Orchestrated Show of Discontent Awaits Bush; When George W Bush's State Visit to Britain Was First Planned, It Was Expected to Be a Triumphant Occasion. So What Can He Expect Instead, Asks Lindesay Irvine

The Birmingham Post (England), November 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Orchestrated Show of Discontent Awaits Bush; When George W Bush's State Visit to Britain Was First Planned, It Was Expected to Be a Triumphant Occasion. So What Can He Expect Instead, Asks Lindesay Irvine


Byline: Lindesay Irvine

As the US President moves between his official engagements, he will be dogged by a string of protests and demonstrations. Co-ordinated by the Stop The War Coalition, the organisation behind the vast march which called unsuccessfully for Britain not to join hostilities against Iraq in February, it will give George W Bush a clear indication of strength of feeling in this country.

With the official end of hostilities undermined by an increasingly sophisticated insurgency against the occupying forces, and a still rising death toll, The Stop The War Coalition expects up to 100,000 people to rally in central London tomorrow, with numerous smaller-scale shows of discontent.

'Wherever George Bush is, we're going to be there,' says Ghada Razuki, an Iraqi-born spokeswoman for Stop The War. But what, since the war has already happened, can her organisation hope to achieve with its protests?

'The Coalition says Britain should not have gone into the war whether US had gone into it or not,' says Razuki. 'Our stance now is that we want Britain's troops out -with or without the Americans -we want them somewhere safe, not being killed on a daily basis.'

Professor Kathleen Burk, an expert in British and US foreign policy at UCL, argues that it's very hard to imagine Britain withdrawing from Iraq without the US.

'Since about 1940 when Churchill first said there was a special relationship, Britain has needed a strong alliance with the US both for economics and safety, which means they have to be a dependable ally. Nothing's impossible, but I don't think there will be a unilateral British withdrawal unless Tony Blair falls.'

Prof Burk suggests it is more likely that America will lead an accelerated exit, given that President Bush's thoughts will already be turning to next year's presidential elections, and that he knows his countrymen will not take kindly to seeing more countrymen returning home in bodybags.

If America and Britain do accelerate their exit from Iraq, it will suit Razuki and her fellow campaigners. 'As an Iraqi with family in Iraq, who are not Ba'athist by any means, I am being told they want them out, that things are going from bad to worse,' she says. 'The Iraqis that I know say they are more than capable of sorting their own country out.'

Roland Dannreuther, an expert in international relations at the University of Edinburgh, does not think this would be the right way to go.

'If the coalition forces were to leave at the present time, it would very quickly turn into quite an internal conflict, probably a civil war for obtaining power within the country in which clearly all the neighbouring states would clearly insurgency against the occupation apparently gaining strength, Blair and Bush have announced a re-geared strategy. …

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Orchestrated Show of Discontent Awaits Bush; When George W Bush's State Visit to Britain Was First Planned, It Was Expected to Be a Triumphant Occasion. So What Can He Expect Instead, Asks Lindesay Irvine
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