I shall miss the fuss in London on Thursday because of a prior engagement in Brussels, but I will spare a thought for the demonstration of collectivists versus the protectionist.
Mr Bush is in the unlikely position of being a villain during this visit to London because he is defending tariffs on steel imports, and I can hardly praise a man for making the European Commission appear like the good guys!
Some of his opponents will actually be protesting against protectionism on the grounds that opening trade is the best hope for greater prosperity worldwide, with the handy by-product of reducing the number of layabout juveniles dreaming of doing something spectacular and violent: they are too busy doing MBAs or training to become plastic surgeons.
I could even support the demonstration if there were a chance that the message would be received in Washington DC that protectionism is an abomination and a great source of warfare (I believe it even triggered the US Civil War, and in that respect the wrong side won).
As for the occupation of Iraq: I continue to despair at the difficulty that anglosphere writers have in comprehending the humiliation of occupation. Admittedly this is for the best of reasons: Washington DC was last under foreign armed occupation in 1812, London in 1066. The dislike of foreign occupation is neither entirely rational nor without ambivalence. Of course the occupying troops in Iraq overthrew a dictator who committed atrocities against his neigbouring countries, his own people, even his own family.
British soldiers may know that when their predecessors first patrolled the streets of Belfast in 1969 (I don’t remember the precise date, I was about 4 years old at the time), the Catholic inhabitants cheered them, offered them cups of tea, etc. The welcome did not last.
If the purpose of allied occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is as cynical as attracting potential Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to those countries and fight them (and kill many of them) away from Western cities, it could be a good plan. There is a certain logic to persuading the extremists to make their way to Jalalabad and Tikrit and face professional troops instead of Manhattan or the City of London and kill civilians.
If I thought the ‘War on Terrorism’ were being fought so capably I would be far more confident. But I do not, and I am not.
So let ‘the indefensible pursue the inedible’: I went on the Countryside marches in support of the right of hunters to chase foxes. I shall be in the Grande Place enjoying my Trappist beer with mussels and frites whilst following the sport on the streets of London. Tally Ho!