Monday, December 15, 2008

Bush Reaction to Shoe-Throwing Assault Betrays Democracy

Australia's The Age carried this headline:
"Bush hails shoe attack as win for democracy"
Bush's first reaction to the Iraqi journalist's assault upon him--and the USA he represents--reminds one of Donald Rumsfeld's response to the looting of Baghdad in 2003:
"...recognize that you pass through a transition period like this and accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom."
Rumsfeld's statement was symptomatic of a misunderstanding of the nature of freedom and transition--since neither the US nor any civilized country permits rioting as a price of freedom.

Likewise, President Bush obviously does not understand the significance of the shoe assault upon him in Baghdad. The Age reported that he treated it as a joke:
The US President laughed off an incident in Baghdad on Sunday when he was nearly hit by an angry Iraqi reporter's shoes.

The journalist, Muntather al-Zaidi, 28, a correspondent for the Iraqi station al-Baghdadia, shouted in Arabic: "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!" He then threw a shoe at Mr Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it.

Zaidi then threw his other shoe, shouting in Arabic: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!" Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's security agents jumped on Zaidi and hustled him out of the room. He was detained on unspecified charges.

Mr Bush tried to brush off the incident. "All I can report is it is a size 10," he said. He also called the incident a sign of democracy in the country, saying, "that's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves", as Zaidi's screaming was heard outside.
Bush is wrong about both the principle and the facts at issue. People in a free society--such as the USA--are not permitted to throw shoes at the President. In the USA, assaults on the President are a federal crime under US Code, Title 18, Ch. 84, Sec. 1751:
(e) Whoever assaults any person designated in subsection (a)(1) [the President or Vice-President] shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than ten years,
or both.
Bush's feckless and thoughtless response to the Iraq attack reveals, as did Rumsfeld's 2003 remarks, the underlying conceptual failures that have doomed his "democracy promotion" efforts around the world. For, unfortunately, President Bush himself clearly does not understand that the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush had also attacked democracy.

Meanwhile, according to the BBC, Iraqi supporters of al-Zaidi are demonstrating in Baghdad in support of his shoe assault on the US Presdient, using Bush's own comments;
Officials at the Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, called for the release of their journalist, saying he was exercising freedom of expression.