The Hari Putar Dialogues - 36
(The Hindustan Times ; 15 December 2008 ; Baghdad : A journalist hurled two shoes at President George W Bush on his farewell visit to Iraq on Sunday, highlighting hostility still felt toward the outgoing US leader who acknowledged that the war is still not won. Muntazer al-Zaidi jumped up as Bush held a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, shouted "It is the farewell kiss, you dog" and threw his footwear.
The president lowered his head and the first shoe hit the American and Iraqi flags behind the two leaders. The second was off target.
Zaidi, a reporter with the Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo, was immediately wrestled to the ground by security guards and frogmarched from the room.
Soles of shoes are considered the ultimate insult in Arab culture. After Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in Baghdad in April 2003, many onlookers beat the statue's face with their soles.
Bush laughed off the incident, saying: "It doesn't bother me. If you want the facts, it was a size 10 shoe that he threw")
Putar: There is a report in The Hindustan Times today about how an Iraqi television journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi jumped up and threw his shoes at American President George W Bush while he was holding a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday. As he threw the shoes he shouted: "It is the farewell kiss, you dog".
Hari: I've read that report, Putar. It's all over the news channels. What's happened to the shoe thrower?
Putar: The journalist was wrestled to the ground by security guards and frog-marched from the room. I believe that he is still in custody now.
Hari: By itself hurling a shoe does not appear to be a serious offence. The difference here is that a Head of State is involved, and that too the Head of State of the most powerful country in the world.
Putar: Bush himself has made light of the matter. Some Americans were angered by the incident as it's an insult to their country's Head of State, but many have been only amused. I hear that some online games have started using this incident.
Hari: How do you mean?
Putar: You know how in online game you pretend to drive a car and there are various obstacles in your path. So someone has started on line game called Bushgame in which you have to aim a shoe at the image of Bush and see if you can hit him. According to reports, Bush in the on line game keeps ducking -- quite successfully at that -- and challenges the gamers' deftness in getting him.
Hari: Some months ago the French President Sarkozy was upset at a small voodoo doll that had been made in his image.
Putar: Politicians have become targets in games and toys.
Hari: For many people the journalist has become a hero. For thousands of Arabs Bush was the worst US President in history.
Putar: Saddam Hussein's lawyer, Mr Dulaimi, has called for Zaidi's immediate release and offered to represent him. Dulaimi headed Saddam's defense team until the execution of the former Iraqi president in December 2006.
Hari: What defense will he offer? There were hundreds of witnesses. The incident was caught on camera.
Putar: Dulaimi says: "Our defense of Zaidi will be based on the fact that the United States is occupying Iraq, and resistance is legitimate by all means, including shoes."
Hari: On the other hand Bush sympathizers can point out that if someone had thrown a Bush at Saddam Hussein he would have been executed. It's only because of the relative freedoms that are today enjoyed in Iraq that this will not happen.
Putar: According to reports, the shoe thrower had been practicing for months, but still he missed the target.
Hari: I have to say that Bush is still very alert and agile for his age. He ducked the first one and the second one completely missed the mark.
Putar: That was a security lapse.
Hari: Well, you can search people for weapons, as was probably done, but you can't stop them from wearing shoes.
Putar: What I meant was that after the first shoe was flung, the shoe thrower should have been stopped in his tracks, and not had an opportunity to throw a second one.
Hari: I guess the shoes have now been seized by the investigators and have become 'case property' which will now be produced in Court at the time of trial.
Putar: Some Arabs who don't like Mr. Bush might argue that Zaidi should indeed be punished, but not for throwing the shoes but for missing the target.
Hari: That's possible, I guess. Perhaps because of his emotion Zaidi's concentration and aim got affected.
Putar: Possibly. Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Have you heard of the saying: 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.'
Hari: It's an old proverb, and it's probably true.
Putar: Yet our shoe thrower didn't believe in this proverb but dreamed up another one.
Hari: What was that?
Putar: Even though the shoe thrower failed in his attempt, he may have thought: 'A shoe on the Bush is worth two on the feet.' Wouldn't you agree?
Hari: I don't know putar.