Monday, December 15, 2008

'You Dog!' -- Bush Learns First Hand Just How Fed Up the World Is With Him

On Farewell Visit to Iraq, Bush Is Paid the Supreme Insult When An Angry Iraqi Journalist Tosses His Shoes At Him During Press Conference With PM Al-Maliki -- A Dramatic Show That the Most Unpopular President in Modern U.S. History Is Even More Bitterly Disliked Abroad

Video frame grab of U.S. President George W. Bush (L) ducking ...

In this dramatic image captured on video, President Bush ducks to avoid getting hit in the head by a shoe that was tossed at him by an angry Iraqi journalist during a news conference in Baghdad Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (right) in Baghdad. The journalist, in a bitter protest against the continued presence of U.S. troops in his homeland, shouted at Bush in Arabic, "This is a farewell kiss from the people of Iraq, you dog!" and tossed his shoes at him -- considered in Arab culture to be the ultimate show of contempt -- before being wrestled to the floor by Iraqi security officers and U.S. Secret Service agents and dragged out of the room. (Image courtesy Reuters TV)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, December 15, 2008)
(Updated 11:00 a.m. EST Tuesday, December 16, 2008)


When George W. Bush moves out of the White House next month, ending eight years of the most controversial presidency in modern American history, millions of Americans will breathe a collective sigh of relief. So deeply unpopular is Bush that even Richard Nixon had greater public support when he resigned the presidency in disgrace in 1974 as a result of the Watergate scandal.

Bush's unpopularity among Americans is well-documented. Yet he's even more deeply disliked abroad -- and nowhere was that made more evident than in Iraq on Sunday, when the outgoing president was given what in Arab culture is considered the ultimate show of contempt.

While on an unannounced visit to Iraq -- the last of his presidency -- Bush experienced in real life what the late actor and stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield only joked about: He got no respect, no respect at all.

In many ways, the president's trip -- kept under wraps until his arrival in Baghdad -- was a victory lap without a clear victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely disliked across the globe -- and at home. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died in the conflict, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.

Polls show most Americans believe the U.S. erred in invading Iraq in 2003. Bush ordered the nation into war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq while citing intelligence claiming the Mideast nation harbored weapons of mass destruction. The WMDs were never found, the intelligence was discredited, Bush's credibility with U.S. voters plummeted, despite Saddam's capture and subsequent execution.


During a joint news conference in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an Iraqi journalist -- in an apparent show of anger over the continued presence of U.S. troops in his homeland -- began shouting at Bush in Arabic, "This is a farewell kiss from the people of Iraq, you dog!"

The journalist, identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, had taken off his shoes and flung them at the president, forcing him to duck to avoid getting hit in the head by them. Al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, was immediately wrestled to the floor by Iraqi security agents and U.S. Secret Service agents and dragged out of the room, screaming and cursing.

Bush remained unruffled, telling reporters, "It doesn't bother me. If you want the facts, it was a size 10 shoe that he threw." He later played down the incident. "I don't know what the guy's cause is... I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."

Throwing shoes at someone is considered the ultimate insult in Arab culture. When a giant statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down from its pedestal in Baghdad's Firdos Square on April 9, 2003, many Iraqis, jubilant at the fall of the dictator, repeatedly beat the statue's face with their shoes.


On Tuesday, al-Zeidi was reported to have been beaten while in custody and taken to a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad, while supporters of the Iraqi journalist staged protest rallies across Iraq demanding his release, with many wearing shoes attached to their belts in a show of solidarity.

Al-Zeidi has become a folk hero throughout the Arab world, with many saying that his action against Bush symbolized their frustration with more than five years of U.S. "occupation" in Iraq.

Al-Zeidi's older brother Dargham told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the TV reporter suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury. H

Dargham al-Zeidi said that despite offers from many lawyers, his brother has not been given access to legal counsel since his arrest by Iraqi security forces under the command of Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser.


After eight years of an aggressive foreign policy -- dominated by the 2003 invasion of Iraq that most of the world opposed from the start and which eventually soured Americans as the war dragged on with no conclusive end in sight -- it is difficult to avoid viewing the shoe incident in Baghdad as symbolic of pent-up public anger over Bush's policies exploding literally in the president's face.

Indeed, since Barack Obama's election as Bush's successor in November, Bush's public standing has sunk to yet another new low, with America and the world anxious to be rid of the lame-duck president.

A recent global survey by the Pew Research Center of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries found that Bush is deeply unpopular, with overwhelming majorities of respondents in 21 countries saying they have little to no confidence in the outgoing president.

While Bush has a 60 percent unfavorable rating in the U.S., Australians dislike him even more, giving him a 76 percent negative rating. The country where Bush's negative ratings are the highest? Turkey, with a whopping 89 percent.

Significantly, majorities in 18 of the 24 countries surveyed have a higher confidence in Obama, with the notable exceptions of Russia, where Obama barely breaks even, 39-37 percent, and -- somewhat surprisingly -- China and Mexico, where the president-elect draws a higher unfavorability rating.


Bush should be grateful that it was only a pair of shoes that was hurled at him and not something worse. Fifty years ago, when Nixon was vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, he came under a much more violent attack -- a rain of rocks and bottles by anti-American protesters while on a goodwill visit to Caracas, Venezuela on May 13, 1958.

Nixon and his wife, Patricia, were spat upon by protesters at the Caracas airport. Later in the day, as his motorcade passed through downtown Caracas, it was ambushed by protesters, injuring Venezuela's foreign minister before the crowd was forced to retreat by Venezuelan security officers (The Secret Service did not take on its present role of protecting the president and vice president until after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963).

Unlike Nixon in Caracas 50 years earlier, there were no angry mobs attacking Bush's motorcade as it ventured through Baghdad's streets -- the first time he has gone somewhere in the Iraqi capital other than a military base or the heavily protected Green Zone.

In fact, like all his previous visits to Baghdad, most Iraqis were unaware the president was in town. Press reports said Bush's unmarked motorcade passed through darkened streets that appeared heavily guarded, before arriving at Prime Minister al-Maliki's residence.

There, the president and the prime minister signed a security pact setting out new guidelines for U.S. troops in Iraq when the United Nations resolution authorizing the troop presence there expires on New Year's Eve. "The war is not over, but with the conclusion of these agreements... it is decisively on its way to being won," Bush asserted.

But is the war really being won? the longer it drags on, the more Bush's promises of victory ring as hollow as those of Lyndon Johnson's assertions about the Vietnam war. And history showed what happened with Vietnam.

It was left to Nixon to clean up Johnson's mess. And now it will be up to Obama to clean up Bush's.

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Volume III, Number 82
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



Battling Bob said...

It's worth noting that while shoe-throwing may be the ultimate sign of contempt in the Middle East, the word "dog" also packs a lot more whallop there than it does here. We think of Rover or Fido stretched out next to the fireplace, a beloved family pet--and when we say "you dog, you" to someone, it has a roguish, opportunistic, almost admiring connotation. In large swaths of the Middle East, however, especially in poorer regions, dogs are the starving critters that scarf up carrion and human waste on the streets--not pets to anyone, but desperate, vicious, dangerous, disease-bearing vermin who wouldn't be tolerated at all except that they are the public sanitation system.

I just wanted everyone to fully appreciate what George was being called here, and how fitting it really is.