Muntadar al-Zaidi

So, I have a question. If the shoe-hurling incident yesterday proves that Iraqis are now free to express anger toward their government Pres. Bush, knowing they will not be tortured or murdered, then why does nobody seem to know what happened to Muntadar al-Zaidi after he was dragged, screaming, from the room where the press conference took place? Where is he right now? What are the charges against him if any? Do his relatives and friends know where he is? I read in one of the news articles that he was being interrogated to find out if he had been paid to throw the shoes and if so who paid him. What does that mean? Is he being abused or mistreated? Is he being beaten? Tortured?

Even his own brother, Maythem al-Zaidi, does not know what will happen, and when he called Muntadar’s cell phone after the incident, the phone was answered by a man who claimed to be one of al-Maliki’s bodyguards. The man threatened Maythem, telling him, “We will get you all.”

This is not the way political dissent, even inappropriately expressed political dissent, should be handled in a democracy, which is what I hear from our friends on the right Iraq is now.

According to the Washington Post:

Iraqi authorities have placed Muntadar al-Zaidi under arrest for “his aggressive actions against an official and a visitor of the Iraqi government,” said Yaseen Majeed, a top media adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In a statement, Majeed blasted Zaidi as “a disgrace to journalism” and said he would be handed over to the Iraqi justice system for “punishment.”

Really. Well, aside from the small detail of a trial, and the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” which is normally a key concept associated with democracies, I find it interesting that the prime minister does not appear to be aware of, or concerned about, the deep wellspring of anger and resentment al-Zaidi tapped into when he threw those shoes and yelled, first, “This is Iraq’s farewell kiss, dog!” and then, “This is for the widows and orphans of Iraq!”

No, al-Maliki is more concerned with his own embarrassment, or personal political standing, than he is with the sheer human loss, grief, and suffering that have come to so many Iraqis because of the U.S. invasion and occupation. I would think he’d have a little compassion for a journalist who reported on the carnage and was himself a victim of war-related violence. The guy obviously was emotionally distraught and snapped. And who can blame him, when the leader of the country that used its overwhelming military power to create thousands upon thousands of widows and orphans and to turn four million Iraqis into refugees, actually comes to Iraq on the eve of his retirement — makes a “surprise visit” — to stand at a podium with the U.S.-approved prime minister to “say farewell” and to gloat and boast about what a wonderful job he did and how grateful and happy Iraqis should be.

So I’m afraid I can’t agree with Alex Koppelman when he writes:

Bush has wreaked havoc on Iraq. Death, dismemberment, disfiguring, displacement and political disarray are all part of his tragic legacy. Al-Zaidi has many legitimate reasons to be angry.

But his actions and the subsequent lionizing of him are not helpful. If anything, the incident created sympathy for Bush (myself included, yes), who is on his way out the door and doesn’t deserve it — all so that one television journalist, acting unprofessionally, can draw attention to himself. And don’t say he did it to draw attention to the plight of Iraqi widows and orphans. Americans, and the world, know what’s going on in Iraq, even if some prefer to ignore it.

If he wanted to be a political agitator, al-Zaidi could have quit his job and joined the ranks of the political protesters. Or he could have used the power of the media to opine. Sure, he got our attention. But Bush cleverly turned that attention into an opportunity to reiterate a point he’s made before about how political expression is now possible in ways it was not previously — which, while true and not without meaning, does little to reduce the real-life effects of all that death, dismemberment, disfiguring, displacement and disarray.

Bush doesn’t deserve it because “he’s on his way out the door”? Bush richly deserves it, and what does being on his way out the door have to do with it? He did what he did and, come to think of it, the fact that he went back to Iraq as he was on his way out the door to remind Iraqis of what he did (not that they could forget, but they don’t need Bush to go there and rub it in) actually makes the timing quite relevant. Al-Zaidi did not travel to the United States to throw shoes at a Bush news conference, did he? Bush did not have to travel to Iraq to bid farewell to the country he destroyed and the people he devastated, did he?

