- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2003

A couple of major stories pushed President Bush’s trip to London off the front pages. Until the al Qaeda attacks on British targets in Turkey and the arrest of pop singer Michael Jackson in California, the international media had been focused on English rabble-rousers protesting Mr. Bush’s presence in the United Kingdom. Truth be told — there wasn’t much of a spectacle in London anyway.

Despite the initial hype, British opposition to Mr. Bush was rather unimpressive. Although estimates about the total number varied, officials from London’s Metropolitan Police reported that there were at most between 70,000 and 110,000 on the streets for the major rally on Thursday. This might sound like a lot of people, but it was significantly less than the hundreds of thousands that were expected.

Thursday’s numbers were also quite small when compared to previous demonstrations in the British capital. Last year, for example, more than 300,000 people marched to protest the Blair government’s intention to outlaw fox hunting. Thursday’s crowds were dwarfed by those who protested Reagan visits two decades ago and were devoid of the extreme violence that marked British protests against Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax. The Rolling Stones squeeze more people into stadiums every day than showed up to protest Mr. Bush on one targeted date.

The fact of the matter is that international opposition to Bush policies is not as significant as it is made out to be. Numerous polls have shown that most Iraqis are worried that American troops will pull out too soon. Even a recent survey by the far-left Manchester Guardian newspaper revealed that most British support Mr. Bush. According to the poll, 62 percent of all British respond that the United States is “generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world.” Sixty-six percent of Labour Party members support America, while only 41 percent of British oppose the war in Iraq. Those are all good numbers.

The explanation for the misconceptions about the supposed unpopularity of Mr. Bush and the war is that the press regurgitates the press releases of protesters while ignoring the evidence. Any time a global conference is held or the American president visits a foreign country, there are invariably protests — with thousands mobilized by labor unions. These do not reflect international public opinion in general. As we were reminded this week, more British are worried about losing fox hunting than ending the U.S.-Anglo-led war in the Middle East.


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