- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003

President Bush arrives in Britain today braced to hear the shouts of protesters whose already low opinion of him has plummeted to new depths of ridicule since he led the war to liberate Iraq.

Mr. Bush told BBC interviewer David Frost last week that he welcomes the protests because it demonstrates how “lucky” the protesters are “to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind.”

“I understand you don’t like war, and neither do I,” Mr. Bush said, directing his comments to the protesters. “But I would hope you understand that I have learned the lessons of September the 11th, 2001, and that terrorists declared war on the United States of America, and war on people who love freedom, and I intend to lead our nation, along with others like our close friends in Great Britain, to win this war on terror.”

The president’s schedule is considerably more low-key than a typical state visit. He will have several private meetings, as well as public appearances, with war ally Prime Minister Tony Blair.

But Mr. Bush’s three-night stay will not include the traditional carriage ride though the Pall Mall with Queen Elizabeth, or a speech to Parliament. He was heckled in an address to Australia’s Parliament last month.

The White House cites security concerns for the lack of pomp, but left-wing British newspaper the Mirror has labeled the president a “chicken” for declining to deliver an address directly to Parliament.

In London yesterday, a veteran British antinuclear activist scaled the 20-foot gates of Buckingham Palace to unfurl an upside-down U.S. flag in protest of the Bush visit. Lindis Percy was promptly arrested on charges of breach of the peace, police told news services.

Mrs. Percy, a 61-year-old grandmother, is coordinator of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, an anti-American group that protests against U.S. nuclear forces stationed at bases in England.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday downplayed the protests and scaled-back schedule, pointing to a speech Mr. Bush will deliver to a selected audience tomorrow at London’s Royal Banqueting House.

Protesters will take to the streets of London to tear down an effigy of Mr. Bush, cast in the image of the statue of Saddam Hussein that was pulled down in Baghdad by a U.S. tank.

Andrew Burgin, spokesman for British-based Stop the War Coalition, a chief organizer of the protests, said a march on Wednesday will be led by American Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran and war protester who was the subject of the antiwar Oliver Stone film “Born on the Fourth of July.”

Leftist author and strident Bush critic Michael Moore is in England and has donated $1,000 to bus protesters from Manchester to London, said Mr. Burgin, who estimated 100,000 people will show up to voice their opposition to the Iraq war.

“People in this country felt that they were lied to about the fundamental reasons for going to war,” Mr. Burgin said. “The intelligence was doctored. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The people in Iraq are almost in a worse situation than they were prior to the war.”

Mr. Bush is expected to speak about promoting democracy in the Middle East, but Mr. Burgin said such rhetoric is “hogwash.”

“We are led to believe it’s about human rights and freedom, but I don’t think that’s the case,” said Mr. Burgin, who said the war was fought to control Iraqi’s oil fields.

Nile Gardiner, an international affairs fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said the protests against the war “could actually work to Bush’s advantage domestically.”

The protesters “will take center stage initially because they will be watched by millions,” Mr. Gardiner said. “But, especially if they turn violent, it will backfire on the protesters and the [U.S.] will rally to the president’s side.”

In an interview published in London’s Sun newspaper Friday, Mr. Bush said history will record that the Iraq war was just.

He mused that, just as contemporary world leaders are glad to deal with free and democratic governments in Germany and Japan, future generations will say “Thank goodness George W. and Tony Blair held the line,” and helped create a free Iraq.

“Presidents and prime ministers should never worry about their short-term history,” Mr. Bush said. “There’s no such thing as short-term history, except for the musings of somebody who’s not very objective to begin with,” he said.

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