Sydney Morning Herald – 2006-11-27 00:11:06
AUSTRALIA (November 23, 2006) — Former US President George Bush was jeered when he told a hostile Arab audience in Abu Dhabi: “My son is an honest man”.
The oil-rich Persian Gulf state used to be safe territory for Bush the elder who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait in the first Gulf War 1991.
But gratitude for his time as president from 1989-93, was overshadowed at a conference today by animosity towards current President George W Bush, whose invasion of Iraq and support for Israel are deeply unpopular in the region.
“We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he’s doing all over the world,” a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.
Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.
One university student told Bush his believed US-led wars were aimed at opening markets for American companies and said globalisation was contrived for America’s benefit at the expense of the rest of the world.
But Bush was having none of it.
“I think that’s weird and it’s nuts,” Bush said. “To suggest that everything we do is because we’re hungry for money, I think that’s crazy. I think you need to go back to school.”
The hostile comments came during a question-and-answer session after Bush finished a folksy address on leadership by telling the audience how deeply hurt he feels when his presidential son is criticised.
“This son is not going to back away,” Bush said, his voice quivering. “He’s not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that, or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something.
“You can’t be President of the United States and conduct yourself if you’re going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It’s not easy.”
Bush senior is being seen as having a renewed influence in the White House following the big loss for the Republican party at this month is mid-term elections which has been blamed on the mess in Iraq.
Several of his key former advisers are part of the Iraq Study Group. The advisory commission led by Bush family friend and his former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
A former aide of Bush senior, Robert Gates, has also been appointed Defence Secretary by Bush junior.
“When your son’s under attack, it hurts,” Bush senior told the audience. “You’re determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can.”
AP and smh.com.au
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