December 20, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Sobko


Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi has drawn a line under the eight-year epoch of Bush governing

Would George Bush make a "farewell" journey to Iraq if he knew about a preparing shoe-attack? Hardly would he, to all appearances. The visit to Iraq was to add him some features of a strong leader, who isn't afraid to come to the country, which is drawn into a civil war and terror. However, the result turned to be quite contrary: now the very "shoe episode" has become a symbol of the outgoing eight-year period of Bush governing, which was marked mostly by interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let us remind that during recent George Bush's press conference in Baghdad Muntadar al-Zaidi, Al-Baghdadia TV channel journalist, threw a pair of boots at the US President, and exclaimed: "This is the farewell kiss, you dog!" Bush demonstrated good reflexes and evaded flying shoes smartly, but the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, suffered from this occasion and later appeared to have a black eye.

What's important, throwing a shoe, as well as comparing with a dog (which is considered to be an unclean animal among Moslems) is a great insult in Arabian East. It's interesting, that five years ago, in 2003, when the US forces occupied Baghdad, Saddam Hussein's rivals (mostly Shiite inhabitants of Sadr City suburb) thrashed his statues and portrays with their shoes. And now the "victor" of Saddam Hussein – George Bush Ц is attacked by a pair of shoes.

If shoes for this aims are used mostly in the East (recently Thailand Premier Minister was attacked the same way), then in the West people use cakes or eggs.

For example, cakes were thrown at Bill Gates, Helmut Kohl, Jean-Marie Le Pen, James Wolfensohn (the World Bank president) and many others. And eggs were used against Arnold Schwarzenegger, Victor Yanukovich, Mikhail Kasyanov and dozens of other politicians.

The journalist, who was arrested immediately, has become a national hero of the Middle East. And what is more, even members of Jordanian Parliament stopped their work for a minute as a sign of respect to the Iraqi man. Libyan charity group chaired by Muammar el-Qaddafi's daughter intended to reward al-Zaidi with a medal. Demonstrations took place in Iraq itself in support of the new national hero Ц videos, spread by news agencies, show the demonstrators carrying streamers with "Go out U.S.A." inscriptions and shoes put upon them. There are reasons to expect that a shoe will become a new symbol of the country's liberation from the US occupation. A wealthy citizen of Saudi Arabia has already proposed $10 million for the pair. But no one will be able to earn the money Ц the US and Iraqi Special Services have performed a "successful operation" of shoes annihilation.

By the way, this was done in defiance of all the legal procedures: as al-Zaidi is arrested and charged seriously, these shoes are important physical evidence, an exhibit. Nevertheless the Special Services decided there's no use thinking about laws and preferred to get rid of a dangerous symbol as soon as possible. Furthermore, the super activity of annihilating the shoes obviously was to compensate the failure of Bush's protection Ц as the journalist was neutralized only after he had time to throw both boots.

The creators of computer flash-games began to make fun of the work of those "professionals". In the game they've made, you are to catch shoes flying at the US President. However, an alternative game has appeared already: there players are able to throw boots at George Bush, who periodically hides under the tribune.

The story of throwing shoes at Bush could be funny, if it wasn't followed by cruel beating of the journalist by local Special Services.

They treated al-Zaidi really violently: now he's suffering a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, plus his eye and leg are injured. And it all was done in "democratic Iraq", which Bush once held as an example to Russia. Evidently this is the very sign of a "free society", which President Bush was talking about in his comments on the incident. And more, according to Iraqi legislation, the journalist faces up to 7.5 years in jail for "offending the head of a foreign state ".

At the same time we should understand, that the serious punishment of a national hero will shake the level of trust in al-Maliki's government, which is already unstable, and will lead to a new wave of disorders in Iraq. So, a fight has already happened during the discussion of Iraqi journalist's act in the Parliament of the country.

Furthermore, a gradual departure of Americans from Iraq and the delivery of some functions to civil administration mean the beginning of a new phase of the fight for power among different Iraqi clans. Recent arrest of 35 officials (mostly connected with the head of Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs) by Special Services (which are controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki) proves that.

It's obvious, that the "shoe-story", which emphasized complexity of present situation in Iraq, isn't over and can lead to really unpredictable sequels. Though actually Bush himself, according to his own comments for press, has made only one conclusion out of the incident Ц the shoes, which were thrown at him, were size 10. And nothing more.

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