President Bush looked slightly bemused after he ducked to avoid a shoe hurled at him. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki looked mortified, and as the assailant's second shoe came flying Sunday, he did what any gracious host would do: reached out and tried to catch it before it hit his American guest.
Maliki missed, but so did the shoe, landing like the first one with a loud thud against the wall behind the two leaders, who held their ground as other journalists and security officials at a news conference wrestled the shoe-thrower to the ground. Later, Iraqi journalists identified him as Muntather Zaidi, a correspondent for Baghdadiya, a satellite TV channel that broadcasts from Cairo.
The above is from Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed's "Bush ducks shoes thrown at him in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times, link has text and AP video). What was Bully Boy doing in Baghdad? Returning to the scene of his international crime and signing off on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Bully Boy and al-Maliki pictured below in pre-shoeless times (immediately before).
Photographer is Eric Draper. As the White House transcript documents it, Bully Boy was joking and joshing, just having a good old time. "And I'm looking forward to some food" the transcript indicates was a laugh getter -- at least from reporters or "suck ups" -- you decide. He said he was there to sign the Strategic Framework Agreement and to sign "a Security Agreement, sometimes called a Status of Forces Agreement. The agreement provides American troops and Defense Department officials with authorizations and protections to continue supporting Iraq's democracy once the U.N. mandate expires at the end of this year." The transcript shows Bully Boy continuing to speak (and speak, and speak -- good thing Saddam trained everyone for long-winded speeches):
With these agreements, Mr. Prime Minister, we're honoring the sacrifices that I just described in the best possible way -- by building a freer, safer, and more hopeful world. By signing these agreements we're showing the people of Iraq the United States of America keeps its word. And we are showing the people of the Middle East that America stands firmly for liberty and justice and peace. And we are leaving the next President with a stable foundation for the future, and an approach that can enjoy broad bipartisan support at home.
There is still more work to be done. The war is not yet over -- but with the conclusion of these agreements and the courage of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi troops and American troops and civilian personnel, it is decisively on its way to being won.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay, everybody calm down for a minute. First of all thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. And if you want some -- if you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw. (Laughter.) Thank you for your concern, do not worry about it.
All the reports note that hurling a shoe is considered an extreme insult and many tend to note that when US forces pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Chalabi's imported Iraqis threw shoes at the statue. A few reports note that, when Bully Boy was recently burned in effigy, shoes were thrown at that as well. Sudarsan Raghavan and Dan Eggen (Washington Post) report:
"This is a farewell kiss!" the man, identified as Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with the Cairo-based al-Baghdadia television network, yelled in Arabic as he threw the first shoe. Bush, about 12 feet away, ducked and narrowly missed being hit. When Zaidi threw again, Maliki reached out his hand to shield the president.
Zaidi yelled "Dog, dog!" as he was surrounded by Iraqi security officers, who tackled him and began to beat him. Zaidi was later removed from the ornate room in the heavily fortified Green Zone where the news conference was taking place.
Susman and Ahmed note it as follows:
"This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog," the man said, according to a pool translation.
Seconds later, the journalist hurled his other shoe with similar precision as another Iraqi journalist reached over in an attempt to stop him.
"This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," he said, according to the translation.
In this morning's New York Times, Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin report the farewell kiss remark and the widows and orphans one. In terms of the journalist, this is the most pertinent detail from their article:
Mr. Maliki’s security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until “he was crying like a woman,” said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges.
Lat night we noted Adam Ashton and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report and they also included both quotes and noted this of the journalist:
Another Iraqi journalist yanked Zaidi to the ground before bodyguards collapsed on Zaidi and held him there while he yelled "Killer of Iraqis, killer of children." From the bottom of the pile, he moaned loudly and said "my hand, my hand."
Zaidi was hauled to a separate room, where his cries remained audible for a few moments.
It wasn't clear whether Zaidi was hurt. His employer, Cairo-based Baghdadiyah Television, released a statement late Sunday demanding Zaidi's release from Iraqi custody.
Reuters notes: "The journalist was leapt on by Iraqi security officials and U.S. secret service agents and dragged from the room screaming and struggling." Reuters' Waleed Ibrahim notes support for the journalist (including from the journalist's brother) and adds:
The Iraqi government said Zaidi had carried out "a barbaric and ignominious act" that did not correspond to the role of the media. "He tried to attack the visiting president," the media centre of the council of ministers said in a statement. "At the same time that we condemn this ignominious act, we call on the television channel of this reporter to deliver a public apology for this act which sullies the reputation of all Iraqi journalists and the whole media." Al-Baghdadiya television demanded Zaidi's immediate release, "in accordance with the democratic era and the freedom of expression that Iraqis were promised by U.S authorities." It said that any harsh measures taken against the reporter would be reminders of the "dictatorial era" that Washington said its forces invaded Iraq to end.
Alistair Lyon (Reuters) observes international reaction: "He has also won instant fame abroad -- a poem on an Islamist website praises him as 'a hero with a lion's heart' -- although the Iraqi government slated his 'barbaric and ignominious act'."
Title from Carly Simon's "De Bat (Fly In Me Face)" off Boys In The Trees ("Fly in me face, fly in me face, Well I hope de bat he don't come come out, And fly in me face tonight"). Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Political Relations" went up last night.
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