In the recent parliamentary elections, the British people, given the choice between standing for the rule of law or embracing partisan politics, chose the latter, voting with their pocketbooks, even though it meant re-electing a man who led Britain into an illegal war of aggression, based on lies and misrepresentation of fact.
Tony Blair is a man who has shown himself more subservient to an American president with empire in his eyes than to a British tradition of respect for the rule of law that dates back to the Magna Carta. There is at least one politician, however, that the citizens of Britain can today be proud of, regardless of how one views his politics. This is a man who, back in 2002, had the courage to stand up to Blair and George Bush, calling Blair a liar and declaring that both were behaving like "wolves" towards Iraq. For speaking the truth, he was castigated, thrown out of the Labour party and smeared with false allegations of corruption - at the same time as the US government hid its role in enriching Saddam Hussein's government with illegal kickbacks. He has now charged back, winning a parliamentary seat previously controlled by the very party that evicted him.
And now the same man has done something that no other British politician has been brave enough to do: cross the Atlantic and confront the United States over the lies spread about the reasons for war with Iraq, the oil for food agreement and the failure of US lawmakers to do their own job when it comes to the rule of law.
George Galloway, the politician in question, stared down the US Senate subcommittee on homeland security and government affairs, and its notoriously partisan chairman Norm Coleman, and blasted as totally unfounded the committee's allegations that he had profited from oil vouchers in exchange for his anti-war stance. He emerged from the hearing victorious. If only more politicians, British and American alike, were able to display such courage in the face of the atmosphere of neoconservative intimidation prevalent in Washington these days.
Galloway is now the darling of the American left, and has fed punch lines for late-night comics and generated headlines like the New York Post's "Brit fries senators in oil". But mainstream America still seems unable to digest the horrific reality that the MP's testimony underscored: that Senator Coleman's McCarthy-like hearings are but a smoke screen for a crime of horrific proportions.
Galloway has nevertheless had the courage to stand up to unjust charges and an unjust war - and that is the only way that opinion will shift. Two years ago I wrote that the accusations of corruption against Galloway were too convenient, designed to silence one of the Iraq war's harshest critics. The honorable member for Bethnal Green and Bow has entered the lair of a conservative American political body to confront it head-on about a war and occupation that many on both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and public alike, seem only too willing to sweep under the carpet. So, Mr Galloway, please accept from this American three cheers for a job well done.
Scott Ritter was a senior UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998.
© 2005 Guardian Newspapers, Ltd.