The special relationship Obama can't sully

The only thing ‘special’ these days is Obama’s evident distaste for the British. And yet there is an enduring special relationship with roots that go far deeper than the president of the day

by Robin Mitchinson on 6 August 2013 06:26

We don’t hear quite so much about the ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK lately. Maybe that’s because all thinking people know that it is a chimera, a piece of cant. It has only existed in three periods.

The first was the Churchill/Roosevelt partnership during WW2, which rather came apart at Yalta when FDR was duped by Stalin despite warnings from WSC.

The second was the remarkable troika of Maggie, Reagan and Gorbachev which really did change the world.

The third was when Blair became Dubya’s political catamite.

The only thing ‘special’ these days is Obama’s evident distaste for the British. The first intimation of this was when he sent back the bust of Churchill. He and his advisors will have well-appreciated how this would be received in the UK.

Ditto the gift to a British Prime Minister of 25 DVDs that were US-only coded and unreadable in the UK.

He refused the rare honour of a medal from the Royal Society, the world’s oldest and most distinguished scientific body.

The latest was Maggie Thatcher’s funeral. This was not a gaffe. It was a snub of proportions that caused immense offence in the UK, as he must have known it would. Not a single member of the Obama administration attended. Not a single senior Democrat was there. Even the US Ambassador was absent, due to the fact that it took four months for Obama to appoint one.

The Court of St James is not high on Obama’s priorities. He then tried to block the Senate tribute to the Iron Lady. More seriously, he has taken to meddling in Britain’s own affairs.

One such was his public opposition to the UK’s policy on defence cuts. This was a political hot-potato that caused Cameron much trouble. Obama’s unwelcome intervention must have caused Dave much embarrassment.

Even worse, he took it upon himself to express a view about Britain’s position in the EU, one of the most controversial issues in the UK at this time. Coming from this source, the only outcome would be to strengthen 'Britain out’ feeling.

Then there was his nauseating posturing over the BP oil spill, threatening to ‘put his boot on BPs’ throat, before anything was known about either causes or culpability. He deliberately emphasised ‘British Petroleum’ despite the fact that it is an international company the proper name of which is simply ‘BP’.

More recently he has taken to giving support and comfort to Argentina over its renewed claims to the Falklands, the equivalent of Cameron supporting handing over Pearl Harbour to the Japanese, although he must have recognised that this was sabre-rattling to cover up the parlous state of the Argentinian economy and its rickety politics.

‘There’s nothing special about Britain,” an Obama official said. “You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

But the ‘special relationship’ exists. It is engraved on the American Air Force memorial at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, thousands of names remembering the US airmen who died operating from Britain, on the many little memorials scattered throughout the East Anglian countryside which always seem to have fresh flowers, and on the headstones of the thousands who are buried at the US war cemetery at Madingley, near Cambridge.

On Sunday we visited the memorial in a small country churchyard to American pilots who served in the RAF Eagle Squadron at the Battle of Britain, bold, brave young men who fought above the skies of Kent for us in our desperate hours, only to die when their transport taking them home in 1941 hit a mountain.

Every year the Stars and Stripes is raised at the impact site and there is a memorial service. A couple of years ago it was attended by the last space shuttle crew from Houston.

That’s the’ ‘special relationship’ and there’s nothing Obama can do about it.

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