The secret behind Operation Manticore

This entry was posted on
Monday, June 16th, 2008
4:00 pm and is filed
under George W. Bush.

BBC – Protesters greet Bush’s UK visit
AP – British police say up to 2,500 people show up to protest Bush and 25 arrested
BBC – Three charged over Bush protests
BBC – Brown and Bush in talks at No 10
BBC – US president arrives in Belfast

(looks around)

OK, is he gone?

(looks around again)

You’re sure?!

OK, here we go:

1. Operation Manticore was not scheduled for Sunday afternoon/evening at Downing Street, nor were we planning any kind of mass moonage or a citizen’s arrest; that’s just what most people assumed.

2. Operation Manticore was in fact designed to cover every public space during the entire visit.

3. Because the one thing you really need to be aware of when you’re confronted by a Manticore isn’t the head of a man or the body of a lion or even the sting in the tail… no, the thing you really need to be aware of when it comes to your common garden-variety Manticore is that IT DOESN’T EXIST!!


Yes, Operation Manticore was about as real as George W. Bush’s 2000 election victory and Saddam Hussein’s 45-minute WMD capability. It existed only in the heads of maybe half-a-dozen bloggers, some of whom have been in on the joke for years.

Y’see, with the original version of Chasing Bush, the more we appeared determined to be a pain in the arse about Bush’s visit in 2003, the more plans changed as Bush’s security/PR bubble got smaller and smaller and smaller. So Operation Manticore was created to cover any repeat visit to London and terrible, awful, blatant lies* were published about it years ago (best example here, where I also blogged that I would be backing Blair, and I’m sure most of you are aware of how that turned out). The idea was to create an unknown quantity; an added headache for the authorities not unlike a forecast of rain on the day of a picnic. Just so they’d be that teeny bit more likely to plan their event ‘indoors’, as it were. Because you never know when some idiot is going to step out from somewhere unexpected and try to arrest George, or bare his arse at Laura, or…

[*Yes, this is the only blatant lie on Bloggerheads. FFS, most people who know me know me even just a wee bit know that I wouldn’t accept secret money from shadowy figures under any circumstances. There’s more about ‘black hats’, an attempt at blackmail, and a man who wanted me to know that he had lots and lots and lots of sex yesterday (with a real girl and everything), but it’s too pleasant a day to bother with all of that just now. Maybe tomorrow, after he decides what he’s going to do now that he knows that I planned on coming clean all along.]

That Bush’s eventual return coincided with his status as the lamest of ducks made Operation Manticore even more delicious.

Life and liberty were not put at risk. In fact, barely a sweat was raised. Because, let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s over for Bush, whether he likes it or not, and he’s simply not worth any effort beyond that required to point, laugh and/or take the piss.

But I would like to take the trouble to show you some effort that did go into a brief appearance by agents of Operation Manticore at yesterday’s demonstration in Westminster:

The kids and I had fun over the weekend building noisemakers that can equal the output of your typical hand-held air horn (video here). There were 55 of them (not counting prototypes) and 150 ‘raspberry’ party whistles. Even the littlest helped out as we wrapped each noisemaker in a coded message, ready for distribution.

We even went into town together at one stage to seek out supplies (film canisters, balloons and straws, mostly) and splurged on a couple of family games (1 board, 1 Wii) using some gift vouchers we had stockpiled (including the one we earned/won for the Rebekah Wade guy).

In short, we had a jolly old time; a family weekend with our “secret mission” that culminated in me taking Sunday afternoon off to play silly-buggers with Bush.

4:30pm, Sunday:

I hooked up with Sim-O and D-Notice and we walked through the crowd and distributed as many free noisemakers (and top-secret messages) as we could before breaking off from the demo, then circling and probing the cordon, and generally just being conspicuous as we passed by (or lurked near to) alternative entrances.

Sadly, only Sim-O was searched very early on (my bag was full of incriminating yet harmless items; compass, maps, lightsticks that could only been seen with infra-red goggles, etc.) but our tour of the cordon (and a search for a toilet) did allow us to catch a spectacular security sweep of St James’s Park by armed officers, which in itself looked like a tidy little bluff; minutes after the sweep at the back, Bush’s convoy drove in at speed through the ‘side’ (i.e. through the gate at the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall that looked like a checkpoint in a bloody war zone).

I suppose if the priority is to get your man inside without anyone saying ‘boo’ to a goose duck, then having him see a front yard that looks like a building site isn’t that big a deal. And neither is letting hundreds of angry protestors see the motorcade so it all kicks off and the batons start flying.

[Hello, police peeps. Sorry we didn’t line up for our beating at the Parliament end of Whitehall like we were supposed to. I’m sure you’ll get us next time.]

Davide busied himself taking pictures in the guts of the demo, and we hooked up for beer and a few laughs afterwards (a highlight being the McFlurry moment, when it became clear that most coppers needed coffee, but one very special officer had requested ice cream).

Sadly, Plan B (a series of plans that didn’t exist, designed to keep attention away from Plan A… that didn’t exist) was rumbled a day or two earlier than planned. This meant less publicity for me (I’ll live) and less fun for those who didn’t know about Plan A (sorry about that) but Plan A remained secure throughout, so a hearty ‘huzzah’ goes out to everybody who managed to keep The Big Secret.

Now it’s back to blogging and business as usual… but do watch out for the Crazy Ivan in 5, 4, 3, 2…

[Psst! Have you worked out what the secret message says yet?]

About Tim Ireland

Tim is the sole author of Bloggerheads.
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