“I’m ambivalent about this,” said a friend. “After all, he is the President, yaar.” She was, of course, referring to the chappal heard around the world. Yesterday Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw his shoe at still-President Bush saying “This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”
I’m sure some journalistic code of conduct has been violated – isn’t the pen supposed to be mightier than the shoe? – but I can’t help feeling a sneaking sense of sympathy for the poor man. Here you have a country reeling under a civil war and a prolonged, mismanaged occupation and you have to sit and listen to the chief architect of that destruction blithely state that “things are going well”. That’s enough to make anyone snap. Zaidi’s action is like that little kid in the fable saying, “The emperor has no clothes.”
That’s the irony of crime in the 21st century. Default on your taxes and get summoned to court. Bankrupt the economy and you’ll still preserve your obscene compensation packages. Get into an argument with your neighbor and get hauled off to the hoosegow. Give orders to kill tens of thousands of people and displace millions and you get to build a presidential library. And stock it with what? Copies of “The pet goat?”
Zaidi’s ultimate insult comes from the frustration of knowing that the people responsible for one of the biggest military and strategic blunders in modern times will not only get away scot-free but are busy rewriting history to bolster their legacies. Impeachment is off the table, as the Democrats have been at pains to emphasize and it appears that even the egregious crime of torture will be swept away under the carpet of a new administration. What more can a hapless patriot do than make a symbolic gesture of “@#$% you”?
Zaidi’s arrest has, predictably enough, sparked protests in Iraq. Let’s hope the Iraqi governement has the sense not to make a martyr out of him and lets him off with a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, here is an alternate theory of the incident –