Bull and Bush | November 19, 2003

So the Bush circus rolled into town last night, closely followed by a staff of 700+. Before arriving the Bush administration put a number of requests to the UK government. They wanted diplomatic immunity for their 250 armed security staff to shoot to kill, just incase they accidentally shot a protester. They wanted the tube system shut down, as well as most of the centre of London, something that would have brought the capitol to a halt and cost god knows how many million pounds in lost revenue. To protect Bush the London Police force have had to cancel leave, pull in staff from across the south and are planning to have a force of 14,000 in place for the 4 day visit, more people that we currently have "Peacekeeping" in Iraq. The policing bill alone will cost the people of London 5 million, something they are not too happy about.

Despite the fact that the British Government are supporting Bush in the war on Iraq, British opinion is very much divided. There was a massive groundswell of support against the war from a wide section of society. However people felt this anti war sentiment didn't get reflected in the US media and that middle America largely believe the UK support the invasion of Iraq. An estimated 100,000 people are expected to turn up to protest against the Bush administration over the next couple of days with the hope that the US media will cover the story.

Unfortunately much of the US coverage I've seen has been very negative and misleading. There is a feeling amongst the US press that the demonstrators (and by implication the British public) are anti American, however this is far from the case. The British public feel much closer culturally to the States then they do to Europe and if you're an American in the UK you're unlikely to feel any animosity. The protesters are definitely not anti American. However they are against the current regimes foreign policies. From the invasion of Iraq to the US's failure to sign the Kyoto agreement, from illegal Steel tariffs to wriggling out of their human rights commitments, many people see the US government as saying one thing and doing something completely different.

So this is why people are protesting against Bush. It's not that the British are mad fiery Europeans who will protest at the drop of a hat. In actual fact we are a fairly ambivalent nation so it takes a lot to get people out on the streets in such huge numbers. And it's not that we hate Americans (we really don't). We just see the US as an friend at a dinner party who is being a bit obnoxious and is starting to annoy the rest of the dinner guests. As we're you're closest friend at the party we feel it's our responsibility to let you know what people think in order to avoid upsetting the rest of the guests and making yourself look like an ass.

Posted at November 19, 2003 9:28 AM

Comments

Bongoman said on November 19, 2003 11:10 AM

And to think President Woodrow Wilson had roses thrown at him by the people of London in 1918 - what a contrast!

I actually think you are being too polite suggesting that Bush is just being “a bit obnoxious”. The level of outrage at the USA’s disregard of international law and apparent freedom to invade whosoever they please regardless of any international process, runs deeper I feel.

Saddam has gone and good riddance: but what a total failure of imagination to think that the only way to achieve this was to kill 15,000 Iraqis along the way!

Mehinks that this illegal war in Iraq was not about oil. It was about far more. It was a shameless attempt to acquire control of a geo-politically important region of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is the real breeding ground for the menace of fundamentalist Islam but the USA is in way too deep with the Saudis to rock the boat there.

If this is really about the US commitment to democracy, then google around for what is currently happening in Azerbaijan, another oil-rich country, where the US recently gave its blessing to elections that returned the son of the incumbent pro-US President to power amidst allegations of widespread electoral fraud.

http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav101703a.shtml

Likewise, the Patriot Act, the situation in Guantonomo, the cooked intelligence, the profiteering in Iraq by Bush’s cronies go way beyond being a “bit objectionable.”

Mike said on November 19, 2003 12:50 PM

The word is that the Bush Carnival Tour of London is costing the average London rate-payer 2. I can’t speak for anyone else but I’d rather that money was spent fixing the Tube or putting more busses on the roads. I don’t understand why such incredible security measures are necessary anyway - it’s not as if we don’t have our own high-profile targets in the shape of Tony Blair and the Queen, so why does Bush need such special treatment?

I’m sidestepping the inflamatory issues here! I’ve never seen anything arouse as much divided passion as Bush and the War on Terrorism. It’s good to see people actually caring about something for a change - we Brits are famously reserved…

clint said on November 19, 2003 2:24 PM

There is a feeling among many Americans (press included) that if you don’t support the President and/or war, then you are not doing your duty as a patriot. These same people are the ones who look at any anti-government protest as anti-American.
But is there anything more American than the people protesting a government that is supposed to be representive of them?

That said, I applaud the citizens of Great Britain for attempting what most people over here are too apathetic to do…create a protest that garners media attention and makes a strong point.

Bob said on November 19, 2003 4:56 PM

I echo Clint’s statements above. One thing that really incenses me is that, as part of his visit, Bush is planning to spend time with the families of British citizens killed in Iraq. While this in itself is a fine and noble thing, Our Dear Selected Leader has yet to spend a single moment with the families of U.S. citizens killed in Iraq. Not a single memorial service. Not a single funeral. Not a single visit to a grieving family. Hell, he hasn’t even dropped by Walter Reed Army Hospital to pay his respects to the wounded soldiers housed there.

Perhaps someone in London, either the press or the common citizenry, will raise the question with Bush. Goodness knows you won’t hear anything about it in the American press.

David said on November 19, 2003 5:13 PM

5mil is a lot of money. Personally, I think those requests are unreasonable, and this stay is really a bit of a way for Bush to be paranoid without having to pay from his own country’s pocket, even though the Queen did invite him.

Bob said on November 19, 2003 5:51 PM

Correction to my last post: Bush is meeting with family members of Britons who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks. My mistake.

