Saturday, June 26, 2004

Oh how they hate Smirky:
How can there be so little enthusiasm for welcoming President Bush in as pro-American a country as exists on the face of the earth? Our intelligentsia is pro-American; American popular culture, far from being resisted as it is elsewhere in Europe, has been a precious modernizing influence on the grim patriarchy that dominated Ireland until recent times; our teachers and students work in the United States in the summer, our athletes train there, our doctors and scientists do postgraduate work there, we all have friends and relations there. No wonder Ireland shut down more completely than any other country in the world — schools, pubs, business, transport, everything — on its day of mourning for the Sept. 11 attacks.

But nations on the periphery watch the center more keenly than the center realizes. The vacuum where our enthusiasm should be is our response to the perception — the fear — that this administration is indifferent to any world view but its own; that it doesn't care whether a little place like this loves it or not.


And Iraq is only the most lurid in a sequence of isolationist initiatives — the abrupt rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, the imposition of protective tariffs, the hostility to any international court of justice, and above all, the disrespect this administration has shown to the United Nations. Not that anyone has unqualified respect for the United Nations. But small nations, in particular, have to rely on international bodies, and the United Nations for all its flaws is the international body we've got. We take it seriously and we strongly support it. Irish troops are serving with United Nations missions in places that could do with the money and attention Iraq is getting, like Liberia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Congo and the Western Sahara.


But for the present administration — and a 1,000-strong entourage will be accompanying President Bush on his visit — my welcome flag is furled. It was such fun and such an honor, the first four times a president came here. But in the bitter words of a poet: "Never bright, confident morning again."