Monday, December 15, 2008

Flying Shoes = Resistance?

I just read that an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President Bush at a press conference earlier this morning. President Bush was on a surprise visit to Iraq, and had said that the Iraqi war was not over, but "it is decisively on its way to being won." An infuriated journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, jumped up calling the President a dog and yelling "this is the end." The President ducked just in time as the man's shoes flew over his head.

Watch a video of the incident here:

al-Zaidi was detained, but thousands of Iraqis are demonstrating for his freedom in Baghdad today. They claim that al-Zaidi's detention is a violation of the freedom of expression that the U.S. had promised it would bring into Iraq. Hundreds of lawyers, including various Americans and the man who defended Saddam Hussein, have offered to defend al-Zaidi for free.

Freedom of expression is important, yes. And, of course, the atrocities that have been committed in Iraq are horrible. But freedom is part of a package that includes responsibility. People who have the freedom to do and say what they want must be mature enough to act in a way that does not abuse that freedom. Muslims and Arabs should be the first people to support this statement, especially with their enraged reactions to the Danish cartoons. They can't demand that the West keep its freedom of expression within the boundaries of respect then turn around and support something like this.

I understand that the Bush administration has abused its power in Iraq, and that Iraqis have suffered tremendously because of the U.S.'s actions in the country. But that doesn't mean Iraqis must resist through pure insult. Doing so does not further the Iraqi cause or improve the image of Iraqi citizens in any way. It only makes it more difficult for them to legitimately resist U.S. presence within their borders.


Chic@Sharjah said...

Silly Iraqis, they stole this tactic! AU students threw their flip-flops at bush administration officials 2 years ago! We also attempted a very stupid citizen's arrest of Karl Rove.

No really we did! This isn't the first time the Bush administration has been pelted with footwear! Among the rocks thrown, there was in fact a pair of flip flops. Of course all the students who laid in front of the car attempting the citizens arrest were indicted and AU had to hire them all lawyers. Don't worry none of them actually went to jail Karl just wanted to drag them to court and slow down the overtaxed court system.

But seriously, I hope they let this guy go - I mean he was just expressing dissent which as we all know is LEGAL and ENCOURAGED in the democracy that Iraq is technically supposed to be!

Chic@Sharjah said...

To address the responsibility issue of free speech - restraint is necessary when addressing someone who has restraint in addressing you.

Basically if he respects you, you respect him. Bush isn't respectful of Iraqis, or any people in general so while the Journalist was rude, how else do you treat a homicidal maniac? And even if you disagree with that statement a democracy means freedom of speech. The Danish cartoons had a significant difference between this because it was discontent that was addressed to the source and it was a valid claim of wrongdoing - whereas the danish cartoons were meant to be racist/offensive to everyone regardless of creed. There is a difference between political dissent expressed through shoe throwing and general Jack-arse-ishness directed at everyone. Ones rude with a POINT, the other is just plain rude.

Anonymous said...

Detached in a Shoestorm: Bush's Farewell Faceoff

Matt Stewart

Reagan forgot to duck. Bush didn't. It's unforgettable television that, upon reflection, appears to sum up the man and his presidency.

Watch the video. From behind we see the Shoe Thrower lurch up, ragged and uncouth, doing his best to reinforce all negative stereotypes of angry Muslim fundamentalists. He yells, "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog!" and unleashes the shoe, hard, straight at Bush's head. The shoe moves fast, with good rotation, perfect for a bloody nose. And, without batting an eye, Bush ducks a foot and a half. What was about to nail him on the schnoz sails harmlessly into the backdrop.

Then, wait. This is the strange part. There's no mass tackling of the Shoe Thrower, no Secret Service agents diving across the stage to take a Nike for America. For a beat the Shoe Thrower owns the room. And--my favorite part--Bush does NOT hit the deck. Instead he pops back up to normal height. His face is cagey and attentive, on full alert like a basketball defender. He's little bewildered, but not paralyzed. Instinct consumes him. It looks as if he realizes this is incredible, amazing stuff, a must-see event, history unraveling before him. Maybe some Texas bravado wriggles in. Maybe he feels assassination coming and is determined to watch it in. He has to see how this ends.

In this situation, Bush loses no dignity by crumbling to the floor in the fetal position. We expect this of our presidents--it's the rational thing to do. It's what I would do, and what I hope my friends and family would do. But Bush stands there, a sitting duck, waiting, just as intrigued as we are. He does not take over. He is not in control. Like his presidency, Bush's staredown looks foolhardy and counterproductive, but here a corner of my gut roots for him hard. Bring em on, indeed.

The other shoe drops. Good rotation, and thrown hard, but it sails on him. Bush flinches, raises his hand, but it's not a full duck. He's seen major league pitching. This guy doesn't have it. Finally, the other reporters in the room awaken and move to collar the Shoe Thrower. A little while later, Bush adds the mandatory quip: "All I can report is a size 10."

It's a strange capstone to a presidency, one of those semi-absurd semi-scary incidents like the pretzel-choking, the back-shooting, the bike-crashing. Yet somehow those ten seconds seem to say everything about the man, about guts and intelligence, humor and luck, the dangerous world Bush has helped make worse. For what the world hopes to be the last time, we've watched the man do just enough to keep himself afloat.

Anonymous said...

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