For the first time in the history of modern Britain, when President Bush’s three 747s land in England on Tuesday evening and he starts his three-day state visit, the head of state’s bodyguards will be armed and will have permission to shoot. Hitherto, visiting heads of state have been protected by Britain’s own professional security and secret services.
This time it’s different.
The Marxist/Islamic terrorist funded antiwar crowd is taking an intense interest in this particular visit. Headed by the Stop The War organization (which apparently has trouble understanding that the war has already been fought and won) and a “coalition” of like-minded rabble is planning a three-day disruption, hoping to cause anarchy on the streets of the nation’s capital and wreck the day for the millions of Londoners who will still have to get to and from work during their hate-fest.
The British security services, which have 30 years of experience foiling IRA terrorists, have already begun checking the sewers of London and the tunnels the vast Tube network travels through for explosive devices. The bridges across the Thames, too, have been fine-combed, above and below. Crack snipers will be stationed at windows and on roofs along the presidential route (on which will travel two identical motorcades, one of them a decoy). During the three-day visit, 5,000 Metropolitan Police will be deployed. Certain sections of central London – for example, Whitehall, where most of the government is housed and which contains the Cenotaph, the national memorial to the war dead, at which President Bush will lay a wreathe - will be closed off to the rent-a-mob, who will have to stick to a route prescribed by the Metropolitan Police.
Rather than staying at his nation’s embassy, as is routine for visiting heads of government, Bush will be the guest of Queen Elizabeth and stay in Buckingham Palace. This normally busy area of central London will also be closed off to the mob. This last is because the antiwar agitators are being encouraged to try to breach Buckingham Palace, something hitherto unthinkable in Britain.
Stop The War’s allies for this occasion are the Muslim Association of Britain, the Socialist Workers Party, Globalise Resistance and Justice Not Vengeance. GR’s spokesman, Chris Nineham, has said, "Many groups and activists are uniting to make London inhospitable for Bush."
As is standard, they predict a horde of 100,000 hostile “peace” protesters and the expectation is that angry peace lovers from all over the EU will welcome this chance to head over to Britain to scream abuse in person. With the cheapest airfare from the continent to central London between $150-$200, not to mention the costs of lodging, one must conclude either that this is a well-heeled crowd with understanding employers, or it is being financed. The mayor of London - not the same thing as the Lord Mayor of London - “Red” Ken Livingstone (who, like George Galloway, has been expelled from the Labour Party) is spending $12,000 of taxpayer money on a party for the protesters.
Commenting, a laconic Condoleezza Rice said, “Protests are a part of our democratic heritage and our democratic privilege.”
For all the happy talk and all the precautions, there is a sense of subsurface roiling unease about this visit, and it is echoed in the opinion columns across the political board. This is partly occasioned by the knowledge that many Britons, who get their “information” from the BBC, oppose the war, and feel they were lied to by their leaders. It was Tony Blair’s statement in Parliament that Saddam had WMDs and the means to deliver them to Britain within 45 minutes that turned public opinion pro-war. Blair’s statement later turned out to have been false. Whether the dramatic exaggeration was the fault of Blair, his press secretary or the British Ministry of Defence, we do not yet know, but we do know it was crucial in turning public opinion against the war. It was not the Bush administration that offered the British faulty information, but Bush will bear their public resentment.
Thankfully, the level of hostility is not sufficient, save among readers of the far-Left Guardian newspaper, to motivate the middle classes to join the rabble. And unlike the rabble, they have jobs to go to.
But the sense of unease around this visit is palpable. Many conservative commentators have been at pains to try to define it. Respected national conservative columnist Melanie Phillips, herself Jewish, thinks the U.S. and Israel share a blind spot. “If [the Americans] had bothered to look closely at what has been going on in Britain, they would have seen that the country has been engulfed by a rising hysteria about the U.S. and Bush: an irrationality and complete breakdown in logic, common sense and moral reasoning from 9/11 onwards which has created the ugliest, most prejudiced and most dangerous national mood that I can ever remember. But the Americans, like the Israelis, have been so wrapped up in themselves that they have never opened their eyes to this. As a result, they have been almost entirely absent from the battle for hearts and minds, leaving a vacuum to be filled by the propaganda of noxious ideologues and their compliant fellow-travelers in the media.”
From the North American side of the pond, former White House speech writer David Frum, who also wonders at the timing of the visit and the bad advice he feels the president received, raises an astute point: “(W)hy didn’t Tony Blair’s people warn Bush away from this visit? They surely can read the mood of the British public. They must know what they have let Bush in for? Is it possible that Blair too wishes to apply some political pressure to Bush? I’m not alleging it. I'm not alleging anything. I’m just asking.”
And now, the latest. As I type these words for Front Page Magazine, Britain has just (Saturday afternoon) been put on high security alert. Expected activity from a N African cell of al-Qaeda has moved our Home Office to put the second most serious alert possible. We are assured, as of writing, that this has nothing to do with Bush’s visit. Of course not….