“T his is a goodbye kiss, you dog!” shouted a man in Arabic just before he threw two shoes at President Bush today in Iraq. What? Iraq you say? Bush is in Iraq? Well, the President took a James Bond-esque ultra-secret trip to Iraq that was not reported until Sunday morning eastern time.
With little advance notice, White House officials told 13 members of the President’s press corps about the hush-hush trip to Baghdad, instructed them to pack their bags and swore them to secrecy.
To keep other reporters out of the loop, the White House put out false schedules detailing activities planned for Bush in Washington on Sunday. The White House stated that he would attend the taping of Turner Network Television’s annual “Christmas in Washington” benefit concert at the National Building Museum.
While the press corps embarked, Air Force One remained hidden inside it’s hanger. Bush arrived through an unmarked entrance at Andrews Air Force Base sporting his signature attempt at a disguise – a tan Windbreaker, casual black pants and a baseball cap marked with “43”. The number signifies that his the nation’s 43rd president.
Air Force One had left the Washington area on Saturday night. The window shades were drawn for the entire flight.
The trip to Iraq was to hail “progress in the unpopular war that defines his presidency” and to sign and celebrate the recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement calling for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011 and to meet with Iraqui Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The document, known in Iraq as the U.S. troops withdrawal agreement, was passed at the Iraqi parliament last month.
“There is still more work to be done,” Bush said after the meeting, adding that the agreement puts Iraq on solid footing. “The war is not over,” Bush said, adding that “It is decisively on it’s way to being won.”
At that point a man stood up and yelled “This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog,” and threw his shoe. Bush ducked, smiling the entire time. The man then yelled, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,” throwing a second shoe, which like the first, ended up hitting the wall behind Bush.
The man was grabbed first by an Iraqi reporter before Iraqi Security and Secret Service could drag the man to the floor. The infamous Secret Service that is suppose to guard the President, was a little slow today however, showing up around Bush after the man threw both shoes and was already dragged to the floor. While pinned on the floor, the man screamed: “You killed the Iraqis!” The man was then dragged away, and could be heard screaming in another room. Two other Iraqi journalists were briefly detained after one of them called the man’s actions “courageous.”
Among Muslims, shoe throwing at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult, according to CNN. “In traditional Middle Eastern societies, it’s very rude to show someone the bottom of your feet. So throwing a shoe at someone is very much a way of saying, ‘You’re beneath me. … I hold you in contempt,” says Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. “In Arab parlance, the height of insult is to call somebody a dog and throw a shoe at them. It sends a poserful cultural message,” says Fawas Gerges, chairman of Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence Colelge in Bronxville, NY.
An examples of said action include Iraquis slapping their shoes on a topped statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square shortly after the city fell to coalition troops in April 2003. One other example was in 2004, after four American contractors were ambushed and killed in Fallujah, insurgents hanged two corpses from a bridge as people flailed at them with shoes. And after the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein installed a tile mosaic floor depicting George H.W. Bush in the lobby of Baghdad’s Al-Rashid Hotel where everyone had no choice but to walk over the 41st president’s image.
Although President Bush was not injured during the shoe throwing, somehow White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was “slightly bruised” in the aftermath of the shoe-throwing incident. Journalists at the scene said she suffered a black eye, with NBC reporting she was hit in the face with a microphone as security wrestled with the man.
The man was later identified as Muthathar al Zaidi, a journalist/reporter for Al-Baghadadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. Prior he drew attention in November 2007 when he was kidnapped while on his way to work in central Baghdad. He was released three days later.
Al-Baghdadia issued a statement later demanding their reporter be released. “Any action taken against Muntathar will remind us of the actions and behavior taken by the reign of the dictator and the violence, the random arrests, the mass graves and confiscations of freedom from the people,” the board of Baghdadiyah TV said.
Bush’s comment on the matter? “And if you want some – if you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw.” He was also reported to have stated, “So what if a guy threw his shoe at me?” “Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It’s one way to gain attention. It’s like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It’s like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers….”
On a side note, it was unclear whether the journalist used “odor eaters” in his shoes or tried just a “smelly shoe attack” on the President….
Bush is now in Afghanistan after leaving Iraq, with his plane landing at Baghram Air Base outside Kabul. He is there to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and address U.S. troops during the visit.
- “Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush in Baghdad”, CNN, 14DEC08
- “Iraqi Throws Shoes At Bush During Press Conference”, Huffington Post, 14DEC08
- “Perino bruised in shoe-hurling melee”, Politico, 14DEC08
- “Bush arrives in Afghanistan on surprise visit”, IC Publications, 14(15)DEC08
- “Bush ducks flying shoes flung by reporter,” USA Today, 14DEC08
- “’Modesto Bee’ Reporter Eyewitness To Shoes Tossed at Bush, “ Editor & Publisher, 14DEC08
- “BUSH NOTEBOOK: Bush ducks shoes in Baghdad,” NEWS ONE, 14DEC08