Yet the anger remains. Bush has yet to spend a single moment with families of Americans (or any other nationality) killed in Iraq.

ste said on November 20, 2003 1:26 PM

As an American, I feel obliged to mention that not all of us agree with our own president. I definitely think that anti-war sentiment has been downplayed in the U.S. media, and it angers me quite a bit. I actually know people who were genuinely surprised when I told them that most other countries were upset about our foreign policy and that millions around the world had staged protests against our actions. For many of us Americans, however, the next presidential election day cannot come soon enough; if Bush somehow manages to win another term, I will seriously consider moving overseas somewhere…

Bob said on November 20, 2003 4:21 PM

I will seriously consider moving overseas somewhere…

The wife and I also considered that for a while (Canada has, or at least has considered, annexing the Turks & Caicos Islands…), but after serious consideration, we decided that the truly patriotic thing to do, as difficult as it may be, is to stay and fight. Especially if Shrub wins a second term, we have to stay and fight. If we don’t, who will?

Dave said on November 20, 2003 7:28 PM

So what was the correct way to deal with Iraq?

Even if what Bongoman is saying has some truth in it, why didn’t we see any of those “200 thousand” demonstrators outside the UN over the last 25 years or so that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Iraqi CIVILIANS have gone missing under Sadam’s regime?

http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE141342003?open&of=ENG-IRQ

Surely 25 years and all those people going missing should have been long enough for the UN to get it sorted? Why couldn’t we have had some anti-saddam demo’s eh? Winging tossers.

The US government are obviously not the only hypocrites here

Andy Budd said on November 20, 2003 9:02 PM

OK, I really didn’t want to go too deep into the politics of the matter but I think Dave needs a bit of a reality check.

First off we need to look at the reason behind the invasion. At the time we were told the sole reason was to find and destroy Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”. We knew Iraq had them at some stage because the west sold Iraq the chemical agents during the Iran/Iraq war. Mr Cheany I believe was one of the people who brokered the deal and had met Sadam on a number of occasions. At that time, Mr H was the west’s best friend in the middle east. In fact the west stood buy knowing only too well our ally was using bio/chem weapons (which we supplied) on his own people because he was strategically important in the region.

However it’s fair to say that since the first Iraq war, the sanctions and continued bombing pretty much reduced Iraq’s threat to the region to nothing. We were told Iraq was an immediate threat to the west. This is the (cough!) leagal basis the US and Britain went to war on. As it turns out, no illegal weapons were found, so conveniently the invasion became about regime change.

Now I totally agree that the Iraqi regime’s was an unpleasant one. Few could Denny this. However there are a good number of equally unpleasant regimes around the world. Regimes that also have broken UN resolution, who have appalling human rights and who are either tolerated or even sported by the west.

So what should we have done about Iraq. Well if WMD were the issue, we should have listened to Hans Blix and given the weapons inspectors more time. If we’d done this we’d have found out there were no WMD and a war wouldn’t have been necessary.

If human rights, freedom and democracy were the issue we should have been honest and not used WMD as a smokescreen. We should have followed international law and carried on down the UN path (this time without all the bribes and bugging devices). At the same time, to avoid accusations of hypocrisy and anti muslim sentiment we should have looked at all the other problem countries and in particular those the west sees as allies. It’s very difficult to claim the moral high ground when many of the regimes we support deny the basic human rights and freedoms to their population when it’s those very rights we’re supposed to fighting for.

Dave said on November 20, 2003 9:31 PM

I agree most of what you say Andy, and yes I believe that Human rights are the issue - and we shouldn’t be supporting countries that are the worst offenders (of course our support for Iraq in the past comes to mind), and I’m not trying to justify our government(s) hypocrysies.

“We should have followed international law..” “Bing! Another reality check in Isle 9 please!” My point - the Iraqis waited 25 years for international law to help - hundreds of thousands have died in the meantime - are you suggesting we should have waited for another 25?

bongoman said on November 20, 2003 10:58 PM

Dave, I take your point.

I used to work as a refugee lawyer here in Australia and had Iraqi clients. I’m well aware of the appalling atrocities committed by Saddam.

Yeah, it would be great if there was such concern and compassion and awareness concerning tryanny around the world. God knows what atrocities are being committed in this moment in far away places!

However people are more inclined to protest the actions of governments that purport to represent and act on their behalf.

When those same governments take action on grounds that seem spurious at best, and downright fraudulent at worst, then folks are going to get angry.

Wathcing the justification for the invasion of Iraq morph from WMD to the need to bring freedom to Iraq belies another whole unspoken agenda being played out here. Blind Freddie and all that…

To pretend that this is all about democracy & freedom in the Middle East is a farce. History shows the US is only interested in supporting democracy in other countries if it demonstrably furthers US self interest. At other times it is quite happy to support totalitarianism if the bottom line is improved.

I sure as hell don’t want to live in the nightmarish world of Islamic fundamentalism, but I’m also pretty clear the world will not be a better place where we just accept the unbridled unilateralism of the USA and their right to global dominion on the basis that might is right.

And despite what Bush would have you belive, I refuse to accept that these are the only two options facing the world right now. Reality is never really that black & white.

Read it & weep: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/comment/0,12956,1036687,00.html

or at least read it and understand why people are taking to the streets…

Andy Budd said on November 21, 2003 12:04 AM

It’s a tough one Dave and I doubt anybody has a convincing answer to that. However what I do know is that you can’t impose change on people. People have to want change and change has to come from within.

I’m sure if you’d have asked the average Iraqi they would have wished Sadam gone. However I’m sure if you’d have asked them if they’d wished the west would invade and topple him most would have said no.

The war killed many ordinary innocent Iraqis. Peoples homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. The infrastructure has been obliterated, society has collapsed and it’s going to take years to get the country back on it’s feet.

In the meantime the country in being run by a foreign power and a group of Iraqis who have little or no support form the people. The Iraqi people feel they are hostages in their own country and greatly resent the US and the UK for being there.

I hope that eventually Iraq will be better off than it was under Sadam. However it’s got a long way to go yet and by all accounts has paid an extremely high price.