Tony Blair tells us that we should do everything we can to support America. And I agree. I think we should repudiate those who inflict harm on Americans, we should shun those who bring America itself into disrepute and we should denounce those who threaten the freedom and democracy that are synonymous with being American.
That is why Tony's recent announcement that he wishes to stand shoulder to shoulder with George Bush is so puzzling. It's difficult to think of anyone who has inflicted more harm on Americans than their current president. Since he assumed the title of most powerful man in the world, 4 million Americans have lost their health insurance and 2 million jobs have disappeared. According to a CNN report, "half of all Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck - effectively one paycheck away from poverty". And Mr Bush's latest budget proposes to withdraw support of all kinds for working families earning less than $35,000 a year. At the same time the national debt has rocketed to more than $26,000 for every family.
As for bringing America into disrepute, Mr Bush scores a high rating here too. No American president has been so successful in making Americans ashamed of being American. According to a Gallup poll last year, the majority of Americans - 64% - "cite a fear of unfriendliness as the top concern of traveling abroad". And that was before the photos. Nowadays, I suppose, the main motive for Americans to travel abroad must be to get away from Bush's doublespeak. During a run-up to an election, all administrations will try to claim credit for spreading largesse even where they don't deserve it, but Bush's administration has gone one further by trying to claim credit for largesse it has actually been doing its damnedest to stop.
The justice department, for example, is boasting about spending $47m on a local law enforcement program, when Bush had actually proposed cutting its budget by 87%. And the $11.7m that the secretary of health boasts they are setting aside to help those without healthcare is for a program that Bush has tried to shut down every year he's been in office.
President Bush has successfully turned America into a byword for man's inhumanity to man: from torturing its prisoners to massacring over 40 people, including 15 children and 10 women, at an Iraqi wedding party. The president has left no stone unturned in reversing the good name of Americans throughout the world.
But perhaps it is in the area of democracy and freedom that Bush achieved the most spectacular results. He seems perfectly happy to hold on to power even when the majority of Americans didn't vote for him. As the undersecretary of defense for intelligence puts it: "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the US. He was appointed by God." I wonder what Sonia Gandhi would have done in George Bush's place?
As for the freedom of which Americans have always been so justly proud, has any president ever done more to undermine it? The American Civil Liberties Union tells us that the patriot act alone, which was rushed through Congress in the name of the "war on terror", puts at risk the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and 14th amendments.
Thousands of men, mostly Arabs or south Asians, have now been secretly imprisoned in America without charge, and the government has refused to publish their names or whereabouts. They have been "disappeared". Don't cry for me, Argentina. In fact, the more I think about it, America hardly seems like America any more.
If Tony Blair really were concerned about helping Americans, he would surely be helping them to reclaim their country and institutions from this catastrophic presidency.
·Terry Jones is a writer, film director, actor and Python www.terry-jones.net
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004