Christopher Hitchens: Just what we need - a Baathist fused with a sectarian Muslim

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The Independent Online

It's always impressive to see someone perform who is unembarrassable. George Galloway's testimony was disgraceful, but - in a way that some disgraceful and shameless performers are - it was impressive. Like Oliver North, who put on his uniform and his medals and came to the Hill, he faced down the inquiry through sheer bluff and presence.

It's always impressive to see someone perform who is unembarrassable. George Galloway's testimony was disgraceful, but - in a way that some disgraceful and shameless performers are - it was impressive. Like Oliver North, who put on his uniform and his medals and came to the Hill, he faced down the inquiry through sheer bluff and presence.

Galloway has the nerve to say that he's never publicly defended the Saddam Hussein regime - and the senators were either too sluggish or too polite to challenge him on it. But we've got the quotes, and he's been there on numerous occasions, shaking the hands of Tariq Aziz and Saddam.

His claims about the Charity Commission are false; it has issued a statement which only a millionth of the people who saw himwill read. The question he was asked was: your name keeps appearing on this man, Fawaz Zureikat's, documents; do you know where he made his money? His answer was to deny buying or selling oil - but that wasn't what he was asked.

He has the advantage the media give to a lot of bare-faced charlatans with personality. They get away with it. That's how televangelists and mutual funds operators work.

I enjoyed our exchanges more than he did. I asked him if he had a copy of the letter or e-mail he claims to have sent to the committee, asking to appear before them. He hosed me with vulgar abuse, saying I was a terminal alcoholic, a "Trotskyist popinjay".

His claim to have sent a letter was obviously false but it bought him a little time. He can't show us the letter - so he must have been lying.

His appearance demonstrated the superiority of parliamentary training and the soapbox speaking style - rather than that of the overly polite, dull and deferential senate hearings. Americans enjoyed it because it broke the tedium.

But he looks so much like what he is: a thug and a demagogue, the type of working-class-wideboy-and-proud-of-it who is too used to the expenses account, the cars and the hotels - all cigars and back-slapping. He is a very cheap character and a short-arse like a lot of them are, puffed up like a turkey. He has managed to fuse being a Baathist with being a Muslim sectarian and a carpet-bagger in the East End - as well as a front for a creepy sub-Leninist sect, the Socialist Workers' Party. He's got the venomous riff-raff at one end and your one-God fanatics on the other. Wonderful. Just what we need.

This is pretty sordid. The media are there to ask the difficult questions, not to act as an echo chamber for frauds like Galloway.

Christopher Hitchens was talking to Oliver Duff

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