I did not feel one scrap of sympathy for Bush — although I will admit I felt grudging admiration for his poise and quick reflexes in the moment. But any sympathy or respect I might have felt for Bush vanished with “So?” and “It was amusing.” It was amusing? Fuck you, you bastard. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, thousands of children who will never see their parents again, wives who will never see their husbands, families who are living in refugee camps in Syria and Jordan, are amusing? And don’t tell me Bush didn’t mean that, because al-Zaidi said it, as clear as crystal.

As far as Bush’s turning the incident into an advertisement for free expression post-Saddam, he has done that many times before in response to peaceful protests against the U.S. presence in Iraq just as much as violent ones — as Koppelman himself acknowledges. It doesn’t matter what Iraqis do in response to U.S. behavior in Iraq. If they vote for candidates hand-picked by Bush, it’s a triumph for democracy. If they throw shoes, it’s a triumph for democracy. If they march in the streets by the thousands, it’s a triumph for democracy. If they blow themselves up in market squares it shows how desperate the foes of democracy are, and that’s a triumph for democracy.

The one reality that really is a triumph for democracy is never mentioned by anyone in the Bush administration. And that’s not an event or an incident — it’s a date.

January 20, 2009.

24 Responses to “Muntadar al-Zaidi”

  1. todd says:

    Hey asshole, you really think Iraq would be better with Saddam in charge? You are so concerned about about the rights of this so-called journalist but you don’t seem to give a shit about the hundreds of thousands of people Saddam had tortured and killed. Not just his own people but his invasion of Kuwait and Iran along with firing missiles in Israel and paying suicide bombers. He got exactly what he deserved finally along with the thousands of terrorist scum that we have killed there. The only good terrorist is a dead one. Your article is a disgrace and you deserve to have a shoe thrown at you for this garbage.

  2. Ike says:

    I think the question has to be asked whether Iraqis are better now than they were when Saddam was in charge. Or better yet, are they better now than they were before President Bush ordered the surge strategy that has so dramatically reduced violence in Iraq? Certainly one can question the wisdom of the original invasion, but to say that Bush “destoyed a country” and “devastated a people” begs the question “destroyed or devestated compared to what?” Compared to life under Saddam? Compared to 2006 when sectarian violence (by Iraqis to other Iraqis, not by Americans) was at its peak? I think this writer needs to stop echoing Al Qaida’s talking points and actually give a logical argument.

  3. John says:

    When Pres Clinton left office Sadam was in a tight box. Bush lied to support the war. Was it worth it? Not in my opinion. Not only have thousands lost their lives, but our nation is broke. How can you justify the lies Cheney told, greated as liberators, war will be paid for in oil proffits, outting Plame, Patriot Act, Spying on US Troops, Gitmo, Walter Read, Rummy the idiot, heckofajob Brownie, Scotter. Fleisher, Gonzalis, Myers, on and on. Earth to Bush, beat it scum bag, go back to Texas and shovel shit

  4. AJ says:

    Kathy, you are a piece of crap.

    Iraq is now a democracy and its people are free. Liberty has a price paid in blood, sweat, and sacrifice. Sometimes endless amounts of each is not enough. Nevertheless, liberty is a cause worth fighting for regardless of the price.

    Bush presided over a flawed and unpopular administration, but his courage and drive to bring Iraqis the inalienable rights bestowed upon us by our Creator is a cause worthy of our respect and admiration.

    Liberty or death!

  5. AC Hall says:

    “I read in one of the news articles that he was being interrogated to find out if he had been paid to throw the shoes and if so who paid him. What does that mean? Is he being abused or mistreated? Is he being beaten? Tortured?”

