The ultimate contempt - Iraqi throws his shoes at Bush
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-12-16

The Associated Press (AP) reported that outgoing US President George W. Bush was the target of an Iraqi man’s shoe last Sunday as he spoke in Baghdad during his last trip to Iraq. As a matter of fact, the irate Iraqi threw both of his shoes at Bush before the missile thrower was placed under control.

Bush was at the podium beside the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki when he declared: “The war is not over. It is decisively on its way to being won. There is still more work to be done.”

Suddenly, Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt, shouted in Arabic: “This is a farewell kiss, you dog.” And with those words came the first shoe that was thrown straight towards the face of the US president.

Narrowly missing him in the face, Bush had to duck in order to avoid the shoe. The shoe landed with a thud against the wall behind the US president. The other shoe was thrown seconds later, also missing Bush who ducked again.

In Iraqi culture, it is an act of contempt when a shoe is thrown at you. When the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled after the 2003 capture of Baghdad, the Iraqis threw their shoes at the toppled likeness of the detested former dictator.

The Bush trip to Iraq was shrouded in secrecy. It was not announced to US and international media. The media contingent who went along with the US president on his last visit to Iraq was sworn to maintain strict silence about the trip.

Per the AP report: “In many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a clear victory. Nearly 150,000 US troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely disliked across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the US military have died in the conflict, which has cost US taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.”

“Polls show most Americans believe the US 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 weapons were never found, the intelligence was discredited, Bush’s credibility with US voters plummeted and Saddam was captured and executed,” the AP report added.

Saddam Hussein is still largely hated in Iraq. He was brutal and ruthless. He even attempted genocide against Iraq’s Kurdish minority. But compared to the hell that the US-led invasion created — an undeclared civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions — Iraqis have reason to feel that they were better off during the reign of Saddam.

In a recent documentary aired over the Australia Network, they featured the plight of Iraq’s outbound migrants who now number over a million. Most if not all of these migrants fled Iraq because of the violence in their country. Now, they live in what you may call Purgatory — some of them leaving behind upper class and middle class lives in Iraq and are now living a hand to mouth existence.

The documentary rightly called them the unknown victims of the Iraq War. It was not until that documentary was shown that cognizance of the Iraq outbound migration tragedy was exposed. Engineers, doctors, business executives were forced to live like beggars because their host countries would not extend to them working permits. For them, a hand to mouth existence was acceptable for so long as they live without the daily threat of violence.

One wonders who will rebuild Iraq if their finest professionals are migrating in order to escape the hellish undeclared civil war in their country. In like manner, we Filipinos must wonder who will save our country when many of our best workers are overseas now in order to seek a living wage.

The Filipino situation, in a way, could be considered more desperate because Filipinos are even willing to work in Iraq! They know how dangerous it is in Iraq. They see the violence on television regularly. And yet, many of our countrymen are willing to brave the violence just to be able to feed their families here.

They risk it because Philippine streets and Philippine poverty are just as violent. Alfonso de Vera and his daughter, who were killed in the Parañaque shootout, will surely agree with that assertion about the safety of Philippine streets.

For George W. Bush, this incident may yet be the most vivid video that captures the condemnation his Iraq War misadventure has generated in the US, in Iraq and all over the world. Bush was reduced to level of absurdity trying to duck the two shoes. History tends to perpetuate these caricatures of failed leaders.

The Iraq War was what galvanized American rejection of the Republicans in the 2006 US midterm elections where the Democrats gained the upper hand in both house of the US Congress. After the economic downturn, the Iraq War caused the John McCain rout last month by Barack Obama.

For our Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, it may be just a matter of time when irate Filipinos will start throwing missiles at her. She must fervently pray that it will just be a shoe.

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