Saturday, April 01, 2006

Welcome To Our Country

In his book "Strange Places, Questionable People", John Simpson records a conversation he had while filming in Iran. Having watched a man on a soapbox deliver a speech full of venom directed at Margaret Thatcher, with the exhortation of "death to Inglestan", Simpson approached the speaker - despite advice to the contrary from his camera crew. "Good afternoon, sir", said Simpson, "I am visiting from Inglestan". "Good afternoon! Welcome, I hope you enjoy your visit to our country".

I can't help but think of this story when I read about Condoleezza Rice's visit to Blackburn being met by a continuous stream of protests. Rice has handled them very well - after all, protest is a right of the free citizen. But I do wonder what sort of message it sends out about British hospitality.

I know that people like Justin McKeating and Tim Ireland are able to separate their hatred of the Bush administration from their considerations on the American people. But there is a lot of anti-American feeling that may focus on Bush, but in reality is based upon jealousy, envy, and a total disdain for America. Take the stereotype of the American redneck. Or the people who mutter under their breath "typical bloody American" when a tourist in a restaurant starts protesting loudly about the quality of service.

On an international level, it manifests itself in the sorts of attitudes you see regarding America's failure to sign up to the International Criminal Court. When trouble started in the Balkans, European governments believed the US should come and commit their resources and help try and obtain a semblance of stability. They then want the actions of the US to be held up to their own standards. In short, they want to use US troops for their own ends, and complain when the US want to pursue their own goals.

The thing I find strangest about protesting the visits of Bush administration officials to Britain is that the normal criticism of American foreign policy is that it is unilateral and doesn't pay enough attention to the wider world. Yet as soon as George Bush or Condoleezza Rice set foot on our soil, we get idiots saying "we shouldn't allow him/her here". So much for British hospitality.