Shoe Flies, Don’t Bother He

Jan 01 2009 Published by under Featured News

I’ll give Dubya this much, he’s pretty nimble for a man in his sixties.

Perhaps if only Ed O’Neill ran for office would a political story dealing with shoes make so many headlines across the globe.

President George W. Bush landed in Iraq in an unannounced farewell tour of the nation on Sunday, December 14, just a little over a month before his final day in office. Bush wanted to bid adieu to the troops who have served and sacrificed so much for his botched war.

The trip was going off without a hitch until a single, unbeknownst man to the West ensured it would be a visit that will be feted across much of the world forever.

Muntadar al-Zaidi, a journalist working with Iraqi owned-Egyptian based Al-Baghdadia TV, is now a household name.

Hurling insults at Bush, (e.g. “dog”), the Iraqi tossed his shoes at the President with remarkable precision (perhaps he had practiced prior?). The journalist was immediately tackled and some reports say, beaten and tortured during his subsequent detention.

Al-Zaidi and his infamy will now live on forever on YouTube and countless blogs, parodies, and of course, the web games whereby users score points for chucking foot wear at the hapless American president.

In the immediate uproar and media sensationalism which followed, many were running to the defense of the journalist, with many declaring that al-Zaidi’s actions were justified via the argument of “freedom of expression.”

Given that the Americans had freed Iraq from the tyranny and restrictions of the late Saddam Hussein, his defenders claim that al-Zaidi was merely using that new found freedom to show his loathing for what the war and occupation had done to his country (he did after all toss one of those size ten loafers in the name of “widows and orphans”).

It would seem that many – to put it mildly – agree with the actions in question. Rallies have been held across the Middle East, hailing him as a hero, and copy-cat “shoe” protests have occurred globally, including right in front of the White House. Mr. al-Zaidi was even offered an opportunity to relocate with his family to Venezuela courtesy Venezuela’s President Hugo “Eff you America” Chavez.

A friend of mine also put it as eloquently as he does as always, in Latin: “sic semper tyrannus,” or translated roughly, “this is what happens to tyrants.”

My response?

Bullshit.

Al-Zaidi is a criminal and ought to be treated as such, however, and I must stress, in a humane manner, which unfortunately does not seem to have been the case. Assault to a defenseless person (Secret Service were not a factor at that moment), no less to a head of state, and no matter to whom, is NOT justified. What happened to Bush was wrong, and if reports of mistreatment are true, what has happened to Mr. al-Zaidi is equally wrong.

Attempted assault is not covered by the immunity blanket of “freedom of expression,” otherwise all of society would be rampant with physical and verbal attacks, doubtlessly escalating to murder. “Well your honour, I was merely exercising my freedom of expression when I used that blunt instrument against my boss at work because they’re such a prick.” That would not fly, no matter how many of us fantasize about such a scenario.

Those who argue that Bush got what he deserved because he is so disliked for the war he imposed on Iraq, I say to you: where does one draw the line?

Would a Chinese communist be justified if he assaulted the Dalai Lama because of the latter’s political views?

Would a Protestant be excused if he attacked Pope Benedict XVI for the massacre of the Huguenots by Catholics in the 16th century?

I know my examples are not quite as on par as Bush’s actions that would lead to said attacks, but nevertheless, the point stands: one’s opinion does not justify such actions.

I have been personally surprised by the number of Americans who applauded the shoe lobbing, given that he is their head of state, their Commander in Chief, and their representative of America abroad; the office of the President deserves more dignity than to see the one who occupies that prestigious chair attacked.

Should al-Zaidi be shown any leniency? If he has been subjected to beatings, then he deserves medical attention. He deserves equitable, fair treatment in court as well. And, given that President Bush has treated the incident with a fairly light air, perhaps the book should not be thrown at him.

After all, when one starts throwing books, one enters the realm of the absurd.

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