Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Shoe-thrower of Baghdad' brings Iraqis on to the streets.

Perhaps it's the fact that they fly into Baghdad at night and are escorted on heavily fortified helicopter rides into the heart of the Green Zone which gives Bush and others that utterly false sense of perspective that they exude at press conferences.

Yesterday, when Muntazer al-Zaidi suddenly hurled his shoes at George Bush it appeared to puncture the whole carefully constructed facade that Bush and others have worked so hard to feed to the American public.

Patrick Cockburn lays out today the lengths that these charlatans have gone to in order to give the false impression that all is going well in Iraq:

Visiting US politicians during the presidential election sought determinedly to manicure what American television viewers would see. Diplomats at the US embassy complained that staffers of Republican candidate Senator John McCain had asked them not to wear helmets and body armour when standing next to him in case these protective measures might appear to contradict his claim that the US military was close to military victory. For similar reasons staffers of the Vice President Dick Cheney demanded that the siren giving a seven or eight second warning of incoming rockets or mortar rounds to people in the Green Zone be turned off during his visits.
Both Cheney and McCain actually risked other people's safety so that the ludicrousness of their own claims not be exposed.

And then came Muntazer al-Zaidi and the flying shoes and the whole facade appears to be crumbling.

Certainly the people of Iraq are greeting al-Zaidi as hero - across the ethnic divide - as thousands of Iraqis poured on to the streets yesterday waving shoes and shouting his name. There are even reports that US troops have been pelted with shoes in Baghdad.
The throwing of the shoes at Mr Bush may turn out to have marked a crucial turning point in the five-and-a-half-year-old American occupation of Iraq, provoking an outpouring of nationalist sentiment in opposition to the US presence, with support for Mr Zaidi seeming to cross sectarian boundaries. Demonstrations backing the journalist were held in the Shia holy city of Najaf, but also in the Sunni city of Tikrit demanding his release.
The TV station which Mr Zaidi worked for kept an image of him onscreen for most of the day and issued a statement demanding his release "in line with the democracy and freedom of expression that the American authorities promised the Iraqi people ... any measures taken against Muntazer will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime."

With elections in January it seems unlikely that the Iraqi government will be able to give him a severe punishment and have any hope of surviving the popular outrage which such a decision would generate.

Bush, of course, has dismissed this as simply someone wanting to get on to TV, which is ludicrous as the man he is describing is already a TV journalist.

But for the first time Bush, despite the ludicrous lengths he goes to avoid it, was faced with the anger of the occupied Iraqi people. And the people - always excluded from these pathetic, slightly unworldly press conferences - have taken to the streets to celebrate.

Indeed, there is a tone of celebration throughout much of the Arab press:

* "The shoes should be exhibited in a museum as they resemble a rocket that talks on behalf of all Iraqis." - Zahraa, posting on website of Arabian Business magazine

* "The flying shoe speaks more for Arab public opinion than all the despots/puppets Bush meets during his travels in the Middle East." - Asad Abu Khalil, professor at Stanislaus University in California

"Our defence will be based on the fact that the US is occupying Iraq, and resistance is legitimate by all means, including shoes." - Saddam Hussein's former lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, explaining that he was forming a team to defend Mr Zaidi

* "Please listen again. This is the sound of the shoe hitting the wall and missing President Bush." - Radio announcer in Tehran

* "Throwing shoes at Bush was the best goodbye kiss ever. It expresses how Iraqis ... hate Bush." - Musa Barhoumeh, editor of Jordan's independent Al-Gahd newspaper

Whatever else al Zaidi did, he certainly has united much of the Arab world.

Click title for full article.

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