June 7, 2004
Savannah-- As President Bush prepares to host this 30th G8 summit, he's facing criticism over his ambitious effort to promote democracy throughout the larger Middle East.
The president is hoping that his greater Middle East initiative will be one of the key accomplishments of this summit of the world's seven richest industrial countries and Russia. The Group of Eight will meet Wednesday with the leaders of several Arab nations to discuss Mr. Bush's plan. However, a leaked draft of the proposal already has caused an uproar in the countries that perceive it as an arrogant America pushing its own ideas.
Administration officials say, however, that the proposal has stimulated "a debate and a discussion in that region about how they will move forward."
President Bush is spending the day secluded at one of the multimillion-dollar cottages on Sea Island, preparing for the arrival of other world leaders Tuesday. Downtown Savannah is under heavy security, with thousands of law enforcement officers and national guard troops patrolling the streets. And the locals are having to find alternate routes to get around.
Concrete barriers and plastic barrels are now part of the downtown Savannah landscape. All federal buildings, including the courthouse and the U.S. Customs building are fenced off. Three thousand linear square feet of solid mesh fencing has been installed. Behind it, dozens of police stand guard. The eight foot black barrier was put up Sunday and will remain there through Thursday.
Many of the law enforcement officers patrolling the coastal region are from our part of the state, southwest Georgia. Corporal Gregory McMillan of the Decatur County Sheriff's Department is one of dozens of South Georgia officers working over here for the G8 summit.
Corporal McMillan is assigned to the media center on Hutchinson Island. "I love this. I do. It's something I'll never see again. I'm 40 years old and I'll never see this again. I'm enjoying it. It's a lot more than I expected. I didn't realize it was going to be like this. Secret Service everywhere, you know."
Corporal McMillan is one of 14 South Georgia officers hired by a Thomasville company called A.P.S. He patrols the building 12 hours a day, from eight a.m. until eight p.m.
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