    The difference between now and 6 years ago: You wouldn’t have to ask if an individual in al-Zaidi’s place were being tortured or wonder what the government’s official statement on his status means. Ther would be no official statement on a prisoner’s status and he would not only have undergone torture; he might already have been killed were Saddam still running the place. The Baathists didn’t need to explain their actions to anyone. The Iraqis couldn’t vote them out and the American Left would always give Saddam the benefit of the doubt.

    ‘. . . said he would be handed over to the Iraqi justice system for “punishment.” ‘

    You have interpreted this as an indication that al-Zaidi has been denied due process. I am not fluent in Arabic, nor have I seen the official statement from which the Washington Post takes the quote. However, I do know that the linguistic differences between English and Arabic are substantial due to differing political systems. For instance, the Arabic word for “politics” comes from an expression used to refer to whipping camels. This might be another such example.

  6. Kathy says:

    To the guy looking in the mirror as he types:

    Iraq is not a democracy. Iraq is a destroyed country headed by a puppet government whose leaders were nominally elected by Iraqis, but in reality were selected and approved by the Bush administration, through a process that was anything but democratic. And that government is utterly, totally, hopelessly corrupt. Democracies generally do not thrive under corrupt governments.

    Democracies are not generally occupied by another country’s military. Democracies are not generally in the position of signing a Status of Forces Agreement that clearly states the occupying military must be out of the cities by June 2009 and out of the country — completely, down to the last soldier, out of the country — by 2011, and then be told by the leaders of the occupying military that they are not going to leave the cities by 2009 or the country by 2011, as if the agreement had never been negotiated and signed.

    In democracies, AJ, the leaders are accountable to the people who elected them. In Iraq, the leaders are accountable to the United States (at least as long as Bush is president), and no matter how angry ordinary Iraqis are about the U.S. still being in their country, and no matter how much they HATE the American government for all the death, displacement, torture, destruction, and despair our government has caused them, the Iraqi leaders still act as if their own people are interlopers and the visiting head of the occupying state is an “honored guest.”

    Liberty has a price paid in blood, sweat, and sacrifice. Sometimes endless amounts of each is not enough. Nevertheless, liberty is a cause worth fighting for regardless of the price.

    It’s one thing to say something like that about your own sacrifices — individually or as a country. It’s quite another to say it about the sacrifices made by another country’s people — not because they CHOSE to make those sacrifices, but because those sacrifices were IMPOSED on them by another country — ours.

    Iraqis did not ask to be invaded or occupied. They did not ask the United States to come and “liberate” them. And of course the Bush administration did not, in fact, invade and occupy Iraq in order to “liberate” it. They did not ask to be shot and killed in their cars at military checkpoints. They did not ask to have the doors of their homes kicked in by U.S. soldiers or to have those soldiers act like stormtroopers, screaming and waving guns at the people living in those homes, and trashing everything in sight. Iraqi women did not ask to have their husbands, sons, and brothers rounded up in the middle of the night and taken away, often never to be seen again. Iraqi women and children did not ask to be brutally raped and murdered, or mowed down by war-traumatized American soldiers shooting up an entire village of old men, women, and children.

    These terrible things did not happen to you or your friends or your family, AJ. They happened to Iraqis. Despite all this, some Iraqis do still think that the war was worth it to get rid of Saddam. But many more Iraqis hate us with a hatred that is difficult to understand if it’s not your child, or your fiancee, or your little brother or sister blown apart by cluster bombs during Shock and Awe or murdered by the suicide bombers who launched their reign of terror in direct response to the screwed-up U.S. occupation. There are at least four million refugees, half of them outside Iraq living in desperate conditions in neighboring countries that took them in, while the United States refused to take in any more than a microscopic pittance. Most of those refugees will never see their homes again, either because they were destroyed, or confiscated by Shiites for themselves or vice versa, or because they simply do not have the economic resources to go back to Iraq and make a living there.

    How do you EXPECT those people to feel, AJ? Do you really and truly expect them to feel GRATEFUL to Americans and to Pres. Bush? If you do, you are a fool.

