May 2005, minutes before he entered the room to give voluntary testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee in answer to allegations that he was a
proxy beneficiary of the Oil-for-Food scandal, controversial British MP George Galloway had a less-publicized, but no-less-fiery verbal scuffle with
British journalist and author Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens, once a staunch leftist, Trotskyist, and anti-war figurehead, has become notorious in
recent years for his dramatic idealogical flip-flop and his very vocal support of the Bush regime, particularly in regards to the invasion and
occupation of Iraq. Galloway has also become notorious for many of his own reasons. No love being lost between the two, when Galloway and Hitchens met
sparks were bound to fly, and fly they did - as did the insults. Gloves metaphorically slapped across cheeks, a duel was arranged. The location - New
York. The field - the auditorium at Baruch College. The duelling weapon - a debate on the merits of the the Iraq invasion. The result - an
entertaining spectacle, to say the least.
I was quite surprised at Galloway's manner in this debate. In contrast with the direct, passionate, yet controlled manner in which he
brilliantly addressed the allegations against him in front of the Senate subcommittee in May, Galloway seemed unable to express himself with the
eloquence and sharp wit which he has become famous for. He came across as ranting, mainly from the heart and from apparent frustration, which in such
a debating environment can be a disadvantage if not properly harnessed.
Hitchens on the other hand, while expressing himself eloquently in a nervous, sweaty, British schoolboy sort of manner, never quite seemed to
convincingly believe his own words. Even when he received verbal support from the alternately jeering and cheering crowd, he came across as a man
struggling with his own contradictory and, in my view, hypocritical stance. His transparently cheap tactic - at the start of his opening statement -
of calling for a minute of silence in respect for the 150 Iraqis “sadistically murdered” in terrorist attacks that morning, and his passing out of
"anti-Galloway" pamphlets before the debate, both did more harm than help.
In his opening statement, Hitchens outlines, under International Law, four conditions by which a nation is deemed to have "sacrificed"[sic] its
sovereignty, and then went on to describe how Iraq had met all of those conditions. They were as follows:
If it participates in regular aggressions against neighboring states or occupation of their territory.
If it violates the letter and spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
If it should violate the Genocide Convention, signatories to which are obliged without further notice to act either to prevent or to punish
genocide. If it "fools around promiscuously" with the illegal acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.
If it plays host to international gangsters, nihilists, terrorists and jihadists.
Strange, but to me it seems that many Western governments have also met many, if not all of those conditions, and thus according to Hitchens'
reasoning, are also ripe for violent regime change.
Galloway caused quite a stir when he remarked that if Lebanon's Cedar Revolution had truly instituted democracy in the country, then the leader of
Hezbollah would be the Lebanese President today, but that this was impossible because the Lebanese Constitution mandates that only a Christian can be
President, despite only 20% of the population actually being Christian. Judging by the crowd's reaction, I think many of Galloway's supporters were
unsure how to react to this one.
There were a few...shall we say...interesting
moments during the debate when it seemed that the debate might not be able to continue due to
Hitchen's constant interrupting of Galloway, and due to the heckling crowd - to which Hitchens later responded by calling them "zoo animals".
In the end, I somehow doubt that either of these two men have obtained any new fans as a result of this debate, since, in what finished up seeming
more like a personal beef played out before an audience than a debate of the issue at hand, both of them made some statements that would raise more
than a few eyebrows in the UK, and raise more than a few fists in the US.
There were too many entertaining and fiery moments, as well as equally valid points made by both debaters for me to describe here, so I urge you to
watch the debate yourself.
As for the result of this duel in regard to the topic itself? A resounding miss by both gentlemen. Let's hope they reload their muskets and fire
DEBATE VIDEO DIRECT LINK (RealPlayer)
Hitchens versus Galloway: The Big Debate - news.independent.co.uk
The Christopher Hitchens Web
George Galloway's Respect Party - The Unity Coalition Website
[edit on 2005-9-17 by wecomeinpeace]