How extraordinary that even when Bush visits allies abroad hes not well received. He was heckled in the Australian Parliament in October 2003, and weeks later, lambasted for insulting the Queen when his security personnel trashed Buckingham Palace. He was greeted by hostile headlines and throngs of placard-carrying protestors in Ireland in 2004, then charged with torture by a legal activist group in Canada later that year. Bush encountered massive protests under the slogan Not Welcome in Germany in 2005, and faced banners depicting him as a devil, a vampire and a warmonger at the November 2005 Summit of the Americas in Argentina.
Bush is in Austria today for a brief US-European Union Summit plugged by the State Department as combating an ideology of violence with a positive vision of freedom, democracy and opportunity. Humorous in light of recent revelations that the CIA colluded with various European countries on the alleged kidnapping and secret transfer of terror suspects to countries that use torture.
But the show must go on. Expectations for Bushs visit are low, however, and his farcical jaunt to Iraq last week didnt help. The Iraqi Prime Minister wasnt informed about Bushs visit until five minutes before they met, proving that the supposedly sovereign government cant even control who enters its country.
Its hard to imagine where Bush actually is welcome. A Pew opinion poll released last week found that citizens across the globe are losing confidence in the US leader, with his approval ratings plummeting, for example, to 15% in France, 7% in Spain and a 3% in Turkey. Support for the administrations militaristic policies has also dramatically waned, with majorities in only 2 of the 14 countries surveyed favoring the so-called war on terror, and similar majorities citing the US military presence in Iraq as a greater threat to world peace than Iran.
In other words, people around the world are beginning to understand that the deteriorating security situation in Iraq is linked to the sharp increase in global terrorism and a potential threat to their own safety. And they wouldnt be heartened by Rep. Henry Waxmans (D-CA) April 2006 assessment of National Counterterrorism Center data, which found an increase of over 5,000% in the number of global terrorist attacks and over 2,000% in the number of terrorist-related deaths in the three years following the US invasion of Iraq. Yet the administration says the war on terror is making us safer.
So perhaps its fitting that Bush is now visiting Austria, a country which at one point was a powerful empire controlling lands as far flung as Mexico, but today fights to have its voice heard on the world stage. The lesson is clear: Imperialistic overreach and its requisite focus on military power can eventually make the mighty crumble.