15 December 2008

Progress in Iraq

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush yesterday is being lauded as a hero throughout the Middle East while he remains under arrest. This is progress if Arabs are willing to make a hero out of someone who didn't kill anyone. Maybe this kind of slapstick humiliation will be the form of nonviolent protest that finally catches on in the Arab world. What would it look like, for instance, if Palestinian kids threw shoes instead of rocks at Israeli soldiers? Would anyone dare fire even a rubber bullet in retaliation for that? The intrepid reporter could well become a "model for emulation," to borrow from Shiite hierarchical terminology, not only in Arab lands but around the world, as I suggested yesterday.

I haven't heard any yet, but I'm sure there are bound to be killjoys who'll grumble that "he wouldn't have dared do that to Saddam," or "he's lucky that Bush has a sense of humor." We should probably take such people somewhat seriously if they want to argue that yesterday's scene was proof of progress for the American agenda in Iraq -- presuming that the reporter will get away reasonably unscathed. The only thing you might want to suggest if you hear anything along those lines is, that if it's a good thing that an Iraqi can throw a shoe at a leader and not get executed, then they shouldn't complain about their poor president having to duck the free expression of an Iraqi citizen.

Update: NBC has found some Iraqis to deplore the incident, and that shouldn't surprise us. From one point of view, al-Zeidi's act was "undignified," and liberal Iraqis are just as likely as Americans to insist on "dignity" and "respect" under all circumstances. Other Iraqi critics raise the point of hospitality to a guest, but I imagine that other Iraqis would dispute Bush's entitlement to "guest" status. Scroll down the link page and you'll see a sample of American opinion from the indignant to the amused. Speaking for myself, I don't think al-Zeidi needed to hit Bush to make his point. The point is to embarrass the man, not hurt him.


hobbyfan said...

Slapstick humiliation? LOL! How about sending some Three Stooges DVDs to Baghdad to show them how it's done!

The Crime Think Collective said...

I really wish he had managed to actually connect with at least one shoe. He needs to take some time out for target practice. And maybe change his fashion sense to Dutch wooden clogs or golf or football cleats.

The fact that he missed makes this incident more an embarrassment to Iraq than to Dubya.

hobbyfan said...

Based on what I saw, the guy acted as if this was on impulse, not premeditated. Just a disgruntled local journalist who should've been happy that this was President Bush's final visit to Iraq. And if he connected? I don't think it would've hurt Bush all that much.

The Crime Think Collective said...

But it would have been much funnier to watch on video.

Samuel Wilson said...

Of course, people more sympathetic toward Bush have suggested that the video would be more entertaining had the President caught one of the shoes and thrown it back at al-Zeidi or run into the press corps and beat him with it. All politics aside, those aren't bad ideas from a comedy standpoint. I also like the idea of Bush removing his own shoes to throw them at the reporter, then adopting the practice during his last few Cabinet meetings whenever someone offends him.