  7. Mandy says:

    Hard to decide which is more childish, Kathy’s original post or the respo0nses it elicited.

  8. Sara says:

    All those saying that US has helped iraq by saving it from the dictator then please thank you for your cooperation but every country knows how to run the system. US president is not the world’s Godfather that he gets to decide what needs to be done for any nation. We all know very well how to live our life, good or bad, let it be our choice. so THANK YOU and leave everyone’s country!

  9. cap says:

    The idea that the President of the United States “deserved” to have two shoes thrown at him by a deranged goofball is about as ridiculous as the idea that Obama “deserves” to have silly putty thrown at him because his ideas and policies are so silly. When any US President is put to public ridicule by a foreigner, we should all be outraged. Let’s wait and see how soon the Left changes its tune after the inauguration.

  10. todd says:

    You are a very confused and angry person Kathy and you probably need mental help. Saddam had to be removed, it is as simple as that as he had violated UN resolution after resolution. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were correct to vote in support for his removal and who cares that Obama was against it because he was a State Senator in Illinois at the time and had no say in the matter. The disdain you show to our military forces is despicable, these brave men and woman have volunteered to go on the front lines to fight the forces of tyranny and evil but you see it completely the wrong way in your confused angry mind. We won the war against the terrorist scumbags and Saddam’s former cohorts due to the surge and now Iraqis have an opportunity for a better life with basic freedoms they lacked so long under the evil regime of Saddam. In a few years, we will be able to pull a large majority of our forces out as Iraq becomes more able to self-govern and protect themselves against the Islamofascists who seek to destroy democracy and free thought.

    War is never pretty but we had to defeat Japan and Germany and occupy them after WWII and turn them into democracies and those countries were much the better for it. No one could have imagined Japan becoming a peaceful democracy during the War but given the opportunity, they did become one and have accomplished great things by doing so. You think the World sees the US military as a force of oppression but maybe you might want to ask people who live in the Philippines, Japan, South Korea along with Eastern Europe after we defeated the former Soviet Union. The great US General MacArthur is still a great hero to many people in Asia who value freedom and democracy but you don’t know anything about that I am sure. You like so many other people do not understand history and the greatness of this country for defeating forces of evil and oppression to allow democracy and freedom of thought and expression.

  11. Craig says:

    LIberty or death? Are you one of the guys who will happily allow Bush to lock up an American citizen merely on the President’s order (viz, Jose Padilla)? Where’s the liberty in that? No court oversight of wiretapping done on presidential orders, wiretaps that are clearly illegal? Where’s the liberty in that? Oh, I forgot. It’s in the name of safety. Well screw that. Remember the saying ‘better dead than Red?’ from the 1950s? If you don’t, google it. I’ll happily live with some risk before I’ll trust the government with my liberties. Bush lied, people died. Deal with that reality.

  12. emiline says:

    Dear Kathy,

    I agree with your post. I don’t know how you have so many rightwing nutjobs reading your blog, but I guess that means you are doing something right to get these guys so riled up. Just remember, while they cling bitterly to their guns, religion, and pure irrationality; please remember to only cling to your intellect, and don’t let them drag you down.

  13. Kathy says:

    When any US President is put to public ridicule by a foreigner, we should all be outraged.

    Why is that? Is the US president a Superior Being whose ceremonial dignity is worth more than, for instance, the wails of a little girl whose parents were killed in front of her very eyes (and the eyes of her five siblings) when U.S. troops shot up the family car at a checkpoint? Does her trauma and anguish, which will last for the rest of her life, outrage you or pain you at all? Are two shoes thrown at a US president more outrageous than what was done to this little girl, and her brothers and sisters, and her parents?

    Would you like to tell this child that “war is never pretty” but she and her country “will be much the better for it”? Or better yet, would you like your daughter to be sitting covered in her parents’ blood screaming her head off with a foreigner telling her that she should be grateful to the foreigners who killed her parents because now she lives in a democracy?

