Iraqi journalist, who is, by now, probably half beaten to death for the
of paying back – in very small measure – George W. Bush for his
crimes against the Iraqi people, is a folk
hero to millions. And his admirers aren't all Iraqis or other Arabs, not
by a long
The shoe-wielding Iraqi television reporter, one Muntadar
al-Zeidi, managed to sum up, in a single gesture, how much of the world
feels about the 43rd president of the United States – including Americans.
Remember waaaay back when we were supposedly
going to be greeted with showers of rose
petals and high fives by the "liberated" peoples of Iraq? Mr.
al-Zeidi seems to have definitively put that
one to rest for all time.
What gets me, however, is the neocons' response to this instance of life-imitating-art:
typical is the always clueless Ralph
Peters, a military "expert" who blames the failure in Iraq on
bad execution of a flawless policy
and avers al-Zeidi's act, just proves the War Party was right all along:
"When an Arab heel aimed those shoes at our president, it showed the
world the extent to which Bush loosened the laces of Middle Eastern tyranny.
If an Arab journalist had thrown his shoes at Saddam Hussein or one of his
guests, the tosser would've been beaten, then tortured, then killed. Today's
Iraqi government is considering whether the man should be charged under the
state's democratically validated Constitution."
The charge against al-Zeidi is "aggression
against a president," a provision in the Iraqi "legal code"
(and I use the term loosely) that makes it a crime to attempt to murder
either an Iraqi or a foreign head of state, punishable by 15 years in prison.
Yet the worst that could have happened to Bush was nothing more than a black
eye. It would be laughable to try this as a case of attempted murder. Yet
the very idea that Iraq is a place where the rule of law exists is nothing but
a very bad joke.
"Aggression against a president?" The real "aggression"
here was launched by the chief executive of the most
powerful nation on earth when he invaded a country that had never attacked
us and posed no threat to our territory or legitimate interests. No word yet
on whether al-Zeidi is claiming self-defense, but it makes sense to me. After
suffering over 1 million
dead and wounded and countless others rendered homeless, perhaps the Iraqi
people can be forgiven for making al-Zeidi an instant folk hero. No Iraqi jury
will ever convict him.
What is worrying, however, is the smugness that accompanied the reporting on
this incident. Over at MSNBC, they kept showing the
video in a continuous loop of shoe-throwing, with Bush rather artfully and
athletically dodging the leathery missiles. We're all supposed to be laughing
at our hapless president, whose poll numbers are edging
into minus territory – but I wonder…
What I'm wondering is where President Obama's poll numbers will be, four years
after launching his
own war of "liberation" – in Afghanistan, a far harder
nut to crack than relatively soft-centered Iraq. How many Afghans (or Pakistanis)
will dream of having their al-Zeidi moment with the 44th president – and with
Don't we ever learn anything?
Do we have to keep repeating the same pattern of intervention-and-blowback,
like Sisyphus rolling that
stone up the mountain, with the same inevitable and costly results?
The next time some pompous politician, earnest policy wonk, or just your average,
of a foreign power suggests invading and occupying a nation purportedly just
waiting to be "liberated," we should all reach for our shoes and –
like Mr. al-Zeidi – take careful aim…
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I have to comment on Rachel
Maddow's reaction to the shoe-throwing incident, in part because it is so
telling when it comes to "liberal" attitudes toward authority and
also because I agree with her so much of the time, at least when it comes to
While taking the opportunity to laugh at Bush, Rachel was clearly horrified
by the incident, which she described, I believe, as "scary." The
unspoken question: what was this guy even doing at a news conference so close
to the president of the United States? Why, you can bet that the ultra-competent,
control-freak Obama-ites won't make that kind of mistake!
Beneath that, there is, of course, the liberal reverence for the office and
its holder, who, after all, embodies the power and majesty of the federal government,
our federal government, and who must therefore be honored and respected…
no matter what he does. With the liberal-left now about to take the reins of
that government, a whole new outward attitude toward authority reasserts itself.
Their days in opposition over, it's amazing how quickly the rad-libs have reverted
to form, which, in this context, means absolute reverence for the U.S. government
and all its works.
The difficulty, for them, is that this very same government, which they're
counting on to save the economy and implement a new era of good-n-plenty here
on the home front, is bombing
and killing an increasing number of Afghans – particularly members of wedding
parties, for some reason – a practice that is sure to inspire the al-Zeidis
of the future.
"This is a farewell kiss," al-Zeidi cried out, as he hurled his
footwear at the presidential noggin, "you dog!" What struck a nerve,
throughout the world, not just the Middle East, was the sight of an ordinary
person who somehow got to express his opinion of the most powerful human being
on the planet in a way that not only garnered attention, but also underscored
the sense of powerlessness and frustration felt by Americans
when it comes to this seemingly endless occupation.
The American people voted
– twice! – to end
it, to bring this disgraceful chapter in our history to a rapid close, yet we're
still there. Already, the appointees around our president-elect are making
noises about how that "residual" force will be quite a hefty one,
while Obama's determination to escalate the war in Afghanistan – and even extend
it into Pakistan – seems undiminished.
It's going to be a rocky time for those "antiwar" Obama fans – up
until now knee-jerk defenders of their candidate's every twitch and maneuver
– who suddenly find themselves defending a war far more costly, more damaging,
and more futile than was ever waged by George W. Bush. It's going to be interesting
reading the Democratic blogs and listening to good ol' Rachel on MSNBC (I go
make dinner when it's time for Keith Olbermann) in the years to come. Will
Rachel sell out? Will Arianna Huffington turn out to be the craven lickspittle
she's given every indication of being so far? Will DailyKos defend Obama's
See, that's what's so interesting about the blogosphere and the new information
age that's expanded the concept of media and relegated the "mainstream"
to the status of a minor rivulet: in this age of instantaneous communication,
where reactions are rapid-fire and one's principles are continuously tested,
the wheat is rapidly separated from the chaff.