TCS Daily

Deafened by the Right of Free Screech

By Robert Fike - November 24, 2003 12:00 AM

Much ink, both digital and literal, has been spilt reporting on the protests that greeted President Bush, who indeed got a most colourful reception when he bravely dared to invade the nationwide personal space of the UK's chocolate box assortment of Leftists. But less attention has been paid to the real story: most Britons were either glad that he was popping over for a chat or just simply didn't give a toss either way.


An ICM poll (they're reliable) taken before Bush's arrival revealed that 62% of the British voters surveyed believed that the US is 'generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world'. Okay, so 15% thought that America is the world's 'evil empire'. But 62-15 is a rout in any sport. Over the course of the previous two months, opposition to Saddam's forcible ouster declined by 12 points to 41%, and support climbed 9 points to 47%. Two-thirds agreed that British and American troops should stay in Iraq until things are 'more stable'. (A Gallup poll showed that an equal proportion of people in Baghdad feel the same, most tellingly.) And to top it all off, 43% welcomed Bush's visit, as opposed to the 36% who wanted the man who is the Leader of the Free World -- whether they like it or not -- to stay home.


So you'd think we'd all be aware that Britain as a whole basically asked Bush in for a cup of tea, though conspicuously neglected to offer scones. But the protests, as many protests in almost any given country often do, succeeded in their true objective of amplifying their howl of perpetually aggrieved drivel, all to the detriment of reasonable discourse and the true representation of popular sentiment.


You'd also think the demonstrators would have expressed reluctant gratitude to Bush for giving them an excuse to celebrate their moral, ethical, and intellectual superiority for the better part of a week, even though our spectacularly dysfunctional species commits enough injustices around the globe to keep the indignant among us painting a new placard every day.


But they don't get agitated by such egregious abuses of government power as, for deliberate example, Robert Mugabe's disastrous seizure and redistribution of white-owned land in Zimbabwe -- probably because they secretly think it's an idea worth exporting throughout the world.


Instead, what gets them on the streets, chanting their silly slogans and bashing their silly drums, is, of course, America, its scary military and scary foreign policy in particular, as enforced by the trigger happy cowboys atop its command structure. And when a trigger happy (and dim-bulb) cowboy with his boots illegally parked behind the desk in the Oval Office accepted the Queen's slumber party invitation, the Hour of Bleating was nigh. Imagine their revulsion when that cowboy finally came a-swaggering into town, all rootin' and tootin' and executin'.


People who aren't Americans living abroad are mercifully unaware of how much these people hate Bush. And I do mean hate. Take Michael Moore's rabid, frothing, imbecilic anger, add welfare state, and bring to a boil. It's as if Dude, Where's My Country? has taken its place alongside Das Kapital as a foundation upon which today's Leftist political philosophy is built. (Which is fine by me. If we could defeat heavily-armed Marxism, squashing unarmed Mooreism should be a breeze.)


In the minds of the demonstrators, Bush is the earthly embodiment of all that is evil. They have concluded that it is George W. Bush who is, as many signs on display howled, the '#1 Terrorist'. Yes, Bush. Not the hijackers or the car bombers or their sponsors. It's Bush. And they genuinely believe it. They genuinely believe it.


As London native Robert Temple told the Associated Press, 'I think it's a disgrace that these people are basically siding with Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda...why aren't they protesting against the people who blew up Turkey today?' Mr Temple bravely held a US flag aloft as the marchers went by -- and of course got attacked by some of the peace-loving free speech advocates en route to their Celebration of Cowardice on Trafalgar Square.


Before I proceed to that event, consider this. Average Democrats back in the States are merely not very fond of Bush, because they think there's a chance that they can evict him from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which in turn gives them a sense of empowerment. The Bush-bashers overseas have no such sense of empowerment, so they lack the satisfaction of knowing that they hold his fate in their hands. (The ones in the UK can't evict Tony Blair from 10 Downing Street either, since at the moment his Labour party both dominates the electoral landscape and lacks an obvious alternative leader who can maintain its winning streak.)


And anger does not mix well with impotence, as evidenced by the histrionics on display. Since they're deprived of behind-the-scenes influence and their political organisations have negligible electoral leverage, all they can do is complain. Loudly. About everything Bush has ever done. And hasn't done, but they just know he'll do. Or has, but the corporate media refuses to report.


Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded us that 'Blame is safer than praise.' It's apparently more fun too, as evidenced by the 100,000 or so protesters, all too happy to take the day off from whatever it is they do and gleefully exhibit the maturity of a roomful of kindergarteners.


Savour the nuances of these subtle signs on display at the Terrorist Placation Festival: 'Stop the organ grinder and his monkey.' 'Bush & Blair: Wanted for War Crimes.' (The phrase 'Bush and Blair' has been cleverly abbreviated to 'Blush' by some of the wittier protesters -- I'll give them that but nought else.) A US flag emblazoned with the words 'Excess of Evil'. And another US flag with the stars replaced by a great big ole swastika. Lovely. They yelled and yelled. And yelled some more. Then for the grand finale, they toppled an effigy of Bush holding a missile -- which is ultimately more of an insult to the Iraqis who pulled down their despised dictator's statue than it is to any American.


I thought for a few fleeting moments about blending in and watching some of the festivities (strictly for journalistic purposes, mind you), assured that it wouldn't be difficult, since with my shoulder-length hair and a long black leather jacket I look like a graduate student in Europe. Which, conveniently enough, I just happen to be. But I can't fake an accent, and the close proximity to others in demonstrations often engenders conversation, so I kept my distance, lest my vestigial slight Southern drawl attract the hostile attention of some white, middle class teenager with dreadlocks and a Che Guevara shirt who would have asked me what I, as an obvious American, really thought about the war.


And I would have told him. Though I rather doubt he would have given it any consideration, much less understood it.


I would have told him that I don't like war. But I hate losing even more. And we've been dragged into a war that we most assuredly did not start. Islamic fascists did the honours, not us. America's foreign policy cannot be cited as an excuse for the terrorists' savagery, for there is no excuse for terrorism whatsoever. Provocation is no alibi for their crimes.


I would have told him that we now have the choice of taking the fight to them or letting them take the fight to us, thereby giving them the upper hand. If we leave them alone, they will not reciprocate. They're in it to win it. We should be as well. And it's incumbent upon the rest of the civilised world to shoulder some of the burden of locating then incapacitating murderous fanatics, since concentrated costs and diffused benefits isn't exactly economically efficient. Yes, we should simultaneously deploy tactics other than a series of expensive ground-up nation-building exercises, such as signing free trade treaties with developing nations who prove helpful in fighting terrorism, but giving peace a chance and hoping for the best isn't an option with people who will gleefully dynamite themselves into Paradise and the rest of us straight to Hell.


I would have told him that it's obvious that al-Qaeda is getting support from nations like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. As Richard Miniter observed on this very website, 'Bin Laden's personal wealth alone simply is not enough to support a profligate global organisation. Informed estimates put bin Laden's pre-Sept. 11, 2001 wealth at perhaps $30 million. $30 million is the budget of a small school district, not a global terror conglomerate.' (I'd then tell him, sotto voce, that I wish I had come up with that 'budget of a small school district' line. That's a good one.)


I would have told him that if he thinks that Bush and Blair are war criminals because the war itself was illegal, those extremely nebulous standards of illegality have never been uniformly applied if for no other reason than they can't be, and international relations being what they are, never will be. He thinks that military actions such as that taken against Saddam Hussein's pariah regime have to first be blessed by the United Nations Security Council, correct? Well, by those standards, NATO's actions in Kosovo were illegal too. And what about all those poor people in the US that he insists he cares about more than I do? What if a coalition of the willing wanted to invade the US and liberate them? The US would veto it in the Security Council, but I bet he wouldn't care about such an invasion's legality or supposed lack thereof if it went ahead as planned. He'd probably be the first one to volunteer for the mission.


I would have ended by telling him that I'd love to see him try to demonstrate in the future if we succumbed to pacifism and allowed the enemies of modernity to win, when a statue of Osama bin Laden is perched atop Nelson's Column, and his girlfriend is forced at gunpoint into a burka. The stakes are that high. Accommodation didn't work with the Nazis, nor with the Communists, and it definitely won't work with terrorists.


Then the spotty little bastard, unable to muster a reasoned response, probably would have spat at me.


And your average Briton would agree with a good portion of what I would have said. But you wouldn't have known that from all the coverage of the demonstrations clogging the news.

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