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IRAQ: The shoes that shook the Arab world


Throwing a shoe at someone is the ultimate insult in the Arab world. And journalist Muntader Zaidi’s decision to hurl a couple fastballs with his loafers at U.S. President George W. Bush during a Baghdad press conference on Sunday left no doubt about how he felt.

But his action also elicited a strong wave of mostly positive reaction throughout the Arab world, which gives you an idea how that part of the world feels about Bush and how happy that community is that Bush will be leaving office, having invaded Iraq and taken on policies perceived as pro-Israel and anti-Arab.

Across the Middle East, ordinary people wrote poems and sang praise for Muntader. Some even suggested erecting statues to the guy. (Maybe it could replace one of Saddam Hussein's statues, which Iraqis repeatedly beat with their shoes after the 2003 U.S. invasion.)

In a barbershop near downtown Beirut on Monday, customers buzzed about the reporter's political gesture.

“It was great,” one customer said, beaming with satisfaction.

Another responded by saying that Bush certainly deserved it for inflicting “disaster” on the Iraqi people.

The video of the journalist throwing his shoes at Bush was played over and over again on television stations including the pan-Arab Al Jazeera as well as Iranian state television and even radio.

“Please listen again,” said a radio announcer in Tehran. “This is the sound of the shoe hitting the wall and missing President Bush."

The left-leaning Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar featured the news in on its front page under the headline, “The farewell kiss for Bush,” calling the reporter a “hero” who stood up to the president.

"This was without a doubt the best farewell as seen by millions of Iraqis who were heartened" by the reporter's action, said the daily, adding that Iraqis were "probably sad when they saw their Prime Minister Nouri Maliki throwing himself in front of his guest to protect him."

Vangoghapairofshoes In an opinion piece posted on the website of the al-Arabiya news channel, commentator Khaled Walid Mahmoud wrote that the pair of shoes that were hurled at the U.S. president would "enter history " as the shoes of painter Vincent Van Gogh once did.

He described the action of the reporter as "bold and nationalistic” and said it reflected "the real face of every honest Iraqi."

The burgeoning Arab online scene was bursting with commentary, poems and even an online fan club for Zaidi on Facebook.

“He achieved what many Arabs couldn’t achieve over the years in the face of either the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the American invasion of Iraq,” a visitor named Zahraa said on the website of Arabian Business magazine.

“The famous shoes should be exhibited in a museum as it resembled a rocket that talks on behalf of all Iraqis," she wrote.

Asad from Dubai, on another Arab chat website, wrote: 

“It is without exaggeration that I can say that the flying shoe speaks more for Arab public opinion than all the despots/puppets that Bush meets with during his travels in the Middle East.”

-- Raed Rafei and Khaled Hijab in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photos: The front page of today's An-Nahar, a Lebanese daily; from Vincent Van Gogh's shoe series.

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

Comments () | Archives (70)

To me, this quantifies what will become "The Bush Legacy." The only impression that could possibly have been more apropos, would be the dark, smudged imprint of a heel on Bush's forhead.

I'm not sayin' the guy should have thrown them, but, if the shoe fits...

Well, I guess nobody can say George W. Bush doesn't have sole now, although he has been somewhat of a loafer in the last weeks of his presidency. As you can plainly see on the video of this incident, Bush really is a lame duck. It's not surprising that many Iraqis feel that he is a heel who lacks polish, but I don't think he's really their arch enemy. Dick Cheney is a shoe-in for that role.

i thought the secret service was supposed to take a shoe for the president? no one jumped in front of the president. what happened?

Most of the deaths in Iraq are a result of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. There is a sense of frustration because the Iraqis can''t resolve their own internal problems. It is easier for them to blame a scapegoat. The reporter should be glad he did his shoe throwing during the post-Saddam era. If he did anything similar during Saddam's rule, not only would he have been executed but most likely his family and friends as well.

Are middle easteners really this stupid?

Just a few days ago some suicide bomber blew himself up and killed 55 people and these idiots are content because shoes were thrown at pres Bush?

I say we leave Iraq asap and let the animals kill each other.

This guy threw a shoe. Bush bombed an entire country and killed hundreds of thousands. Who's the savage here?

Not getting weapons past security, probably would of led to having a shoe used as a weapon. If most Iraqy's could, I'm sure they'd lob more than shoes. But, if you want to see a fitting end to five years of anguish, fustration, complete misery and fear for Iraq people, this could not have been rehearsed any better.

Even at home, Bush has his share of problems starting with the economic crises. His poll numbers were 29% at the time of Obama's election, and now they are 20% when americans are asked how they feel Bush is dealing with this economy. That shoe throwing incident could paint his legacy and incompetance he himself is leaving his own country in. Polls do speak VOLUMES when they are such one sided.

In case you missed it, here is the translation of the words the Iraqi journalist used while throwing the shoes:

"This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog (first shoe)...This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq (second shoe)"

I agree with Lou, below. Bush should be tried for war crimes and genocide.

Looks like Mr. Bush ducked the shoes just like he ducks honest ouestions.

I wonder what would Sadam do to the guy who throw two shoes at him in public? Would it be so funny. Is this "journalist" for Sadam return ?

If only our own journalists had that kind of courage. Bush deserves no respect, he's fckked this country these last eight years. Should be put on trial as a traitor really.

I guess Bush finally found the Weapons of Mass Destruction in the form of Iraqi Prada shoe knockoffs.

Goerge Bush should be tried for genocide.

They must really want their Saddamn back. Our boys died for these pathetic people in vain. They might have died so scums like Muntader can throw their shoes. They don't deserve freedom.

Where's Bush's security team. The CIA/FBI/SAS, etc... After the first shoe, shouldn't his security have shot the assailant. I'd fire the security. They such. At least they should have jumped in front of Bush and taken one for the team.

My friend and I watched them replay the shoe throwing incident over and over and we laughed about it. Then my friend made a good point. Normally we would outraged that anyone would dare throw anything at our president. Seems though, that with Bush, it just doesn't carry the same weight. Insulting, yes. Funny, yes, but you gotta' give the President props for his cat-like reflexes in avoiding the hurlting footwear. It's been a slice, George. Oh, and by the way, I hate to say it, but there's your legacy, right there.

I can't help it, but giggle and smile seeing a guy that's had enough stand up and express his frustrations by throwing his best weapon, a shoe, and seeing the president of these United States ducking and looking soooooo surprised. This brave guy will live in renown distinction forever.

Even now, Bush still doesn't get it. Texas, he's your baby now. You can get a wheel barrow of old shoes from Dart and pass them out for the coming parade.

We can add this to the history of "Little Goody Two-Shoes"

If more people hurled shoes instead of bullets, rockets and IEDs, there would be a lot less misery in this world and far more American troops would be spending the holidays with their families. If Mr. Zaidi's gesture is embraced as an endorsement of nonviolent protest, I can live with it.

I kind of feel bad for Mr. Bush. To have to suffer this final indignity; having to duck a shoe seems almost fitting. Think of how he must feel, having to go home to Laura and say, "honey I ducked just in time." Her frightened reply, "you ducked, did somebody shoot at you?" Mr. Bush, "yes, but only with a shoe (with obvious disappointment in his voice)." I can't think of any more fitting way for his presidency to end than with a shoe attack. Who knows, he may have finally found his WMD-a stinky shoe. Well, at least the "shooter" missed. Think of the imprint on history, let alone the president, the incident would have made had he had better aim.

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