Bush arrived here Tuesday evening for a three-day visit to America's staunchest ally, a trip that promised contrasting pictures of elegant ceremonies at Buckingham Palace and noisy street protests by thousands of anti-war demonstrators. Britain has 9,000 soldiers in Iraq, the largest non-American force in the coalition.
In a speech Wednesday at Whitehall Palace, Bush planned to argue that war is the correct path when all other means have failed, a senior administration official told reporters flying here with Bush on Air Force One. "History has shown that there are times when countries must use force to defend the peace and to defend values," Bush was to say.
But Bush did not plan to define which values he was referring to, nor when, exactly, it is necessary to go to war.
The remarks, billed by White House aides as a major foreign policy address, also were to reiterate Bush's call for countries across the globe, particularly in the Middle East, to embrace democracy. BEGIN POSITION 3 END POSITION 3
And Bush planned to strike back at critics who charge he has abandoned global organizations like the United Nations, casting himself as a backer of "strong international institutions that are effective."
Bush faced deep opposition here. Organizers of an anti-war demonstration predicted 100,000 people would march Thursday against the Iraq invasion.
One protester used a bullhorn to bark a stream of anti-Bush and anti-Tony Blair invective at Parliament Square Tuesday afternoon, comparing the two leaders to Hitler. "How can you be bombing babies, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair? It is not Christian, it is blasphemy!"
Yet a new poll contained good news for Bush.
Forty-three percent of Britons questioned in an ICM survey said Bush should visit the country, while 36 percent said he should not. About 62 percent agreed that America was "generally speaking, a force for good," while 15 percent believed it was "an evil empire."
Bush and his aides are fond of saying they do not pay attention to polls, but the senior administration official who addressed reporters on Bush's plane cited the new survey as evidence of strong ties between the two countries.
Bush and his wife, Laura, walked arm in arm from the White House to their helicopter as they departed for London Tuesday morning, and they again clasped hands when they arrived here, greeted on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport by Prince Charles.
The president and first lady shook hands with the prince and were escorted along a red carpet between British troops into a building where they had a private meeting. Then Bush helicoptered to Buckingham Palace for a royal welcome - and jeers from about 100 protesters. They shouted "Murderer!" and "You are not welcome!" as the first of the helicopters ferrying Bush's entourage touched down behind the palace.
The official embrace of the American president belies deep suspicions among ordinary Britons about the war in Iraq, and hostility toward Bush.
Some 1 million Britons protested in a single day in February, before the war. Fifty-two Britons have died in Iraq.
Demonstrators plan to pull down a statue of Bush made of papier mache and chicken wire, to parody the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad.
Bush made plain in a series of interviews with British journalists that he is not backing down, and he will try to remind the British that they have a stake in the war. As part of the effort to court British public opinion, Bush gave a personal guided tour of the Oval Office to British journalists last week.
"I intend to lead our nation, along with others like our close friends in Great Britain, to win this war on terror," Bush told the BBC.
Bush is trying to tap into the outpouring of empathy and support that the British displayed after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
A military band played the U.S. national anthem at an unprecedented changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace two days after the attacks, ordered by the queen. Thousands of British supporters stood eight deep at Buckingham Palace's front gates and lined the road to the queen's main residence.
Blair addressed a joint session of Congress in July and gave an impassioned defense of the Iraq war. Bush will not address Parliament during his visit. Such a speech could invite the kind of heckling the president received when he spoke to the Australian Parliament last month.