December 15, 2008

President Bush and the Iraqi Shoe Thrower

As has been gleefully covered in the media, an Iraqi journalist threw two shoes at President Bush while the President was making remarks at a press conference during a surprise trip to Baghdad. The journalist missed hitting the President - barely - but did cause a bruise on the President's spokesperson.

Throwing shoes at someone is a traditional Arab insult. According to press reports of the incident, the journalist shouted in Arabic as he hurled his footwear at the President, "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog...this is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

The journalist, Muntazir al-Zaydi, has become a folk hero in much of the Arab world, including parts of Iraq - mostly the areas that are loyal to the former regime of Saddam Husayn and to the radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. This is to be expected from these people.

I have a few questions for al-Zaydi and the protesters demanding he be released, claiming he was only exercising his free speech, a right promised by the Americans. Shouting at the President is exercising free speech - throwing objects at him is assault.

1. I do not recall you shouting at President Saddam Husayn, or throwing shoes at him. Saddam was responsible for many more deaths by orders of magnitude than any American leader. Did I miss that press conference where you stood up to Saddam? You remember - all those opportunities the Iraqi media had to hold their "elected" leaders accountable to the public.

2. I don't recall scenes like this prior to 2003, when the Americans gave you the right to free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to protest, etc. How many anti-Saddam rallies did you all attend? It's ironic that you do not recognize that the man who is responsible for your rights is the one you'd like to throw shoes at.

Cowards then, and it appears, cowards now.