Diary - Bonnie Greer

Yes, Bush and Rumsfeld are Americans. But so were Martin Luther King and Woody Guthrie. So I won't,

''Don't mention the war," I tell myself as I head out to meet my old friends Paul and Vicky, over from San Francisco. Paul and I studied playwriting in Chicago in the mid-1970s with David Mamet before he was famous. As I sit reminiscing about those days, I remember Steve Earle's moving essay on a recent Today programme, reminding me that not only are Bush and Rumsfeld Americans, but so were Martin Luther King and Woody Guthrie. He's right. They're my tradition, so I won't , after all, be walking to Grosvenor Square to hand back my passport.

As I write this, there are crowds on the streets of Baghdad welcoming the Americans. The problem remains, however: Blair has made the wrong call. He and his officials just don't get what underpins the Bush administration. The "neo-cons" run this rodeo, and soon Blair will be pushed off his bronco and told to "git along". The Texans have a saying, "a mile wide and an inch deep", to denote how shallow something is. This is an apt description of Bush's mind, and no matter how many gestures and concessions he gives to Blair, nothing will take away the fact that Britain's contribution, as far as the US press and people are concerned, is the supporting role in a big movie spectacular called USA All the Way!

An astrologer friend shows me the birth charts of Bush and Blair. Bush, he tells me excitedly, is a fantasist, a guy who has a movie running in his head all the time. Blair, behind that facade of smiling openness, is as stubborn and one-track-minded as Thatcher. They both have 12-house suns, which means they never show their real faces to the public.

We meet Paul and Vicky at the Standard, an Indian restaurant in Westbourne Grove, London, because we want them to experience authentic British food. We talk and I realise how much I miss the US they represent, that kind of warm directness, the laid-backness, the cut-to-the-chase that is the best of what America is. Over some good Indian beer, we do get around to the war. They have come to visit their daughter, Jessie, studying at Edinburgh University, and she has brought along a friend who is studying at Sheffield.

They are bright, open-faced kids, Jewish (like Paul and Vicky), and totally devoted to Israel; but they deplore, too, what Bush is doing in Iraq. I listen to their concerns about Israel, and about Jews everywhere, especially in France. Paul has deliberately bypassed Paris because he hates the French right now. My husband and I try to explain France's fear of a "Pax Americana", how the French are a completely logical people and how we, the Americans and British, seem totally illogical, romantic and a bit naive about how the world and human nature function. Paul tells me that this is proof of how totally isolated Americans are: he has not heard this point of view. I insist that while he is here he sample the press and see the range of opinions expressed, watch the BBC and French television. He promises he will - in between trips to Bath and various castles. It is good to have people over to visit. They make you see things anew.

We go to see Julia Pascal's play Crossing Jerusalem, about a Jewish family caught up in the conflict. Julia throws everything at her audience. They are mainly Jewish and they sit and take it. We are up in the balcony, overlooking the stage, and I watch the audience and Paul. When one of Julia's characters confesses that although he may not have been able to be a good Israeli, maybe now he can be a good Jew, I can feel Paul shift. But he applauds it. Outside, he tells me that this would never play in the States. I tell him he's wrong. At least, I hope so.

Over lunch at my club, a building in Soho that is older than the United States itself, we discuss Donald Rumsfeld. Paul and I marched against Rumsfeld in our university days in the mid-1970s, when he was part of the Nixon administration. We both think it is astounding that he is back again, like something from the Night of the Living Dead. Rumsfeld represents an American archetype: "The Guy Who Tells It Like It Is". Everybody cringes, but, hey, somebody's got to say it. We hope that both he and Bush will be part of the regime change which the American people will impose on the White House. Over champagne, the three of us agree that the America that we are is the real thing, and the world will see it once again.

We hope.

Bonnie Greer is a playwright, author, and the Chancellor of Kingston University.

This article first appeared in the 14 April 2003 issue of the New Statesman, A crime against humanity