Saturday, September 19, 2009

al-Zaidi: Why I Threw the Shoe

As readers will remember, Muntadhar al-Zaidi is the journalist who threw two shoes at our ex-POTUS in Iraq last year, as Bush was holding a press conference as part of his legacy tour. 

Before throwing the first shoe, al-Zaidi yelled
This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog.
The second shoe was preceded by
This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.
Tortured after his arrest, al-Zaidi was originally sentenced to 3 years in prison. This past week, Al-Zaidi was released after serving nine months His edited statement, Why I Threw the Shoe, was translated by McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Sahar Issa.

I am no hero. I just acted as an Iraqi who witnessed the pain and bloodshed of too many innocents.

I am free. But my country is still a prisoner of war. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: what compelled me to act is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

Over recent years, more than a million martyrs have fallen by the bullets of the occupation and Iraq is now filled with more than five million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. Many millions are homeless inside and outside the country.

We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shia would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ. This despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions for more than a decade.

Our patience and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. But the invasion divided brother from brother, neighbour from neighbour. It turned our homes into funeral tents.

I am not a hero. But I have a point of view. I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I travelled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.

As soon as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies, while I washed away the remains of the debris of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the blood that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.

The opportunity came, and I took it.

I took it out of loyalty to every drop of innocent blood that has been shed through the occupation or because of it, every scream of a bereaved mother, every moan of an orphan, the sorrow of a rape victim, the teardrop of an orphan.

I say to those who reproach me: do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated.

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.

If I have wronged journalism without intention, because of the professional embarrassment I caused the establishment, I apologise. All that I meant to do was express with a living conscience the feelings of a citizen who sees his homeland desecrated every day. The professionalism mourned by some under the auspices of the occupation should not have a voice louder than the voice of patriotism. And if patriotism needs to speak out, then professionalism should be allied with it.

I didn't do this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I wanted was to defend my country.
I respect patriotic and honest journalism whenever and wherever I can find it. And, in Muntadhar al-Zaidi's case, I also approve his message.


  1. I have always been against the Iraq War, Vig. I think that it was extremely short-sighted and ill-conceived. But, still, I can't help but wonder here. What if this fellow had thrown his shoe at Saddam?

  2. Maybe if - in the last eight years, Saddam's government had slaughtered 1.4 million of his countrymen, and destroyed his country's political and physical infrastucture such that there have been 1.5 million external refugees and 2.7 million internally refugees - maybe al Zaidi would have thrown two hand grenades.

  3. I can't blame him. If he was attending the event as a professional journalist, his behavior was unprofessional, but not unjustified. I consider his explanation honest and his facts accurate.

  4. Whatever.

    I think the better question to ask is
    what is the difference between:

    (1) Zaidi giving President Bush the shoe
    (2) Joe Wilson (R-SC) giving President Obama the lie????

  5. Here's one difference, P: The illegal (violation of UN charter, among other things) invasion and occupation of a country on one hand, and the attempt to ensure health care for all Americans on the other.

    Not that I imagine that matters to you at all.

  6. "Slaughtered 1.4 million". That sounds a little hyperbolic. A lot of the killing has been ethnically based, not American troops going around "slaughtering" people. I'll answer my own question. If he had in fact thrown a shoe at Saddam, he would have been shot immediately.

  7. Hart, I do not think Food-Blogger's statement to be that hyperbolic. Busheney's invasion destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure such that more than 1 million Iraqis were "slaughtered". In 1991, Dick Cheney warned that something like this would happen if we invaded and occupied after Gulf War I. But that is exactly what we did in 2003. What about Iraq changed in a dozen years? Bush was clueless as to the difference between Shiia and Sunni at the time of his invasion. Maybe "slaughter" is too extreme. How about "mass manslaughter"? Does that fill your pipe better?

  8. I don't care whether 1.4 million is an exaggeration. It doesn't matter. What matters to me right now is how so many people seem to think the invasion and occupation of other countries is a right of the United States. There's no respect for other nations and no respect for international law and decency in that.

  9. Vigil, "manslaughter" implies that the damage was inadvertent and collateral. You should do a little more research into Neocon members of Bush and Cheney's posse. For some of them, the more blood and fire, the better. For example, look up Michael Ledeen. He was - and is - a real piece of . . . . . . work.

  10. Yeah there is no doubt that Saddam would have had al-Zaidi shot had he thrown his shoe at him. But for me the question always boils down to the idea we had no real reason to remove Saddam, he was the Iraqi's problem and it was up to them to remove him.

    Since we did remove him not only did we destroy much of that country's infrastructure we opened old ethnic hates resulting in a near civil war.

  11. We Americans should have shoed Bush AND Cheney (or at least his effigy) for lying to us as they did, for committing war crimes in this country's name, and for shredding our Constitution as they did. What a disgrace they were, and how glad I am we've had a change in regime here!

  12. Let me just reiterate something here. I was against this war. And I was against it well before Biden, Kerry, and Clinton were (I'm still pretty sure that they voted for it for political cover; not having voted for the 1st Gulf War, not to look weak on national defense, et.). I've even had a long standing belief that Saddam, on balance, was a net-plus (he kept the "country" together and he was a buffer against Iran). My only point is that we should in no way delude ourselves into thinking that there wouldn't have been a shitload of "slaughter" under his rule (the past 6 years), too.

  13. As for Cheney, Vig, I'll just reiterate what Brent Scowcroft said, "that's not the same Dick Cheney that I knew."

  14. I'm with Will on this one! Word for word....

  15. Will, might I suggest that there might have been less slaughter had the Republican Reagan not provided weapons and financing for his war with Iran, including his first access to chemical weapons.

  16. As Ross Perot said many times, "George Bush(1) created Saddam Hussein." P.S. To be fair, though, not all of Saddam's victims were via the chemical route. Some were just plain old-fashioned killed.

  17. Yeah, as a dictator Saddam was more than a Cosa Nostro thug. He was a mass-murderer. But I ask for a caveat here.

    He "gassed his own people" is one of the charges made by anti-Saddam Neo-Con thugs to justify their "regime change". Let's put Saddam's mass-murdering in a little historical perspective, here. Look at the dates:

    1. Reprisal Against Dujail July 8, 1982,

    2. Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988.

    3. Chemical Weapons Against Kurds April 1987

    4. Anfal Campaign February 23 to September 6, 1988

    5. Invasion of Kuwait August 2, 1990,

    6. Shiite Uprising & the Marsh Arabs 1991

    The lesson to be derived from this dateline is that the Neo-Con pretense that one purpose for 'regime change' in 2003 was to prevent further holocausts is specious. At the time of the Busheney invasion and occupation, Saddam had been contained for a dozen years.

  18. I agree 100%, Vig. We had the son-of-a-bitch boxed up nicely. And if we were certain that he had WMD, we could have gone in, smacked 'em around a little bit, AND LEFT. There was no need for us to stay and micromanage the country. Somehow we've gotten this weird notion that we always have to fix these countries, that it's our moral imperative to do so, etc.. I may be wrong, but I just don't see Reagan or Bush 1 putting 130,000 troops into Arabia. Even they had too much sense to do that.