veteran antagonist of the United States, both succeeded in turning the tables on Washington.

Galloway transformed a congressional hearing about the U.N. oil-for-food scandal into a fierce attack on the Bush administration's Iraq policies. On the same day, Castro relished the spectacle of U.S. law enforcement officers carrying out his long-standing demand to arrest accused airline bomber Luis Posada Carriles.

Both men, say commentators overseas, successfully put Washington on the defensive over apparent contradictions in America's war on terrorism.

The British press, not always friendly to the controversial maverick MP Galloway, almost unanimously declared him the winner in his confrontation with Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), a Republican critic of the United Nations.

Galloway, said the centrist Financial Times, "stole the show."

The hearing "had been presented as an opportunity for the committee to interrogate Mr. Galloway over his alleged involvement in Iraq's oil-for-food programme and his alleged support for Saddam Hussein. The investigators had even offered to send airline tickets to ensure his attendance," the FT reported. "But in the event it was Mr. Galloway who was on the offensive - and it was Mr. Coleman's credibility that was called into question."

Virtually every British news site quoted Galloway's riposte to the committee's published allegation that he had met "many times" with Hussein. "As a matter of fact," Galloway said according to the Times of London's transcript, "I met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns, and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

Galloway was referring to two trips that Rumsfeld made to Iraq in 1983 and 1984. As a special U.S. envoy, Rumsfeld offered financial and military incentives to Hussein to reestablish diplomatic relations with the United States at a time when U.S. officials regarded Iran -- with whom Iraq was engaged in a devastating war -- as a greater threat.

(A telling difference between the British and American press:  The Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times chose not to mention the Rumsfeld line in their coverage. Rumsfeld's friendly overtures to Hussein 20 years ago have been reported before.)

The Guardian said "the culture clash between Mr. Galloway's bruising style and the soporific gentility of Senate proceedings could hardly have been more pronounced and drew audible gasps and laughs of disbelief from the audience."

Along the way, Galloway managed to evade some of the toughest questions, as the Daily Telegraph pointed out.

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