'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Ireland Welcomes Bush 

Bush went to Ireland yesterday for a summit with European Union leaders ... and I think it's safe to say the Irish aren't real thrilled about it. The picture to the left is from Dublin (here's more) where there were about 10000 protesters. Protests in other towns such as Galway and Shannon attracted thousands. Bush touched down at Shannon Airport last night sparking, go figure, the largest security operation in the history of Ireland. Here's an excerpt from The Scotsman's coverage:

A quiet corner of rural Ireland was encased in a steel cage tonight as military helicopters patrolled the skies above thousands of troops.

The normally tranquil Dromoland Castle in Co Clare became a fort as US President George W Bush touched down at the nearby Shannon Airport.

The famed "cead mile failte" or 100,000 Irish welcomes were replaced by anti-war protesters who gathered outside lines of more than 2,000 troops and heavy armour.

All routes to Shannon Airport and the luxurious castle grounds were sealed off and police officers paced roadsides keeping a watchful eye that no-one strayed into unapproved areas, while camouflaged army vehicles waited in the bushes.

Local people simply gazed on in amazement as the largest security operation in the history of the Irish state swung into action and transformed their peaceful neighbourhoods into something not unlike a war film set.

The surreal atmosphere was compounded by the location of chemical toilets like those used at music festivals at road junctions to accommodate the needs of hundreds of troops and garda officers patrolling the remote countryside.

Previous American presidents had received a warm welcome to Ireland but Mr Bush was kept well away from the people of Shannon, the majority of whom were firmly against his visit.

The people of Shannon are understandably pissed off by all the hullabaloo surrounding a visit that they never wanted in the first place: (from Ireland Online)

A number of residents of Shannon in Co Clare have decided to boycott a pass system introduced by the gardaí for US President George Bush’s visit this weekend.

Anyone living or working inside the security cordon erected around the town has been asked to apply for a special pass to allow them to move around during Mr Bush’s visit.

However, many have refused to comply and others are planning to burn their passes in a protest tomorrow night.

One resident, Eilís McGettigan, said: "It’s an infringement on my right of movement, my right of freedom. I’m living here. I’m not the visitor. George Bush is. Give him a pass."

Bush was not, however, given a pass by Irish TV: RTE correspondent Carole Coleman didn't roll over quite as much as the press does in this country when interviewing the war president causing Bush's brain to slip off the rails that Karl Rove has cobbled together for it, leading to the following amusing exchange: (via Dan Froomkin at wapo.com)

Coleman: "The world is a more dangerous place today."

Bush: "Why do you say that? . . . "

Coleman: "I think there is a feeling that the world has become a more dangerous place because you have taken the focus off Al Qaeda and diverted into Iraq. Do you not see that the world is a more dangerous place? I saw four of your soldiers lying dead, on the television, the other day. . . . "

Bush: "You know, listen, nobody cares more about the death than I do.

Coleman: "Is there a point at which --

Bush: "Let me finish. Please, please, let me finish, then you can follow up, if you don't mind. Nobody cares more about the deaths than I do. I care about it a lot. But I do believe that the world is a safer place, and becoming a safer place. . . .

"People join terrorist organizations because there's no hope and there's no chance to raise their families in a peaceful world where there is not freedom ... so the idea is to promote freedom and at the same time protect our security."

in which Bush makes a statement that is simultaneously incoherent, stupid, and a nonsequitor.

Bush's handlers were so angry that Coleman dared to ask Dear Leader mildly difficult questions that they threw a temper tantrum, filing a complaint with the Irish embassy claiming that Coleman was "disrespectful" of Bush and canceled an RTE interview with Laura Bush: (from "Angry White House pulls RTE interview", Irish Independent)

THE White House has lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy in Washington over RTE journalist Carole Coleman's interview with US President George Bush.

And it is believed the President's staff have now withdrawn from an exclusive interview which was to have been given to RTE this morning by First Lady Laura Bush.

[ ... ]

The Irish Independent learned last night that the White House told Ms Coleman that she interrupted the president unnecessarily and was disrespectful.

She also received a call from the White House in which she was admonished for her tone.

And it emerged last night that presidential staff suggested to Ms Coleman as she went into the interview that she ask him a question on the outfit that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern [prime minister of Ireland] wore to the G8 summit.

That last sentence is priceless ... Note to reporters -- a good topic when interviewing the President of the United States: fashion.

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