I’m returning to work after a 2 ½ week holiday–the longest respite from the computer keyboard I’ve had since January 2001. I do apologize for the long interruption of regular service–and I thank everyone who wrote in to ask whether I was returning.
This is London I’m writing for the next few days from London, where I am promoting the UK edition of The Right Man. A positive book about President Bush is by no means an easy sell over here, where the public seems divided between those who laugh at the President as a tongue-tied buffoon and those who fear him as a backwoods Torquemada. Still, I’ll do my best.
The big story over here is of course the news that Saddam Hussein’s most prominent British supporter, Glasgow M.P. George Galloway, appears to have received upwards of 375,000 pounds from the Iraqi dictator–and, dissatisfied, that he may have travelled to Baghdad at Christmas 1999 to beg for more.
The natural question that follows is: Who else was taking Saddam’s money? There are a number of other European politicians who have gushed over Saddam every bit as fulsomely as Galloway: former French defense minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement, for example, and the far-right governor of Austria’s Carinthia province, Joerg Haider. (Haider visited Baghdad on the eve of war to praise Saddam as a “visionary.”) Are there files on them in Iraq’s ministries?
And what should think if there are such files? In a scathing editorial, the Daily Telegraph contended that Galloway’s actions verged on treason–but with the BBC about to broadcast a made-for-TV movie that glorifies Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and the Cambridge spies of the 1930s, it’s not clear how much the word “treason” still means over here. And what would it mean in France–which has been in effect one of Saddam’s closest allies–if French politicians were shown to have accepted Iraqi gratuities? We may very soon have an opportunity to learn.
The Telegraph’s Sunday scoop is a document–this one obtained from the headquarters of the Iraqi secret police–that suggest that the Saddam Hussein regime was in contact with al Qaeda in 1998.
In the document, Saddam’s agents make mention of a proposed visit to Iraq by one of bin Laden’s most-trusted operatives: “According to the above, we suggest permission to call the Khartoum station [Iraq's intelligence office in Sudan] to facilitate the travel arrangements for the above-mentioned person to Iraq. And that our body carry all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden.”
The document goes on to explain that the message from Iraq to bin Laden “would relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him.”
Is this gun smoking enough?
Journal of the Plague Week
It’s a very strange thing to read from 3,000 miles away that one’s native city has been declared a plague spot by the World Health Organization. But so Toronto has, along with Beijing and Hong Kong. Can it be said that the panic over SARS seems to have outrun all reasonable bounds? In the past three days, I’ve met nearly a dozen people who are absolutely convinced that they have been infected with it. There must be a name for the psychological condition that causes someone to develop symptoms after hearing them described on television ….