What does 100,000 protesters, 14,000 police officers plus 250 armed U.S. Secret Service agents equal? If you do your political equations correctly, you will get President Bush’s visit to our closest ally, Britain.
According to MSNBC, President Bush’s trip to Britain cost British taxpayers approximately 8 million dollars because of all the security needed to protect the president.
On a more embarrassing note, the president was not able to ride in the traditional open carriage with the queen like, even the most radical world leaders have done in the past due to threats on his life. The queen even rejected one of Bush’s more extravagant security requests when he asked to have a Black Hawk flying over Buckingham palace while he resided there for four days. The queen said no.
The area surrounding Buckingham palace was fortified because of Bush’s stay there. For example, closed circuit cameras were installed. Thursday, over 150,000 marched through the center of London to protest Bush’s visit and Blair’s allegiance to him. A U.S. flag was flown upside down by a 60-year-old British grandmother, outraged by her nation’s blind allegiance to the war in Iraq. She was subsequently arrested.
Many Britons said they don’t feel they should have to pay the millions of pounds from their tax money needed to protect the U.S. President. While the U.S.-British alliance is still strong, and friendly relations remain between the citizens of both nations, the hostility mounting against the Bush administration and its handlings of Iraq could not be more evident.
Even London’s mayor was quoted on MSNBC, saying that President Bush is the greatest threat to the world. If Bush planned this trip to London to build friendly relations, he certainly had his work cut out for him. Many experts have said that the closer Blair allies himself with Bush, that the worse his reputation becomes as a British leader. During the war in Iraq, Blair was portrayed as Bush’s poodle.
The Bush administration’s reputation around the world is extremely rocky as well. On the one hand, some people around the world view Bush as a man just looking out for the greater good of American economic interests. On the other hand, many view Bush with a skeptical eye and as someone not worthy of trust. Bush’s travels have sparked protests and added security. But the fact that such massive protests are stirring from our strongest ally certainly raises a red flag.
British troops in Iraq currently total around 7,000. That is the largest number of non-U.S. troops in Iraq. With so much support on the ground in Iraq, it should come as no surprise that many of the protesters in Britain feel they are fighting America’s war. They want their soldiers out of Iraq and America to stop dictating their foreign policy. Brits want to build healthy relations with their European neighbors. The last thing any nation wants is to ally itself staunchly with an administration whose defense secretary puts his foot in his mouth by calling selected nations “old Europe” with blatant disregard because they question the rationale of a pre-emptive war.
ABC Nightly News reported that Bush wanted avenues blocked off so that the protesters would not be anywhere near him. I guess Bush thought he could bring Britain some of our home grown “patriotic” tools we created after Sept. 11th, “free speech zones” included. But London said no to that request, too, and with that went Bush’s photo opportunity. Maybe he was hoping to wear his Air Force outfit and have a beautiful sunset in the background for the British people to gaze at when the photo appeared in the next morning’s paper. Bottom line, protecting Bush is easy. Where the real challenge remains is protecting Bush’s image.
Aya Batrawy is a senior majoring in mass communications and history. batrawyUSF@yahoo.com