Oh, Canada

Published December 1, 2004 2:43PM (EST)

It used to be that U.S. presidents had to travel half way around the world in order to provoke mass, chaos-in-the-street-type of protest scenes, as mobs voiced their outrage over American policies. Not George Bush. Thanks in part to his decision to launch a preemptive war against Iraq, he simply slips across the Canadian border, as he did yesterday for his first official state visit to the Great White North, and all hell breaks loose. Well, actually hell broke loose in a very controlled, polite, Canadian kind of way, according to the Toronto Globe Mail, which reported the protest " was a mostly peaceful, almost festival-like day of bongo drumming and whistle blowing. It ended with a candlelight vigil that transformed Parliament Hill into a small sea of twinkling lightsThe vast majority of marchers were upbeat in their disdain for Bush."

Still, a portion of the 13,000-strong anti-Bush throng battled with police: "Scuffles broke out as dozens of police in riot gear and gas masks used shields to hold back the surging crowd. Protesters were knocked to the ground and 10 people were arrested. Some threw placards, sticks, pumpkins and water bottles at police. Several tactical officers were covered in red paint. The crowd roared when Michael Mandel of Lawyers Against the War talked of the estimated 100,000 Iraqis who have died since the U.S. invasion. "This isn't a President," he said. "This is a homicidal maniac.""

Bush seems to take in stride the universal hostility that follows him around the globe, even to once-friendly neighbors like Canada, saying yesterday he wanted "thank the few Canadians who came out to wave - with all five fingers - for their hospitality."

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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