The University of Wisconsin - Madison next week welcomes British MP George Galloway, an outspoken Socialist and critic of the Iraq war, to speak on campus, likely as part of a speaking tour behind Galloway's new book. Of course, here in Republican-controlled Wisconsin, sometimes free speech is just a little bit too, well, free for our elected representatives. Out in front of the pack this time, all a-furied with righteous indignation, is Representative Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, a pro-war Neo-conservative given the opportunity this morning to air his grievances with Galloway's message on WPR.
Suder claims many things about Galloway, which I will address a bit of below, but also levels much criticism at the UW of Madison for even allowing Galloway to speak. Suder claims to be interested in how much tax-payer money and/or student fees were spent on the engagement, which is somewhat facetious as the various sponsors of the event have made it clear that the funds being used were either donated or are to be collected via ticket sales. Galloway was invited to UW - Madison by the Havens Center at the UW - Madison sociology department and the International Socialist Organization, of which only the Havens Center is taxpayer funded and only donated $250 anyway. Thus, it is clear that Suder's problem with the speaking engagement has nothing to do with money (unusual for a Republican, I know!) and everything to do with silencing a voice with which Suder is ideologically uncomfortable.
The following are some of the criticisms leveled against Galloway by Suder:
Galloway made statements on Al-Jazeera calling for a jihad against British and American troops in Iraq.
Despite an exhaustive search, I was unable to find any such statement by Galloway anywhere. This leads me to believe that Suder either made it up whole cloth or, more likely, is taking something Galloway said completely out of context and twisting it to suit his political purposes. Bravo for Suder if this is the case, as it's a sure-fire way to attain a high-level government appointment under a Republican Presidential administration. Just review the writings and speeches of Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleeza Rice to settle any doubt about that.
More likely, Suder's issue comes from Galloway's stance against the war in Iraq, of which Suder is an unabashed fan and supporter. Suder claims that he has no problem with anti-war sentiment, which is an obvious lie, but then accuses Galloway of harming British and American troop morale with Galloway's opinions.
The truth, from Galloway himself via the Respect Coalition website, paints a different picture:
We urge the [British] government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East.
Only then will the innocents here and abroad be able to enjoy a life free of the threat of needless violence.
Clearly Galloway is advocating for an end to violence and return home of the British troops in harms way, a concern he has extended to all the soldiers fighting in Iraq regardless of nationality. Galloway clearly distinguishes between the warmongering civilian leaders advocating the illegal war in Iraq and the soldiers forced to fight it, a difference Republicans like Suder have worked hard to blur in the minds of the American people.
Galloway was a friend and ally of Saddam Hussein and received oil subsidy "kick-backs" from the Hussein regime.
This canard has been trotted out many times in opposition to Galloway and he has neatly refuted them each time, lately last Spring before the U.S. Senate:
"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when the British and American governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I have a better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do."
"I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country."
Galloway has also refuted accusations that he was an oil trader and received "kick-backs" via the U.N. Oil for Food program, winning Â£150,000 in libel damages stemming from such.
In light of what Suder had to say on WPR this morning, it seems clear that his real agenda has little to do with George Galloway and much more to do with Suder's support of the Iraq war. Suder, like other Republican war hawks, believes the nation should be striving for a kind of war-footing solidarity with the Bush Administration; that voices inoppositionn to the war are dangerous to the troops and should be silenced. They endeavor to create an atmosphere in which the American people are convinced that they must march in lockstep with the Republican party's pro-war agenda or have their patriotism called into question. Apologies for making the comparison, but this is exactly what Hitler and his Nazi's did in Germany in the 1930's.
Nothing could be more un-American than the curtailing of dissenting voices in a time of war, be they American, British or any other nationality. What Suder at least seems to be advocating for is the type of political environment that existed in monarchist Europe; that war-making is the purview of government and the people need to get in line and support the war machine. This is anethema to democracy, for what could be more important than the role of the people in controlling the government than where military endeavors are concerned?
One other ridiculous complaint that Suder trots out is the accusation that U.W. - Madison works to actively quash conservative voices, a charge which Eye on Wisconsin blog neatly disassembles:
Suder also makes the weak charge that It's no wonder that conservative views are not welcome on the Madison Campus. Well actually, Scott, don't you recall Robert Novak speaking in the same place not that long ago? Where was your outrage over someone that hates America so much that he helps threaten our national security in outing a CIA operative? Also such notable right wing extremists such as Ralph Reed have spoken in similar events.
It's obvious that Representative Suder is much more interested in silencing views in opposition to his own than in any contrived concern over the consequences of Galloway's upcoming speech. Suder and his fellow Neo-conservatives understand only too well what happens when their arguments are subjected to the cold, harsh reality of the truth and that's the weapon of choice that George Galloway bring to bear.