Thursday, November 20
Protesters cheer as 'Bush' topples, Press Association, November 20, 2003 6:53 PM

Thousands of anti-war protesters cheered as an effigy of President George Bush was toppled as part of a huge demonstration against his controversial visit to the UK.

As Mr Bush was entertained in Buckingham Palace, a few hundred yards away in London's Trafalgar Square a papier-mache statue was dragged to the ground, sending a stark message from people opposed to the war in Iraq.

The Stop The War Coalition (STWC) said up to 200,000 people from across the UK joined the protest, making it the biggest weekday demonstration ever held in this country.

Schoolchildren, students, pensioners and workers were joining the start of the march near Euston Station more than three hours after it set off.

Marchers carried banners accusing President Bush of being a war criminal, while others blew whistles and horns, chanted anti-war slogans or wore unflattering masks of the Prime Minister or the President.

Scotland Yard estimated the numbers on the march at 70,000, although this was hotly disputed by the organisers.

The number of arrests over the past two days grew to 50 by tonight, with offences ranging from criminal damage to theft.

The effigy, which portrayed the President holding a missile and with Tony Blair in his pocket, was paraded at the head of the march before being erected in Trafalgar Square.

A group of protesters pulled down the statue in an echo of the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad towards the end of the original bombing campaign.

The President was kept well away from the demonstrators, leaving 10 Downing Street with Tony Blair just minutes before the marchers walked down Whitehall.

A Destiny Linked to Iraq is the Only Thing They Share
Bush and Blair could not be further apart on all aspects of social reform
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, November 19, 2003

The spectacle over the next few days of Tony Blair and George Bush beaming and backslapping remains as puzzling as ever. Is this just realpolitik business-as-usual, putting out more flags in the Mall for another necessary but unsavory foreign leader? If so, Blair plays his part well, his energetically sincere smile never faltering.

Even in private he hotly protests that the Bush he knows is nothing like the one of caricature. No, no, the president is intelligent, thoughtful, well-informed, a good listener and a lot of other entirely incredible adjectives. Look into Blair's face and you see not one flicker: he's a good bluffer. He knows no one believes a word of it, but he will pretend it is so until the last. He has made his fateful bed of nails and now he has to lie on it - and lie through his teeth about it, too. If he has regrets, if ever in the still of night he doubts whether he took the right path, he will never let on. You can bet there will be nothing to suggest doubt about his tragic error in his autobiography. We have yet to see if he is eventually broken by it, as Lyndon Johnson was by Vietnam: it is not impossible.

But it is intellectually impossible to believe Blair and Bush share more than the same brand of toothpaste - as Bush once joked. Only Colgate explains the artificial grin between this most ultra rightwing president and Britain's social democrat prime minister. [...more]

...So what do Bush and Blair talk about over their fireside bottle of mineral water? Where is this fabled meeting of minds? Once they have done whatever is to be done - or not done - on Iraq, Guantanamo and trade tariffs, once they have small-talked wives and children, what then? Here is the leader with the greatest wealth and power on Earth at his command, squandering it, abusing it, misusing it with every step he takes. The two men can hardly compare notes on pet projects and policies. It is astonishingly difficult to talk for long or with any closeness to someone whose politics are obnoxious.

In truth, whatever appearances suggest over the next two days, there is precious little shared between them beyond political destinies so fatefully linked in Iraq.
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