Sunday, December 14, 2008

COMMENTARY: Bush unharmed by tossed shoes; Will the same fate await the tosser?

So President Bush was the target of two shoes thrown at him - quite haphazardly - by an Iraqi television journalist whose employer, Al Baghdadia, is based in Cairo, Egypt. In the video clip viewed ’round the world, Mr. Bush tells a security agent that he is fine after the incident, later joking about the incident and telling the assembled press that he didn’t feel the least bit threatened by the attack. The journalist, however, may not be so fortunate.

While an attack on any world leader, however innocuous the weapon and bland response from the attacked, is cause for alarm and legal consequence, I have serious doubts about the existence and stability of any current Iraqi justice system. They didn’t have a fair one before the U.S.’ 2003 invasion and they haven’t had a chance to build one now, and with a history of lack of due process in the region, regardless of professional standing and international attention, it seems a very real possibility that Muntadar al-Zaidi, the journalist apprehended, faces either a violent fate or an untimely demise.

The words that al-Zaidi shouted in Arabic while throwing his shoes have been widely translated to have been: “This is the farewell kiss, you dog!” However, an unaccredited blogger at The False Oswalds expands the translated quote to “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.”
Whether this is accurate or not, I don’t know, but CNN expands the translation to: “You killed the Iraqis!” These add another layer of context to al-Zaidi’s motivation for the assault.

In that CNN article, it is also noted that al-Zaidi is the same journalist who was kidnapped in November 2007 on his way to work and then released three days later. I do not know if there are reports of what happened to him during his captivity, whether he was tortured or not. But I imagine that after the initial impulse to throw his shoes at President Bush wore off and he was surrounded and restrained by security agents, his mind flashed to those three days from one year ago and he came into a panic about his current situation. That is the only thing I can think to explain the blood trail on the carpet and the cries from an adjacent room while other Iraqi journalists apologized to the President and Mr. Bush made light of the situation.

I would love for someone to brief the U.S. president on the final translation so that after the jokes have subsided, he will no longer lack understanding of al-Zaidi’s cause. And hopefully, he will actually reinforce his claim that this show of protest - which is more than just an empty ploy for attention - is proof of democracy in Iraq by ensuring that Mr. al-Zaidi is not executed or tortured for his form of expression.

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