  14. Kathy says:

    Emiline, and all the others who posted supportive comments here:

    THANK YOU.

  15. todd says:

    Just so you know, the only reason I came across this loser blog was because they posted it on RealClearPolitics for some reason. Left field is an appropriate name for this rubbish because that is where Kathy’s brain is at. By the way Craig, I like the saying better dead than Red but maybe you would have liked to live under the Soviet Union and were disappointed that they collapsed because communism was one big lie. Also, Jose Padilla was convicted by a federal jury so don’t peddle his sob story. Also to remind you, Obama now supports wiretapping terrorists because now that he will actually have some real responsibility for a change, he would probably like to avoid a repeat of 9/11 by using the intelligence resources we have to discover what these terrorists might be up to. Screw that though right? We should have the liberty to be killed by terrorist scumbags so your delicate sensibilities of liberty are protected.

    Sara, if you actually lived in a country with an oppressive murdering dictator, you might have a different opinion. I guess we shouldn’t bother doing anything about Darfur because as you stated, everyone knows how to live their live whether good or bad. Many people don’t have a choice how to live their lives because they have no freedom too so you might want to give that some thought to that before giving such a thoughtless ignorant opinion. Doesn’t mean we have to invade every country where that is the case but you seem to think we should just ignore it all because “its not our business.” So what if millions of people are being slaughtered, doesn’t affect you right?

    As for you Emiline, you are probably one of those clueless idiots I saw at college wearing Che shirts because you thought he was a “freedom fighter” for the oppressed instead of the murderer he was that sought to oppress people by the barrel of the gun or maybe just a fan of stupid bands like Rage Against The Machine and thought it looked cool. Anyways, that is all I have to say to you pathetic America hating losers.

  16. Richard Tibbitts says:

    Saddam needed to go. Maliki is a puppet. Bush is a spoiled little brat who never got punished for anything, and whose only talent has been screwing up everything he touched.

    In my opinion, he deserves a beating of the highest order for the suffering he has inflicted on people both domestically and abroad.

    I believe in the ideals upon which this country was founded, and consider myself to be genuinely though quietly patriotic. And since free speech is supposedly guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, I would like to say that I believe Muntadar al-Zaidi is a goddamn hero!

  17. USAmerican Shithead says:

    “Liberty or death!”

    This allusion to Patrick Henry is, of course, entirely appropriate when applied to Iraq, since Patrick Henry was asking the French government to invade and occupy the Colonies in order to expel the vicious George III.

    Frankly I wish all you jingoistic “liberty or death” knuckledraggers would choose death and get it over with so the rest of us can get on with our lives.

  18. madcapfeline says:

    What?

    K, let’s review. Guy throws shoes at foreign national during press conference. Guy is dragged off and held in police custody. Family unable to reach him. Guy was not shot on site. Guy’s family was not murdered, beheaded and then paraded around the streets as examples.

    A man was able to express his political opinion freely, and had he not resorted to assault and battery with footwear, he might have been able to go home. But because he opted to resort to violence, he’s being held by the police. Typically when one is arrested, one’s possessions are taken away from you, and held until one is released from custody, which is why I don’t give the cell phone statement an iota of credit.

    If this had been an American journalist on the White House lawn , it would not have been handled any differently, nor should it have been.

  19. Alisha says:

    Oh, Kathy, I think your viwpoint is slightly skewed. You can make all the points you want about unjust wars and the like, but the very bottom line is, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    This journalist put aside his objectivity and assaulted a foreign dignitary. He deserves to be punished for that.

  20. SOKAINA says:

    release montuder you fools pig eating americians he had the right to throw that shoe
    bush is killing all of the iraqis

  21. Charles says:

    I find it odd that so many U.S. citizens STILL believe this war was/is about Saddam Hussein, Iraqi liberation, democracy, freedom, enduring freedom, WMDs or any of the other Orwellian mantras foisted upon the citizens of the U.S. by their own elected officials (that’s right, you elected them, and you are responsible for the havoc they wreak on the rest of our world – ain’t democracy grand?).

