Monday, March 17, 2008

George Galloway, a Byron for our times

I learned today that Shelley once said of George Byron that "Lord Byron is an exceedingly interesting person, and, as such, is it not to be regretted that he is a slave to the vilest and most vulgar prejudices, and as mad as a hatter?" Such is my relationship with George Galloway. He is someone I have a great admiration for, despite the fact that there are a number of issues where we, frankly, have some disagreements.

Both Georges are/were charismatic and courageous fighters against injustice and have been willing to jeopardise their reputations in their implacable opposition to imperialism. Both Georges have been lambasted by the great and the good, denounced for their political and moral perversity and attacked by friend and foe alike in the course of their careers. Both were characters of great verbal dexterity and charm coupled with a fearsome reputation, making some blanch at the thought of crossing swords with them.

Of course there are differences too. Byron was from noble stock, Galloway more humble origins, Byron had an infamously voracious sexual appetite encompassing, shall we say, an eclectic taste - whilst Galloway is a studiously religious man and is therefore, no doubt, quite, quite chaste. Also when Byron died the various parts of his anatomy went separate ways, whilst I hope that Galloway will not suffer such an ignominious fate far in future when his time comes.

However, although I admire Galloway there is one current issue with which I feel obliged to publicly disagree. This business of Peter Tatchell "giving the khaki war machine a tinge of pink" in his campaign to support Mehdi Kazemi, an Iranian asylum seeker, from being sent back to Iran where he fears he will suffer at the hands of the state for his sexual orientation.

Mr Galloway is no loud mouthed homophobe to be sure. Whatever his private thoughts on these matters his record on gay rights is perfectly reasonable and he has gay associates with whom he clearly has a good working relationship. He also has some very homophobic friends - but that is their problem, not his.

On the Kazemi case though he has allowed his position against the Western war machine to distort his judgement. Like the rest of the uppermost clique of the Stop the War Coalition he feels it is better to never criticise the Iranian regime lest it play into the hands of those who wish to bomb it. That's a position I disagree with with, but I don't intend to rehash those arguments here. If you want them I refer my honourable readers to the post I made earlier.

However, on the specifics of this case Galloway has gone over the edge of that policy and parroted the Iranian regime's line that Kazemi's boyfriend was executed for "sex crimes" and that Kazemi himself would be in no danger were he to be returned to his homeland. This flies in the face of the facts and is designed to undermine a man's fight to save his own life.

As the Independent's Pandora says "Tatchell accuses Galloway of "mouthing the propaganda of the homophobic dictatorship in Tehran", after the Respect MP claimed on Matthew Wright's Channel 5 talk show that Kazemi's boyfriend was executed in Iran for "committing sex crimes against young men"."

"George was asked to provide evidence for his claim that Mehdi Kazemi's boyfriend was hanged for sex crimes against young men. He has failed to do so. Moreover he has failed to apologise or withdraw the allegation."

More than that, on the anti-war demonstration on Saturday he repeated them. I couldn't hear what he said because he chose to deliver his speech in the style of an enraged bison bellowing to its herd across the valley (we're right in front of you George) but it's clear he still believes that those who defend this boy are in favour of bombing his family and friends back home.

Doesn't all this rather ignore a key salient fact? Peter Tatchell opposes the war (and Kazemi being sent to Iran), the British Government who are most likely to take part in an invasion of Iran, should one occur, are FOR sending Kazemi back. Galloway is defending the British government's decision to send this young man away from our shores, and it is Tatchell who stands firm against our government's reactionary asylum policies.

It seems an odd way to bolster the British government's case by opposing their reactionary policies. And it seems an odd way to oppose the racist war machine by defending its ability to throw out those foreigners it objects to.

If you'd like to read Seyed Mehdi Kazemi's own statement about his case here's the link, and if you'd like to support his campaign you may like to try Gays Without Borders.


Frank Partisan said...

We had an antiwar demo here in Minneapolis, with an Iranian speaker, with a similar view.

Just because someone is anti-imperialist, that doesn't make them necessarily worthy of support.

Ed said...

Good post. I completely agree.

Anonymous said...

Mehdi is not completely safe yet and he needs all the support he can get!

Please visit and as well.

Thnx in advance,