It was a interesting piece of cultural protest, throwing a shoe (actually a pair) at President Bush. It turns out that a hurled shoe is a symbol of grave insult in Iraq, akin to an American middle finger, as Bush himself perceptively pointed out after the incident.
Journalist Muntader al-Zaidi is now considered a hero in the Arab world. In Saudi Arabia, it was reported that a man had offered $10 million to buy just one of what has overnight become the world’s most famous pair of footwear.
The classic YouTube moment took place Sunday night at a news conference by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Baghdad’s Green Zone, in what was supposed to be a farewell appearance on the part of the outgoing U.S. president.
As Mr. Bush was speaking, al- Zaidi rose abruptly, cocked his right arm and fired a shoe at Bush’s noggin while shouting in Arabic: “ This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog! ”
Mr. Bush quickly ducked and the shoe missed him, thumping loudly as it hit the wall behind him. Al-Zaidi then tossed his other shoe, while shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” The leather missile appeared to have been partially deflected by Prime Minister Al-Maliki and the shoe sailed over the president’s head.
Al-Zaidi reportedly got a sound beating from the presidential security detail, who were initially taken aback by suddenness and unconventionality of the attack.
But the eloquence and clarity of al-Zaidi’s acts was not missed by the rest of the world. In one quick gesture (actually two), he has given expression to the frustration, anger and bitterness of a good number of Iraqis and other victims of American foreign policy and warmongering. And it was funny too. Which makes it all the more memorable.
Bush tried to shrug it off, but the damage was done. He, and millions of others, got the message loud and clear and in this sense al-Zaida hit his mark. Bush, and the rest of the world, will never look at a pair of buckskin in quite the same way again.
Roger Cohen in the New York Times succintly observes:
Bush dodged a shoe; he cannot dodge shame.