Posted 10:33am December 2
by Aaron Huertas
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
President Bush went to London in the past two weeks, visited the British royal family and met with Prime Minister Tony Blair and other British politicians. Bush defended the invasion of Iraq amid massive protests from British citizens.
Bush addressed royalty and policy-makers at Whitehall Palace, comparing himself to Woodrow Wilson, the last president to enjoy a formal state visit to Britain. Bush said Wilson’s plan for a League of Nations failed, “lacking both credibility and will”.
Bush said that America and Great Britain will do “all in their power to prevent the United Nations from solemnly choosing its own irrelevance and inviting the fate of the League of Nations.” Bush stressed the need for America and European nations to find common ground and work together to fight global terrorism.
Britain was one of the few European countries to join the coalition against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair supported Operation Iraqi Freedom despite opposition from his own party and many British citizens who normally supported him.
During the visit, terrorist bombings in Turkey killed about 27 people. “Once again we’re reminded of the evil these terrorists pose to innocent people everywhere and to our way of life,” said Blair during a press conference with Bush. “Once again we must affirm that in the face of this terrorism there must be no holding back, no compromise, no hesitation in confronting this menace, in attacking it, wherever and whenever we can, and in defeating it utterly.”
Various media outlets reported that about 200,000 protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square in London to protest Bush’s policies, while the figures given by Scotland Yard were about 70,000.
According to The Guardian, some protesters erected a seventeen-foot-tall statue of Bush and tipped it over with ropes, copying the image of the statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled in downtown Baghdad as U.S. troops secured the area. Bush said of the protesters, “I’ve been here only a short time, but I’ve noticed that the tradition of free speech — exercised with enthusiasm — is alive and well here in London.”
He continued, “We have that at home, too. They now have that right in Baghdad, as well.”
Also during the visit, Bush met with relatives of British victims of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.
Joel Aberbach, a professor of political science at the University of California at Los Angeles said of the trip, “From what I understand this trip was arranged a long time ago and its purpose was to be celebratory. The circumstances that surrounded the visit probably weren’t envisioned at the moment when they made the arrangement.”
Aberbach compared American and European approaches to foreign policy. “[Bush] made it very clear we were going to do what we had to do. It’s hardly surprising that it’s not popular anywhere else,” he said. “Imagine another country announcing ‘We’re going to do whatever the hell we want; if you want to come, great,; if you don’t, too bad.'”
Opposition to Bush’s policy in Britain, Aberbach said, “is compounded by the fact that the operation has, to make an understatement, been not totally successful.”