Sun Sep 4, 2005
From the Sunday Times:
Galloway and Fonda forge a fighting pact
THE controversial MP George Galloway, who is to tour America this month accompanied by Jane Fonda, the Hollywood star, will be sharpening his critique of the Iraq war in the light of President George W Bush’s difficulties in coping with the effects of hurricane Katrina.
As Denise Bollinger, a tourist stranded in New Orleans said, “It’s downtown Baghdad.”
The anti-war left has been quick to suggest that American troops, including members of the Louisiana National Guard – many of whom are deployed in Iraq – would prefer to be helping their own citizens rather than facing Islamic insurgents.
Fonda, a veteran anti-war protester who earned the name Hanoi Jane during the Vietnam war, is to speak alongside Galloway at two meetings in Madison, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois.
She was persuaded to join the MP’s travelling show by her friend, Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, after Fonda was impressed by Galloway’s pugnacious performance last spring in front of a senate committee investigating the United Nations oil-for-food scandal.
The star abandoned plans for her own anti-war roadshow and threw in her lot with Galloway after Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother of a soldier who spent August camped outside Bush’s holiday home in Texas, decided to mount another touring protest.
Winning Fonda’s support is a coup that will raise the MP’s profile in America. Organisers of his tour are hoping that Sean Penn, another leading Hollywood anti-war protester, will join Galloway on stage in Los Angeles.
Galloway said he was delighted by Fonda’s backing: “She’s a big star with a luminous reputation as an anti-war figure.”
The tour, which kicks off in Boston on September 13 and ends in Washington on September 24, is billed as Mr Galloway Goes to Washington, after the classic James Stewart film about honest, homespun “Mr Smith’s” efforts to clean up America’s politics. Galloway is also publishing a book of the same name.
Chris Dols, an organiser of the US tour, said: “Jane Fonda and George Galloway will point out how much money is being wasted on the war when it is needed to help people at home.
We can’t take care of our poor black people in the United States, yet the military is spending billions on the war in Iraq.”
The 51-year-old MP for Bethnal Green and Bow said he was a fan of Fonda’s movies and was old enough to remember her in Barefoot in the Park, with Robert Redford.
The film star has rediscovered her inner radicalism, which lay dormant for a while. Fonda, 67, began speaking out against the Iraq war last spring during the promotion of her autobiography, My Life So Far.
She condemned the “lies” that led America into the Iraq war. “I’ve decided I’m coming out,” she said.
The MP’s critics question whether Fonda is fully aware of Galloway’s controversial background. The senate committee investigating the UN oil-for-food scandal controversially claimed that Saddam Hussein had granted him vouchers for 20m barrels of oil in 2000-03, but produced no evidence to support the allegation.
The MP retorted that the accusations were the “mother of all smokescreens” to divert attention from the “crimes” of the Iraq war.
One of the more challenging encounters for Galloway on his eight-city tour will be a debate with Christopher Hitchens, the British writer, who is a robust defender of the war.
“The argument about the justice and necessity of the Iraq war is unaffected by the hurricane.
It’s very crude exploitation of the emotions of the moment. There is more than enough money to strengthen the levees in New Orleans without abandoning Iraq”, Hitchens said.
The American organisers of the tour say up to 10,000 people will hear Galloway speak but they do not expect a profit.