December 16, 2008

How Bush Finally United the Iraqis

After the American Century

An Iraqi journalist has become famous because he took off his shoes and threw them at President Bush. This appears to have been a spontaneous action, or at least not thought out in advance. Had he really wanted to hit Bush with his shoes, he should have stood on one side, near the front, and waited until the president was looking the other direction. And he should not have shouted until the shoe was in the vicinity of the commander-in.chief's head. However, judging by the video. this appears to have been an emotional outburst, not a premeditated attack. Throwing a shoe is a traditional Iraqi way to insult a person, so the action makes more sense in that nation than it would in Europe or the US.

I do not find this incident surprising. Bush's mistaken and unnecessary invasion of Iraq has led to the deaths of huge numbers of civilians, perhaps 30 times as many as died in 9/11. This could make someone angry. Muntader al-Zaidi, the journalist, a 28 year old correspondent for Al Baghdadia, an Iraqi television station, was only a few rows away from Mr. Bush, when he slung his shoes, and shouted in Arabic: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” He then threw the other shoe, shouting, "“This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” Security police immediately subdued and arrested him. It appears that he was also beaten, which was hardly necessary.

Bush showed quick reactions and some agility in avoiding the flying shoes. But he will not be able to avoid being nailed by historians, even if his Administration did manage to lose (destroy?) large numbers of documents related to the invasion of Iraq.

The great majority of Iraqis, while divided by religion and much else, have embraced Muntader al-Zaidi's action, in a rare moment of unity. In any popularity contest, he is a "shoe in." Millions of Arabs all over the Middle East seem delighted with the idea of throwing shoes at President Bush, and the journalist has been widely praised for his courage. Is it possible that Bush has now united the Iraqi people in support of free speech and democracy?