My old friend and frequent critic Geoffrey Wheatcroft once tried to define a moment of perfect contentment and came up with the idea of opening a vintage wine while settling down to read an undiscovered work by P.G. Wodehouse. Another comrade identified bliss with writing or reading very hard in the afternoon, knowing that someone really, really nice was coming to dinner. I, too, have a taste for the simpler pleasures. Can I convey the deep sense of delight that stole over me when I learned that George Galloway and Jane Fonda were to go on an "anti-war" tour together and that the idea of this perfect partnership had come from Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues?
The pure silliness and risibility of the thing would have been quite beyond one's power of invention. And, oh, just to be present when they finally meet. Jane can shyly tell George, who yells daily about the rape of Jerusalem by Zionism, of the brave days in 1982 when she and Tom Hayden went to entertain Gen. Sharon's invading troops in Lebanon. He can huskily and modestly discuss (he says he's a great admirer of her role in Barefoot in the Park) his long record as one of Britain's leading pro-life politicians, and his more recent outrage at the judicial "murder" of Terri Schiavo.
Jane Fonda, who the last I heard was in the throes of a post-orgasmic spiritual transfiguration, was a byword for ditziness even on the left when I was young, and she now issues apologies for her past politics almost as rapidly as Barbarella changed positions. Galloway, however, is nothing if not grimly consistent. Here, just for an example, is what he said as recently as July, after speaking at the Al-Assad Library in the Syrian capital of Damascus, about the host after whose foul dynasty that library is named:
We covered the whole world in 60 minutes. I was very impressed by his knowledge, by his sharpness, by his flexible mind. I was very, very impressed. … Syria is lucky to have Bashar al-Assad as her President.
Not that the Syrian people had any say in their good fortune, in being passed from the rule of a megalomaniac father to a feeble son. And not that anyone in Syria is permitted to disagree when Galloway comes to give one of his speeches. More serious still, it had been on the preceding Feb. 14 that Rafik Hariri, a former elected prime minister of Lebanon, was murdered by a bomb of military-grade force. The U.N. investigator of this odious crime, Detlev Mehlis, has since caused the arrests of four senior pro-Syrian Lebanese officers. This week, he travels to Damascus to pursue his inquiries to the source. Bashar Assad, who had been planning to fly to address the United Nations, has decided not to show his weak, slobbering face in New York after all. All or most of this was known or at the least seriously suspected when Galloway went for his asshole dialogue with Assad in July, and also delivered an asshole monologue of his own. Indeed, the outrage in Lebanon had already led to a Syrian "withdrawal," even though Syria still does not recognize the existence of Lebanon as a state. Galloway publicly deplored this withdrawal, saying that Syria's presence in Lebanon was "legal," which it was not after the Taif Accords of more than a decade ago, and adding that "the beneficiary from the absence of Syria is the US and Israel."
Fawning on dictators, posing and posturing for a state-controlled press in front of a coerced audience, managing to overlook the existence of death squads and torturers, and praising the invasion and occupation of neighboring states—this is the same George Galloway who in 1994 flew to Baghdad and addressed Saddam Hussein in the following terms, commiserating with him on his failure to annex the Arab and Muslim state of Kuwait:
Your Excellency, Mr. President, I greet you in the name of the many thousands of people in Britain who stood against the tide and opposed the war and aggression against Iraq. … I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.
Now, you can be a flatterer of dictators and murderers and still—just about—be a pacifist, or "anti-war." But here is what Galloway said about the car bombers and beheaders and suicide fanatics of Iraq, again this July 30 at the Al-Assad Library, as broadcast by Syrian state TV and by Al Jazeera the following day. He informed the Arab world:
Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners—Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. Some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters …
As for the jihadist and Baathist resisters: They "are writing the names of their cities and towns in the stars, with 145 military operations every day."