Welcome to London, Mr Bush
It is an ordinary Sunday afternoon in London. The sun is shining and the roar of the A40 deafens me as I grapple with the ever-present summer problem of noise and “fresh” air in my flat. I am trying to write at my desk when, suddenly, a deafening roar grabs my attention overhead. There, hanging above me, in a blue sky, is the President of the USA himself, in Marine One, being jetted into Downing Street to have tea with the Prime Minister. There are at least two other helicopters that I can see from my desk, circling central London, one right over Paddington Green station, notorious home to terrorism suspects who might now be held for 42 days in the window-less basement cells, without charge.
Ah yes, Welcome to London, Mr Bush.
The world has been so much safer since you have come to power. You have introduced the category of unlawful combatants to the world, denying them their basic rights, banging them up in a remote corner of Cuba to which your government still clings, failing to admit that your very own foreign policy relies on hating Cuba, yet grabbing her land. You have created not one but two wars which see no end in sight, yet you have solemnly proclaimed victory in them both, even as thousands of people have died and continue to die. You have signed up wholeheartedly to policies of torture at jails in Iraq and overseas, probably even here in Europe, within the comfort of jails in eastern lands desperate for your benevolent dollar, and you have fed a barbarous practice known as “extraordinary rendition”. You have lied to the world and your own people about weapons of mass destruction, yet show no shame at now blaming intelligence for your own failings. You have created a disastrous division of peoples, subscribing to a faux-religious view of “them and us”, polarising the world yet further with your kind gifts of aid and weapons. You have contributed to, and fuelled, a nuclear race between two old foes, India and Pakistan, instead of advocating peace. You have thrown your cluster bombs around the world, killing and maiming innocents in pursuit of your power. You have removed so many freedoms from your own people, so encouraging the rest of your “free world” to follow, that now you have created populations too frightened to do anything but blindly follow. You backed Israel over their practice war against Lebanon. Now, you threaten Iran, again.
But Mr Bush, one cannot blame you for lining your own pockets, for creating such destruction in the name of your God, because, after all, you are only human. Oil and money are the only words you understand. We know your vocabulary is limited, and so you can only blandly spout freedom and human rights as your bandwagon to abuse of power.
No, you are right when you think that we have no right to protest against you or to blame you in this country, even though you have ensured that the British people can get nowhere near you this afternoon, or tomorrow. For after all, look at what we did in your shadow through our very own Blair, and now through Brown. We not only followed you into both wars, but lied for you, defended you in the Security Council, broke international law that we helped to create in the aftermath of the Holocaust. We allowed your planes to land and re-fuel here, knowing they were transporting blindfolded prisoners snatched from one land and taken to another without so much as a phone call to a lawyer or loved one, only to return physically broken but mentally full of hate. We took away elementary freedoms from our own people, in such piecemeal fashion that we didn’t even know we were losing out liberty. Suddenly, we are not allowed to protest any more around Parliament, not without a police warrant at least. Women are arrested and convicted for reading out the names of war dead in Whitehall. People are arrested for wearing anti-Blair t-shirts. Identity cards are being forced in, no matter what the civil, moral, libertarian or actual monetary cost. We are the most filmed and surveilled nation on earth. Biometrics, once the imagination of science fiction freaks, is now a requirement for all visa applicants, the guinea pigs for subjects of the country. Politicians have argued that human rights are for left wing liberals, and that the judiciary is either unnecessary or grossly out of control. No wonder the Attorney General’s own advice as to the legality of war was barely considered. Investigations into corruption at the heart of British policy, into BAE, are stopped overnight, on the government’s say so. Control orders are not enough, nor are 28 days to detain a “suspect” without charge. We can increase that limit to 42 days without so much as a shred of evidence, “just in case”. Apparently, habeus corpus, enshrined in the Magna Carta centuries ago, is out of date, unfashionable. Trial by jury too lies in danger of disappearing.
Mr Brown, you too, argue that this is all justified “in the name of the people”. When two million marched in London in 2003, you and your Mr Blair decided that politicians had a right to lead the people, not to follow them blindly. Slowly, the State has intervened in our lives so much that we have forgotten the value of real liberty, for which our ancestors fought. None of us can live our full potential in the shadow of an authoritarian, intrusive State, yet so many of us are willing to lay down our right to be free, in the name of a creeping fear which grows with every unfair and unlawful detention, with every bomb that rains down on a country in the Middle East, whose name we barely mention any more because we are bored of the violence, and the poverty and the misery of it all. In Europe, in the recent past, countries have fought for freedom, the Greeks, the Spanish, and more latterly, the Eastern Europeans.
Vaclav Havel, when he spoke to his people of the Czech republic on the 1st January 1990, said:
“The previous regime, armed with its arrogance and intolerant ideology, reduced man to a force of production. It reduced gifted and autonomous people to nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy, stinking machine whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could do no more but slowly and inexorably wear itself out, and all the nuts and bolts too.”
We believe you intend to open a “Freedom Institute” to “defend cultural values”. Mr Bush, we ask you, do you even know what those words mean?
We leave you with the words of Hermann Goerring, the Nazi criminal, hardly renowned for his enlightened views of liberty and freedom.
“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Welcome to London, Mr Bush. You have been a shining inspiration to our own Leaders.
London, June 15th 2008