Frank Johnson

Mrs Galloway’s problems with the Queen of Spades

Mrs Galloway's problems with the Queen of Spades

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America's numbering of the Saddam regime's leading members, and issuing this order of precedence in the form of a deck of playing cards to aid American troops searching for them, has surely caused much unnecessary rivalry, jockeying for position and unpleasantness to one another on the part of the war criminals and torturers thus enumerated. This is so wherever any sizable number of them are in hiding together, whether underground in Baghdad, Tikrit, Syria – or Mr George Galloway's Glasgow constituency of Kelvin.

None of the colleagues disputes Saddam's right to being first on the list, and the Ace of Spades in that deck. It is accepted that he has worked for the position, and earned it; likewise his sons Qusay and Uday, respectively Ace of Clubs and Ace of Hearts. Some may regard the boys' status as an example of nepotism, but think it imprudent to say so.

But Mr Tariq Aziz is also prominent. He, it may be remembered, was the regime's John Prescott at the time of its fall – deputy prime minister. But he came to prominence in the invasion of Kuwait, and subsequent first Gulf war, as the Mr Douglas (now Lord) Hurd or Lord Carrington – the safe pair of hands at the Foreign Office. This always made him suspect in the eyes of the Baath government's 'Thatcherites' – ideologues distrustful of the Baghdad FO. They suspect that he was rather snobbish and rude about Saddam in the polite society in which he was most at home. And when did he ever shoot anyone personally? He talked a good firing squad; but he always found some reason why he could not be present, and had another engagement, when it went to work. This was in contrast to Saddam, Qusay and Uday, who entered into the spirit of things.

As I write, a brigade of soldiers affiliated to the American-favoured Iraqi National Congress, working with American special forces, have just caught a former prime minister, Mr Mohammed Hamza al-Zubaidi. He was the Queen of Spades, and ranked 18th. Many of the others regarded this as much too high. He, not unnaturally, thought it unduly modest.

This dispute must have played havoc with Mrs Galloway's placements at dinner in the bunker at Kelvin, not all that far from the ground of Partick Thistle, which I am informed is the Kelvin constituency's team. Mr Aziz would always have a word with her, out of earshot of the others, before they all sat down: 'I insist on sitting on George's right. Because Saddam and the two boys are away in disguise at Thistle's local derby with Rangers, that is the only placement consistent with my status.'

Mrs Galloway: 'Now, now, Tariq, you must know it's Mohammed's turn to be next to George.'

Mr Aziz: 'Which Mohammed? There's a lot of 'em about.'

Mrs Galloway: 'Mohammed Hamza al-Zubaidi, of course, the Queen of Spades.'

Mr Aziz: 'He's only number 18. And they didn't make him Queen of Spades, for nothing y'know, the mincing creep!'

Mr al-Zubaidi (arriving