Jewish World Review May 7, 2003 / 5 Iyar 5763

Paul Greenberg

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The next Baghdad Bob

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Now that Baghdad Bob's show has been canceled due to circumstances beyond his control, all the world is struggling with the void he's left.

True enough, his Web site is still there for the looking (www.welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com). And it even offers a coffee mug with B.B.'s picture on it and the message, "No American will ever pour coffee in this mug! Never!" But somehow the show just isn't the same without its star's hourly appearances on al-CNN.

Who now is going to declare that there are no Americans in Baghdad, that the infidels are trapped in their tanks, that Saddam Hussein rules unchallenged, that the only reason there are Americans in Baghdad is that they've been driven out of the rest of the country .

The guy had a million of 'em. And he could rattle 'em off rapid-fire, like Henny Youngman, before making an abrupt exit pursued by bears, to quote the most arresting stage instruction in Shakespeare. Actually he was being pursued by the 101st Airborne, a more persistent bunch. And he hasn't been seen since. Showbiz won't be the same without him. He was right out of the Arabian Nights.

Nobody will ever match Baghdad Bob -- his grace, his charm, his evanescent presence, and his perfect, Jack Benny timing -- one step ahead of incoming mortar rounds. Not to mention his disappearing act, which would have done credit to Houdini. But until another such artist comes along, some mix of Ali Baba and Scheherazade, consider this possibility from across the pond:

Drum roll, please. For a member in ludicrous standing of the British Parliament. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for . George Galloway!

Gorgeous George, an appellation the member for Glasgow acquired in honor of his extravagant tastes, does have a certain flair for parliamentary debate. He also has enough skeletons in his closet to stock a good-sized anatomy class. For example, he had to reimburse one charity he headed for excessive expenses. Money that was supposed to care for sick Iraqi children had a way of paying for his hotel suites and travel.

But the member for Glasgow came into his own during the second and (let's hope) last Gulf War. He was, of course, against it. Loudly, vociferously, repeatedly and, according to some documents out of Baghdad that now have made their way into the public prints, quite profitably. To quote the headline in London's Daily Telegraph: "Galloway Was in Saddam's Pay, Say Secret Iraqi Documents."

The Daily Telegraph's man in Baghdad, David Blair, says files unearthed in the rubble of Saddam's intelligence headquarters show that philanthropist Galloway was getting millions from Iraq's security apparatus in oil-for-food money, which in this case turned out to be oil-for-Galloway money.

Responding to this accusation from his $400,000 beach home on the coast of Portugal, Mr. Galloway showed his usual flair ("a pile of black propaganda . intelligence hocus-pocus") and threatened to sue ("the libel case of the century . the Telegraph is in big trouble.")

To which the Telegraph responded the next day by publishing a memo it attributed to a senior aide to Saddam Hussein. The memo complained that the regime couldn't afford to meet George Galloway's ever increasing demands, but was willing to continue sending him his share of its oil money.

Who knows how much more juicy stuff like this has fallen into Allied hands? Probably enough to give terrorists from Tangier to Lahore the chills.

It's all a Tissue of Lies, George Galloway told the BBC: "This is a lie of fantastic proportions which only the most credulous would believe. . The idea that the Iraqi regime was channeling to me, personally, hundreds of thousands of pounds is simply absurd." Maybe just tens of thousands of pounds, impersonally?

Even more documents linking Glasgow George to Iraqi payoffs have been published by the Christian Science Monitor, that sensationalist tabloid. It puts his take at about $3 million a year between April 4, 2000, and January 14, 2003.

Any services Mr. Galloway rendered Saddam's late and largely unlamented regime would surely have been worth it, since he supported the Iraqi dictator the way he does just about everything else: extravagantly.

Glasgow George greeted Saddam Hussein in these effusive words captured and frequently replayed on British television to the delight of comedy-starved viewers: "Sir, I salute your strength, your courage and your indefatigability." Baghdad Bob had no monopoly on obsequiousness.

It was only natural that, when Prime Minister Blair paused during a parliamentary debate to consider the question of who would formally surrender on Iraq's behalf, an anonymous voice from the back benches rang out: "George Galloway!"

It brought the house down -- the House of Commons, that is.

No, George Galloway isn't Baghdad Bob. But until the one and only, the incomparable Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, surfaces for an encore, Glasgow George will have to do. Bring him on. Does he have a Web site yet?

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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