Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BUSH - A Cartoon Can Speak Thousand Words

Arabs hail shoe attack as Bush’s farewell gift
Robert H. Reid I AP
BAGHDAD: Iraqis and other Arabs erupted in glee yesterday at the shoe attack on US President George W. Bush. Far from a joke, many in the Middle East 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. The pride, joy and bitterness it uncorked showed how many Arabs place their anger on Bush personally for what they see as a litany of crimes — chief among them the turmoil in Iraq and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 US invasion.

The reaction explains in part the relief among Arabs over the election victory of US President-elect Barack Obama, seen as a repudiation of the Bush era. But it also highlights the task Obama will face in repairing America’s image in the Middle East, where distrust of the US has hampered a range of American policies, from containing Iran to pushing the peace process and democratic reform.

Bush “got what he deserves,” said a Jordanian businessman, Raed Mansi, in Amman.

“I hope he got the message loud and clear: That he’s loathed for his wrongdoing, for killing Muslim women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine,” the 52-year-old contractor said
Some regional TV channels showed the footage from Sunday’s press conference more than a dozen times in the space of several hours. The scene bounced around Internet networking sites like YouTube and Facebook, showing Iraqi journalist Muntadar Al-Zeidi standing, hurling both his shoes at Bush and shouting in Arabic, “This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

Al-Zeidi was kidnapped once by militants and, separately, detained briefly once by the US military — a story of getting hit from all sides that is bitterly familiar to many Iraqis. Over time, the 28-year-old unmarried Shiite, who works for the private Iraqi TV station Al-Baghdadia, came to hate both the US military occupation and what he views as Iran’s “moral” occupation too, his family told The Associated Press yesterday.

A day after the attack, Al-Zeidi’s three brothers and one sister gathered in Al-Zeidi’s simple, one-bedroom west Baghdad apartment, decorated with a poster of revolutionary icon Che Guevara who is widely lionized in the Middle East.

Family members expressed bewilderment over Al-Zeidi’s action and concern about his treatment in custody. But they also expressed pride over his defiance of an American president who many Iraqis believe has destroyed their country.

“I swear to Allah, he is a hero,” said his sister, who goes by the nickname Umm Firas, as she watched a replay of her brother’s attack on an Arabic satellite station. “May Allah protect him.” The family insisted that Al-Zeidi’s action was spontaneous — perhaps motivated by the political turmoil that their brother had reported on, plus his personal brushes with violence and the threat of death that millions of Iraqis face daily.

Al-Zeidi attained instant hero status around the Arab world. In Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City, thousands of supporters of Moqtada Sadr burned American flags to protest against Bush and called for the release of Al-Zeidi.

What made Al-Zeidi’s defiance particularly resonant for many was their anger at autocratic Arab leaders who they have considered slavish followers of Bush’s policies in the Middle East.

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