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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 17:02 GMT
Analysis: Bush mission to explain

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

George Bush began his state visit to Britain with an arrival ceremony which made him look like George Custer in the badlands of Dakota.

Buckingham Palace could have been renamed Fort London.

George Bush speaking in London on his foreign policy
Bush is a man with a mission
I have never seen such a cramped welcome on a state visit. The front of the Brigade of Guards band was squeezed into the forecourt with the rest trailing out through gates into the road. The Household Cavalry had to thread themselves through a needle.

Spectators, kept right back, were in places outnumbered by police and reporters and only grew to a few hundred at best.

Of demonstrators there were only a few. One chap began to chant through a megaphone and invited others to join in. Only two did so.

A president at war

On consideration, the safety first approach should not have been strange.

The President does regard himself at war. And the presumption has to be that he is a target.

His "war against terror" and its offshoot, the war in Iraq, have also exposed him to moral criticism.

This was why he went on a mission to explain his policies in a keynote speech a few hours later.

The Bush Doctrine was shaped for a sceptical European audience but it was not softened.

There was not much about defending America and a lot about extending freedom.

It was not the kind of speech he will make on the campaign trail next year when it will be America first.

Force can be used

The real meat, his belief that force must on occasion be used, was sandwiched between two more palatable morsels - the need for "effective" international organisations and the need to spread democracy as a harbinger of peace.

He did not back down over Iraq. But, since no weapons of mass destruction have been found, he could not trumpet their destruction.

There was one surprisingly sharp and specific section. It was a message to Israel, and an unusual one for an American president
Instead he asked: "Who will say that Iraq was better off when Saddam Hussein was strutting and killing?"

A clever piece of rhetoric. Put that way, who could say yes?

Rallying cry

He continued his rallying call against terrorism, bringing in the prospect of some fearsome attack: "These terrorists target the innocent and kill by the thousands and they would, if they gain the weapons they seek, kill by the millions and not be finished."

By adding that "and not be finished" (in a slightly archaic and Biblical way), he deliberately opened up a truly frightening prospect. Of such devices are speeches made. And arguments advanced.

Sharp message to Israel

There was one surprisingly sharp and specific section. It was a message to Israel, and an unusual one for an American president.

He listed four things Israel should do to help the roadmap which currently lies crumpled on the floor.

It should freeze settlements and dismantle new outposts (both roadmap requirements), end the "daily humiliation" of Palestinians and "not prejudice final negotiations with the placement of walls and fences."

He also made his familiar attack on Yassir Arafat without mentioning the Palestinian leader by name.

Great and good liked it

The audience at the Banqueting House, almost opposite Downing Street and the only remaining building of the old Whitehall Palace, liked what it heard.

The audience, though, was from the great and the good in the British establishment, and was not about to shove him outside to his execution - as happened to Charles I in this same place a few centuries ago.

Maybe the protestors will take a different view when they pass this spot in their march.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani
"Big occasions are something the British do extremely well"



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