Asleep in our night clothes we both woke to the sound of someone trying to enter our room. First, a gentle then ever-more forceful turning of the handle. Then, the unmistakable noise of a shoulder repeatedly thumping against our door – the strength of which we had no way of knowing.
With estimable alacrity Mrs. Galloway was out of bed like a shot and hurling anything and everything with wheels in front of the door. The barricade built, she was then on the phone to the frontdesk calling for help, not the easiest thing to communicate in the middle of the night in Almaty as you can imagine.
Being ‘the man of the house’ I could really only offer brute force, with my two hands applying countervailing pressure on the door (which was beginning to literally bend) and my brute Scottish accent demanding the interloper cease and desist (or Scottish street words to that effect). Of course I looked through the spyhole in the door and could see enough to be sure that this was no nightmare, this was a clear and present human danger.
The man was refusing to lift his head so I could see his face but was growling back at me in a clearly American accent through the door. My wife then (sensibly) asked whether my standing in front of the door was the best idea: “he might have a pistol” after all, she reminded me.
“That’s a bit alarmist,” I replied, but no sooner than those words had left my throat when the man – alerted by the running of the security team towards him – finally stopped pushing and stood up straight, revealing himself to be no less than ‘Jim’ Woolsey, the former head of the CIA.
So, he might have had a pistol after all (or he may just have been pleased to see me). Certainly he was dressed for action: a black under-vest, a pair of trousers, and fully laced up shoes.
As soon as help arrived on the scene I tore open the door and stepped out seeking an explanation but as the one-time head of the most dangerous intelligence organisation on the earth was being led away, effectively under arrest, all I could hear him protest were the words “I am Ambassador Jim Woolsey” over and over again.
And to think I’d been scared to run into President Donald Trump’s right hand man Steve Bannon that day…
I’d been in the Kazakh city of Almaty to debate with the now-free radical populist, former head of the Trump presidential campaign (and others), and had fully expected it to be a short-sword encounter. Although in some ways similar – Bannon and me are both of tough working-class Irish backgrounds – I am a man of the left and he is of the right. Some media outlets have said I am far-left and he is far-right though in my case that is by no-means true. And in his case, a viewing of the debate will lead you to conclude that if he represents the far right it is very far from conservative.
Frankly, I found it hard to keep up with his visceral invective against the globalised elites who have brought their own countries low and plunged the world into war after war, with more on the near horizon. His contempt was boundless for those who export jobs and national wealth for their own bottom-lines but dress up their treachery in the “happy talk” of “supranational,”“globalisation,”“internationalism,” and even “liberalism” in the case of both Clinton Democrats and the European Union.
A few months ago a right-wing former cabinet minister in the Tony Blair government, who had seen Bannon perform, told me that he was “scarily impressive.” Scary for some, maybe many, after all he was the president’s brain without whom Trump would never have been elected. Impressive? Well, watch the debate and you decide.
Bannon called for a reset of US relations with Russia, as Trump himself might well have done if not for what Bannon calls the hoax of Russiagate. More surprisingly he opposed war with Iran, and even US regime change operations against Venezuela!
But on one subject he made my blood run cold and I don’t know what the lady in the front row of the audience, the deputy foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China, felt, but Bannon scared me more even than Ambassador Jim Woolsey trying to force his way into my bedroom did.
If you think Donald Trump is a rampaging bull in a China shop you haven’t heard Steve Bannon rampaging in the same shop. It is not, I think, an exaggeration to say that Bannon wants the United States to go to war with China, indeed feels that the US should already have done so. And, when expressed in his intellectual Jake ‘Raging Bull’ LaMotta fighting posture, that is scary indeed.
Bannon is a former naval officer with one of daughters serving in the military today. Whilst Donald Trump’s ankles made service in Vietnam impossible (a condition much improved by ceaseless golfing however) and John Bolton’s multiple moustache-related complaints made military adventure too taxing for him too, you get the feeling that Steve Bannon would be himself upon the Bridge of the first US gunboat up the Yangtze.
(Postscript: I had no intention of exposing the nighttime perambulations of the former head of the CIA. If, as I fully expected, an explanation and apology had been forthcoming for the night-terror he caused my wife, you would never have heard of the extraordinary story above. No explanation, apology or even dry nod has however been forthcoming)