I’m back after two weeks in England, working in London for the first nine days, followed by five days of vacation in London and the countryside. It was, for the most part, a blissful vacation from politics, as I generally lacked internet access and rarely saw a newspaper. I’m reading Power Line to catch up on what I missed; in the meantime, I want to comment on the one story I followed, President Bush’s visit to England.
It was fascinating, and frustrating, to see this story from the other side. What was most striking to me was the utter lack of substance in most coverage of the visit. The focus was almost exclusively on the security precautions attending the trip, which were pretty universally frowned upon, and the demonstrations against President Bush, which were hoped-for, salivated over, and covered with gusto. No one spoiled the mood by reminding readers that these were the same tired demonstrations (and largely the same tired demonstrators) who have greeted past American presidents. The BBC, for the most part, disdained to cover the visit at all. Few news outlets showed any interest in what President Bush had to say; few showed any interest in the great issues that framed the President’s visit. The attitude of the British press is, for the most part, similar to that of the Democratic Party: the war with the terrorists is a minor inconvenience that shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of character assassination.
There were a few exceptions; the Telegraph, England’s best daily, had fair coverage, including the complete text of the President’s speeches and columns by Mark Steyn and David Frum. On the whole, though, I am afraid that not many Britons came away with much sense of what it was all about.
The official welcome was superb; the Queen gave a very gracious and politically intelligent speech; the Mall was bedecked with alternating British and American flags (I took this photo and the one below):
Also on the Mall, of course, were the demonstrators’ signs:
What was odd about the protest signs was that we drove past them at least ten times over a period of several days, and never saw a protester. They had erected the signs and gone home; the protest was, so to speak, being mailed in. Not very impressive. My favorite sign was one that said: “Stop the Zionist alliance: U.S., U.K. and Israel.” Underneath was a legend with a sheet that was detachable, like the scores at Fenway Park; it said, “Hunger Strike: [One] day.” Even my thirteen-year-old daughter laughed at that one. Hunger strikes aren’t what they used to be, I guess.
Coverage of the protesters has been fawning, as usual. The New York Times, in what now constitutes self-parody, describes them as “[g]randmothers with canes, parents with children in strollers, high school students, women in business suits, as well as button-bedecked peaceniks.” (If you relied on newspaper accounts, you would think that “anti-war” protesters were mainly grandmothers and parents of small children, and you would have no idea how many of them are Islamofascists of Arab origin.)
I thought it might be fun to find out who is really behind the London protests. I suspected that it would turn out to be a bunch of Communists similar to the A.N.S.W.E.R. group who have organized the American anti-Bush demonstrations. It isn’t hard to find out who the leaders of the anti-Bush demonstrations are; I picked up one of their leaflets on the street. It gave the URL for the “Stop the War Coalition” as http://www.stopwar.org.uk. If you go there, you will find that the “Stop the War Coalition” is a group with wide-ranging interests. The same organization will sponsor, day after tomorrow, an opera titled “Manifest Destiny,” described as “a new opera concerning suicide bombers and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.” It sponsors workshops on “globalization,” “police & racism, organising in school, trade unions, stopping the nazis,” and other topics.
The Coalition sponsors a weekly anti-Israel festival: “Show solidarity and support for the International Solidarity Movement, currently suffering massive repression and the state-sanctioned murder of its activists. The reason is simple. The Israeli government does not want the eyes of the world on Gaza. Join the picket of the Israeli Embassy for peace, justice and a free Palestine.”
In 2001 the Stop the War Coalition elected a Steering Committee which included such luminaries as Mohammed Aslam Aijaz of the London Council of Mosques and Saddam apologist Tariq Ali. Here is Tariq’s brief biography: “Tariq Ali was born in 1943, in Lahore, now part of Pakistan. He grew up in…Pakistan, in a communist family….His wealthy parents sent him to England to study at Oxford because they feared for his safety because of his connections to radical movements….Tariq Ali distinguished himself as a spokesman for anti-imperialism. [He was] a popular figure in the radical chic of 1960s and early 1970s. His reputation began to grow during the Vietnam War, when he engaged in debates against the war with such figures as Henry Kissinger…. As time passed, Ali became increasingly anti-American and anti-Israel, and emerged as a figurehead for liberal anti-Americanism across the globe.”
But there’s more: the Stop the War Coalition’s Steering Committee includes George Galloway, who was thrown out of the Labour Party on suspicion–soon to be confirmed, I think–of being on Saddam’s payroll; John Rees, long-time English Communist whose tracts on Marxism continue to be published for an ever-dwindling audience; Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, member of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, who considered Sept. 11 a “very positive [development], one that would allow the Muslim community to get out of their ghettos and play a role in mainstream politics, in this case a mass protest movement.”
And still more: Outspoken Communist Hilary Wainwright, Communist “scholar” Lindsey German, Mark Hoskisson of the Socialist Alliance, Tanja Salem of the Palestistinian Right of Return Coalition, and many others.
In short, the “coalition” consists of creaking old Communists who still haven’t gotten the word that they’re out of business (I suppose they’re the grandmothers) and bloodthirsty young Islamofascists who are outraged that their genocidal schemes are encountering oppositon. They’re the ones pushing baby carriages, I guess, but you might want to check to make sure that the carriage contains a baby and not a bomb.
You can tell that the anti-Bush demonstrations didn’t turn out to be very successful, but only by reading between the lines. The Times reports: “The protest, which the police say was 70,000 strong and the organizers put at 150,000, was one of the biggest-ever midweek demonstrations in London.” “One of the biggest midweek demonstrations ever” isn’t exactly what the organizers were hoping for.
One humorous note: The Sun newspaper is a pretty racy tabloid, but its politics are sound and it appears to have good military sources, as it often has war news before other outlets. It’s most famous, though, for its “Page 3” girls, who are topless. As reported in today’s Telegraph, there was criticism in the American press of the fact that one of the British reporters given access to President Bush for an interview was from the “nudie” Sun. So…yesterday’s Sun, for the first and hopefully last time, featured a fully clothed Page 3 girl.
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