Last night in an interview, my buddy Crane Durham at 97.1 FM TALK – St. Louis asked me on his Nothing But Truth program about the Iraqi shoe throwing incident with President Bush earlier that day. He was a bit frustrated that Iraqis do not show more gratitude for their liberty. My observation was essentially ‘fair enough’ so long as we are not ascribing the actions of one Iraqi journalist to any overarching representation of Iraqi or Iraqi government sentiments.
Here’s the deal, as I put it to Crane last night: It is actually a pretty awesome display of political protest that Iraqis feel comfortable doing without fear of torture or death to themselves or their family.
Sure, the guy’s going to end up with some jail sentence under Iraqi law for disrespecting a foreign head of state. But he won’t be “disappeared” and his family members will not wake up one morning with missing limbs or digits.
Duane of the Hugh Hewitt radio show asked via Twitter if anyone could imagine if this had happened to or under Saddam Hussein. I replied back, with some measure of amusement, that we’d never know about it because the CNN Baghdad Bureau would never have reported such unflattering news.
All in all, it’s a pretty remarkable incident if only for the relatively unremarkable consequences such political expression garners in the new Iraq.
One can even garner more quiet amusement (yes, amusement) from reading the headline in the International Herald Tribune: Across Mideast, Arabs hail shoe-hurling journalist.
Iraqis and other Arabs erupted in glee Monday at the shoe attack on George W. Bush. Far from a joke, many in the Mideast saw the act by an Iraqi journalist as heroic, expressing the deep, personal contempt many feel for the American leader they blame for years of bloodshed, chaos and the suffering of civilians.
Images of Bush ducking the fast-flying shoes at a Baghdad press conference, aired repeatedly on Arab satellite TV networks, were cathartic for many in the Middle East, who have for years felt their own leaders kowtow to the American president.
So the sight of an average Arab standing up and making a public show of resentment was stunning.
That may tick you off a bit. And perhaps understandably so. But you and I each know that those championing this Iraqi journalist would dare not themselves do anything even close to what he did toward their own leaders (or any other) within their own locales without fear of heavy-handed physical retribution. Imagine a Palestinian throwing a shoe at a Hamas or Fatah leader, or a Syrian throwing a shoe at Bashar al-Assad or their guest sharing the podium.
Imagine. Amusing that they champion someone who expresses what they dare not in their own locales.