    You mean to tell me you all missed the Bush admission, the McCain admission, all the obvious signs, the production sharing agreements signed by the current Iraqi puppet government for British and American oil companies, etc., etc.? Allow me to enlighten you all. This war was, is and always will be about one thing – natural resources. More specifically, you guessed it, OIL!

    Those who deny this are ignorant of world history. British and U.S. governments, along with a sizable number of charters and corporations, have been architecting the control of middle eastern oil resources for nearly 100 years. And to think, so many people still don’t get it. So many victims of the U.S. public school systems, I guess. It’s a shame.

  22. mija says:

    http://www.islamicdawaparty.com/index.php

    Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Baghdad
    Iraq

    Dear Prime Minister:

    I am hereby expressing my deep concerns about the confinement of Journalist Mr. Muntadar al-Zaidi.

    I neither support violence nor disruptive behavior but Mr. al-Zaidi’s action was merely an expression of discontent about the ongoing slaughter of humans by U.S. military in Iraq. Mr. Bush was not harmed in any way. On the other hand Mr. Bush is responsible for unimaginable pain and misery among the people of Iraq!

    Mr. Bush tried to make the world believe, that the invasion in 2003 was to eliminate the threat of
    “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. As we now know, all of it was just a big scheme and clearly just lies!

    If his administration would have had the sincere goal to free Iraq’s people from the despot Saddam Hussein, much more effective and less harmful actions could have taken place (e.g. CIA, Secret Service).

    His sole purpose was to take control of oil fields and to aim at other commercial propositions such as supporting the arms- and defense industry of the U.S., geostrategic purposes and the expansion of military installations in the Middle East. Not to underestimate the personal financial benefit he has achieved. The actual profiteers of this war are various lobbies respectively the Bush Dynasty and NOT the people of Iraq.

    I ask you to please release Mr. M. al-Zaidi immediately.

    Thank you!

    Kind regards,

  23. federer says:

    Its bush’s mistake….they should surely release muntadar al zaidi…

  24. dan says:

    United States and Iraq worked together in war against Iran, winked at Sadaam when he invaded Kuwait. (Kuwait accused of slant-drilling oil out of Iraq) Helped Sadaam point his chemical weapons with US satelites. US encouraged Kurds to uprise against Sadaam, then stood by as he retaliated and gassed their villages. US has dirty history in Iraq and Iran.

    Iraq was premeditated. (Bush)“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

    It was conspired by Project New American Century by demons such as Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, others. Cheney’s oil meeting in Jan 2001 laid out Iraq oil map. Even Greenspan admitted Iraq war was for oil. They knew there were no WMD, no connections to 9/11, no danger to U.S. and recall Downing Street Memo Bush was brainstorming how to get Sadaam to make the first move so the US could strike him. (Paint plane in UN colors)

    We didn’t go in to liberate Iraq people from dictator, as US generally likes to work with dictators, and installs them given the opportunity, because dictators can be bribed by US corporate interests. (chile, Greece, Iran history as example) If we are all about liberating people, what are we doing in Durfur, Tibet, Sudan, China?

    Lancet and John Hopkins reported 2 years ago 1 million dead Iraqi civilians, 5 million refugees. Ask them how the US imposed “democracy” is working out for them. Their land polluted with depleated uranium, birthdefects and cancers huge increases as result of our hardened weapons. Their economy, culture, infrastructure trashed, their middle class and educated gone.

    Who ever thinks anything we have done in the Middle East is for the good of that population is criminally ignorant. Bush responsible for mass destruction and seems like he will not be locked up, but a respected journalist who witnessed bloody deaths of his people and couldn’t stand looking at Bush’s smug sour face thinking of his country throws a shoe and gets locked up. Talk about animal farm. war is peace. (another bush quote….”heh heh sometimes…sometimes…money trumps peace.)

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