Published on Sunday, November 9, 2003 by the Independent / UK
Families of Iraq War Dead Condemn Bush Visit to UK
by Severin Carrell
George Bush's official visit to Britain next week has been condemned as insensitive and ill-timed by some families of British troops killed in Iraq.
The relatives claimed that the continuing deaths of coalition soldiers in Iraq meant the President's state visit - the first by a US leader since the Coronation in 1953 - was inappropriate.
Reg Keys, whose son, Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, was one of the six Royal Military Police killed by a mob near Basra in June, said he had developed "a quite passionate hatred" of the US leader.
"I can't stand the man," said Mr Keys, 51, of Llanuwchllyn, north Wales. "He has a nerve coming over to this country after all the misery he's caused. I just can't understand why Bush was so keen to go to war against Iraq - it's almost as if he was hell bent on making a name for himself."
His criticisms - which follow angry criticism of Tony Blair's conduct over Iraq by the families of eight British war dead - were supported by the mother of one of the first Britons killed in the war, L/Cpl Shaun Brierley.
Christine Brierley, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said: "I think it's disgusting the way Bush is carrying on. It's a war that should never have been fought: then dragging England into it when it wasn't our war anyway. I just wish all the troops were back home - Americans and English. At the end of the day, what's going to be resolved?"
Next week President Bush and his wife Laura will stay at Buckingham Palace and be guests of honour at a state banquet. Anti-war groups plan protests in London, which have contributed to a decision by Downing Street to cancel plans for the President to address both Houses of Parliament.
The Metropolitan police has said it will ban the Stop the War Coalition from passing Downing Street and Parliament during its main march on Thursday 20 November - an event expected to attract about 60,000 people - even though Parliament is not expected to be sitting.
Several relatives linked the visit to today's Remembrance Sunday services, where Britain's 53 war dead will be particularly commemorated. Lianne Seymour, whose husband Ian, a commando, was one of the first Britons killed, said: "Being invited here for a state visit isn't appropriate now. It really isn't a time to be showing off with glorious tributes, considering the political dimension. For me, and for many other people, this war isn't over. People are still losing their lives, be it Iraqi, British or American."
Gordon Evans, whose son Lance Bombardier Llywelyn Evans was killed in the same helicopter crash as Mrs Seymour's husband, said he wanted Mr Bush to meet British relatives face to face, to explain why he went to war.
"He's the puppet-master, isn't he? If he says do something, Tony Blair jumps. I'm angry with the Prime Minister, because he conned the nation into going to war in the first place."
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd