President Bush’s visit to London – designed to launch his election year-long campaign as the conqueror of Saddam – is already an unprecedented public relations disaster, uniting all shades of British public opinion against the visit.
* Royalists are upset that the President’s neo-conservative religious advisers have cautioned Bush to minimise any photo opportunities with the embattled Prince Charles after the huge publicity about his private life in America.
* “Bush and Charles looking buddy-buddy in public won’t play well in the Baptist Southern States where Bush needs crucial votes to get re-elected. It would also do him no favours with the largely conservative Catholic and Jewish block votes in the United States,” said an assistant to one of the President’s key aides, Condoleeza Rice.
Born in once racially segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Rice is now Bush’s national security adviser.
For her the “bible is my pillar of my Baptist faith. I pray every day to follow the Word of the Lord. And adultery and homosexuality are not approved of in the Good Book,” she once said.
She attends the President’s regular prayer meetings in the White House. Bush has never shaken off his own Bible Belt roots.
His other key aides, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld are also experts at quoting Scripture.
Both have also advised him he should avoid any formal meeting with Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.
“Given the huge popularity that Princess Diana still commands in this country, Camilla is seen as very much the marriage breaker,” said the Rice aide.
While Buckingham Palace insisted “we never comment on either matters of security or the requests of the Queen’s personal guests,” informed Royal insiders say that the monarch is “understandably furious” at the attitude of the President’s advisers.
In his wallet, the President carries a biblical passage evangelist Billy Graham gave him after 9/11. It is the words of the prophet Ezekiel to the Philistines: “And ye shall know that I am the Lord when I shall lay my vengeance upon you”.
He may well feel that he needs the prophet’s protection as he faces the wrath of Britain’s anti-war demonstrators.
* Taxpayers are outraged that the visit is costing $8 million – all to be paid out of public funding which is badly needed to refurbish the country’s failing Health Service and public transport and road system.
It is also the most expensive State visit in Britain’s history.
Over 5,000 London police officers will guard the closed-off centre of London that houses some of Britain’s biggest tourist attractions: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the House of Parliament, Whitehall, Downing Street, the Mall and the Cenotaph.
Tourist officials estimate that the loss of tourist revenue could top several million dollars.
* London hospitals and their surgeons and medical staff – whose skills are among the best in the world – are astonished that Bush is bringing his own operating table and team (based on Air Force One). One surgeon is a specialist in gunshot wounds. Another is equipped to deal with a biological hazard.
* London’s five-star chefs are amazed that the President is bringing his own five chefs to cook personally for him. They are bringing with them his favourite Texas beef (for hamburgers) and Mexican chilli.
As well as the massive police presence, there are:
* Over 300 MI5/MI6 agents – some flown in from Middle East trouble spots specially for the occasion. Their task is to try and spot any Al-Qaeda terrorist in the crowds.
* The fear that bin Laden’s group may try to launch an attack was reinforced earlier in the week by the arrest of an Al-Qaeda operative in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
* Police say papers in his possession suggest he was involved in a potential terrorist attack in London next week.
* In another unprecedented move, Israel has assigned eight top Mossad agents to reinforce security at specific Jewish institutions in London during the Bush visit.
But it is the presence of 650 American secret agents that has infuriated Londoners. The agents have demanded:
* The names and personal details, including political affiliations, of all those who will attend Bush’s planned visit to Parliament.
Maverick MP George Galloway, recently sacked from the Labour Party for his support for Saddam Hussein, has called the demand “disgraceful and an insult to the home of all democracy”.
* A similar vetting demand has been made to Buckingham Palace for the names and background of all guests who will attend the State banquet the Queen will host for Bush.
US agents have also asked for the names and background of all food suppliers for the banquet.
The vegetables will come from Prince Charles’ Highgrove Gardens. He is expected to attend the banquet.
As the volume of protest grows – led by London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, the US agents are turning the centre of the capital into a potential battle zone.
* Fifty sniper agents will be positioned overlooking every place where Bush will be publicly visible when he steps, however briefly, from his armoured limo.
* Sixty sniffer dogs will be withdrawn from normal duty at Britain’s airports to hunt for drugs or explosives and roam ceaselessly among the public onlookers.
* An outer security perimeter will extend to the Channel Tunnel and to all access ports from Ireland for next week.
* An even wider net will extend deep into Europe. French, German and Italian security services will be constantly tracking the movements of anyone suspected of links to Al-Qaeda.
* Air Force One will be escorted into London by US fighter jets based in Britain. They will be fitted with missiles to shoot down any threatening aircraft.
This decision follows the Pentagon’s warning last week that Al-Qaeda are planning to use freight planes as a weapon.
Courtesy Raja Mattar