Unpopular Bush and Blair About A Popular Problem
President George W Bush described Britain as America's "closest friend" yesterday when he delivered an impassioned defense of the war in Iraq. The two allies, he said, shared a mission to defend world freedom. Perhaps the greatest disconnection between Whitehall words and real-world actions was evident in Mr. Bush's ideas about multilateralism, exercised via the UN and other institutions, which in theory he supports. In practice, as all the world knows, his administration continues to subvert or bypass collective decision-making whenever that suits its purpose. No amount of sugar coats this bitter pill. No amount of folderol, flummery or flattery makes it easier to swallow.
In some of the warmest words ever used by an American president to a Prime Minister, Mr. Bush gave his "deepest thanks" to Tony Blair, saying he had the qualities of all the best British leaders in history, "good judgment and blunt counsel and backbone when times are tough". "America is fortunate to call this country our closest friend in the world," stated Mr. Bush. ] However, blasts and protests cloud Bush visit to London. Bush's entourage was speeding toward London's Westminster Abbey for a solemn wreath-laying ceremony as the first pictures of bodies and mangled wreckage on the streets of Istanbul appeared on TV. The strikes hit targets including Britain's consulate and the office of its largest bank, HSBC. There were other obstacles as well. There were 25,000 people demonstrating in various cities around the country last (Wednesday) night so we expect a much bigger turnout today," Stop the War convener Lindsey German told BBC radio. Several hundred anti-war demonstrators took to the streets to protest the visit. Most were peaceful, although police announced some three dozen arrests. Thousands more protesters are expected today, which is also when Bush is due to hold talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest supporter in both the war on terrorism and the Iraq campaign. According to the Xinhuanet, an estimated 100,000 protesters are expected to gather at 1200 GMT and go past Downing Street, parliament and Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where the rally will culminate in the toppling of an 18 feet effigy of Bush. Charles Kennedy, leader of Britain's second largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party, and London Mayor Ken Livingstone are among the high-profile politicians who have voiced their support for the anti-Bush protests. President Bush is an unpopular figure in Britain. A survey by The Times showed only one in four voters approved of his handling of the Iraq war. Moreover, half of those surveyed believed Blair's close alliance with Bush has been bad for Britain. "There was not one iota of anti-Americanism within my ample viscera, but I was totally opposed to the belligerence of the current American administration," said Peter Kilfoyle, a Labor Party lawmaker from Liverpool area, northwestern England, and also a former defense minister. "It is not knee-jerk anti-Americanism which holds away in the UK. It is the reaction of one old friend to another when the latter is acting wholly unreasonably and unacceptably," he explained. "I like America, I like Americans. But I don't like George (W.)Bush, I don't like his foreign policies," said a middle-aged man who chained himself in the Resist Bush Tea Party rally. Sources: Guardian, Xinhuanet, BBC, The Times