UPDATE: I modified this post a bit, based on the advice of a few readers. Thanks.
UPDATE 2: Here is an opposing opinion at another blog, since most commenters are in sharp disagreement with me. As always I welcome your feedback and appreciate the fact you take the time to read what I write here, as well as comment.
The pro-government Al-Sabah newspaper expressed concern about the potential impact on press freedom of what it called Zaidi’s “abnormal individual behaviour.”
But the independent Al-Dustur newspaper hailed the journalist as the “only Iraqi whose patriotic feelings made him express his opinion in this way.”
The Kurdistan Press Syndicate on Monday condemned the attack by Muntadher al-Zaydi, the correspondent for al-Boghdadiya satellite channel, on U.S. President George W. Bush when Zaydi hurled his shoes at him.
“We in the Kurdistan press syndicate denounce the uncivilized assault and deem it a far cry from manners and ethics of the press,” the syndicate chief, Firhad Awni, told Aswat al-Iraq.
In case you missed it today, journalist Muntathar al Zaidi threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Iraq today:
As the two leaders met in Nuri al-Maliki’s private office, a journalist sitting in the third row jumped up, shouting: “It is the farewell kiss, you dog,” and threw his shoes one after the other towards Bush. Maliki made a protective gesture towards the US president, who ducked and was not hit. The journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo, was frogmarched from the room by security staff, an AFP journalist said. An Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes and an insult at George W. Bush, without hitting him, as the US president was shaking hands with the Iraqi premier at his Baghdad office on Sunday. . . Some Iraqi journalists stood up to apologise [Emph Added].
Many on the left are in ecstasy over the event, yet another example of the common man speaking truth to power. Here are some other thoughts, though.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans from the military and other agencies risked their lives in Iraq, and many died or were critically wounded, while helping train Iraqi soldiers and police, establish medical clinics, and clearing roadside bombs that were planted in order to kill Iraqi civilians. My guess is that many of these Iraqis who were saved or trained by American Soldiers and Marines think that al Zaidi embarrassed their country.
I wonder how many of al Zaidi’s counterparts threw their shoes at Saddam or his lovely sons or cousins during the “Golden Days” of Iraq, at press conferences with foreign dignitaries in attendance? How many of those brave speakers of truth to power did so without suffering in an iron maiden as sport for Uday or Qusay, while the sons of Saddam drank Chardonnay and smoked Cubans?
Iraq is without a doubt a contentious, controversial issue in the United States, and likely will be for decades. A majority of Americans believe we should have never invaded Iraq, and it is hard to argue that the lack of postwar planning and miserable execution of the occupation are anything but inexcusable. But the fact that al Zaidi is able to attend an open press conference in Iraq and even ask questions of his government (and become a hero to the Left of the West and most of the Arab world with the shoe thing) is a testament to the hard work and sacrifice of the Americans who toiled there over the past six years, bad plan or not, trying to make the place better.
Men like Muntathar al Zaidi certainly didn’t deserve the effort.