Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoe madness continues!

Although the Secret Service put everyone who attended President George W. Bush's Baghdad news conference through several layers of security Sunday, the agency appeared to be caught off guard when an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at the president.
"We'll be our own harshest critic regarding this incident" Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said Monday, "and we'll make any appropriate changes to security."
Donovan said, however, that agents on the scene knew that everyone in attendance had been screened for weapons and that they appeared to have taken the "appropriate level of action." No shots were fired as Bush's Secret Service detail joined Iraqi police in taking the shoe thrower into custody.
The arrested man, Muntathar al Zaidi, a 29-year-old employee of Cairo, Egypt-based Baghdadiya Television, remained in Iraqi custody Monday. Officials in Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's office refused to comment on his condition or on whether he'd be criminally charged.

The above is from Greg Gordon and Adam Ashton's "Bush shoe incident catches Secret Service flatfooted" (McClatchy Newspapers) and the first thing to point out is that no one died from a drive-by shoeing. Do we need to bring Mrs. Doubtfire in on this? That said, the article offers many hilarious moments. Not an insult to the writers, just noting how absurd things are in the world around us. Alleged man-of-the-people al-Maliki's home is described as "the prime minister's palace." Again, not arguing with the reporters, they are correct, but it's rare to see reality in reporting. Equally amusing is this passage:

Ever since John W. Hinckley's failed attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, the Secret Service began requiring journalists to undergo background checks, credentialing and screening with metal detectors.

Because, of course, John Hinckley was a Pulitzer winning journalist? For the record, Hinckley was not a journalist. Possibly the Secret Service should have begun screening oil company execs and their children? (Hinckley Oil.) Such a decision might have prevented Dick Cheney from ever becoming president of vice.

The same story makes the front page of the New York Times. (The article on it yesterday -- by Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin -- did not make the front page; however, at the bottom of the front page was a photo of Bush and the shoe.) Today Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed offer "In Iraqi's Shoe-Hurling Protest, Arabs Find a Hero. (It's Not Bush.)" which starts off explaining that a shoe is an insult -- apparently for those among us who have trouble figuring that out. They move on to explain there is a standing offer -- from Saudi Arabia, no less -- of $10 million for either of the shoes thrown. Then the duo wants to tell you about a courage honor awarded to the reporter who hurled the shoe and here someone needs to be paying attention. The honor was awarded by an organization in Libyia. The official US position on Libyia can be boiled down as "evil." But the New York Times is a paper and while it can take the same position towards Libyia, it can not use that position to practice sexism. Aicha Gaddafi is over the organization that awarded the honor. Saying she's "A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi" is not good enough, does not cut it. She has a name and the paper found the tidbit worthy of the third paragraph. It should have included her name. An Iraqi doctor and school teacher get quoted. The former, Qutaiba Rajaa, states, "Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi feelings, which is to object to the American occupation" while the later, Yaareb Yousif Matti, declares, "I swear by God that all Iraqis with their different nationalities are glad about this act."

Babylon & Beyond, the LA Times blog, Raed Rafei and Khaled Hijabcalls the incident "The Shoes That Shook The Arab World:"

In a barbershop near downtown Beirut on Monday, customers buzzed about the reporter's political gesture.
"It was great," one customer said, beaming with satisfaction.
Another responded by saying that Bush certainly deserved it for inflicting "disaster" on the Iraqi people.

The video of the journalist throwing his shoes at Bush was played over and over again on television stations including the pan-Arab Al Jazeera as well as Iranian state television and even radio.
"Please listen again," said a radio announcer in Tehran. "This is the sound of the shoe hitting the wall and missing President Bush."
The left-leaning Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar featured the news in on its front page under the headline, "The farewell kiss for Bush," calling the reporter a "hero" who stood up to the president.
"This was without a doubt the best farewell as seen by millions of Iraqis who were heartened" by the reporter's action, said the daily, adding that Iraqis were "probably sad when they saw their Prime Minister Nouri Maliki throwing himself in front of his guest to protect him."

And we'll also note this at the bottom of their post and at the bottom of many posts at Babylon & Beyond:

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports that despite street protests today calling for Muntadhar al-Zeidi's release, he has been "handed over to the Iraqi judiciary" and is expected to face trial for the run-by shoeing. In light of all the support (within Iraq and outside of it) that Muntadhar is receiving, US State Dept spokesperson Robert Wood might want to rethink his spin yesterday of , "I mean, look at how President Bush was received overall by Prime Minister Maliki and others in the Iraqi government. I think it says a lot." So Bully Boy's still got the support of those Iraqis on the payroll. Good to know.

Brenda highlights Chris Hedges' "Israel's 'Crime Against Humanity'" (Truth Dig via Information Clearing House):

Israel's siege of Gaza, largely unseen by the outside world because of Jerusalem's refusal to allow humanitarian aid workers, reporters and photographers access to Gaza, rivals the most egregious crimes carried out at the height of apartheid by the South African regime. It comes close to the horrors visited on Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serbs. It has disturbing echoes of the Nazi ghettos of Lodz and Warsaw.
"This is a stain on what is left of Israeli morality," I was told by Richard N. Veits, the former U.S. ambassador to Jordan who led a delegation from the Council on Foreign Relations to Gaza to meet Hamas leaders this past summer. "I am almost breathless discussing this subject. It is so myopic. Washington, of course, is a handmaiden to all this. The Israeli manipulation of a population in this manner is comparable to some of the crimes that took place against civilian populations fifty years ago."
The U.N. special
rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, calls what Israel is doing to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza "a crime against humanity." Falk, who is Jewish, has condemned the collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza as "a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention." He has asked for "the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law."
Falk, while condemning the
rocket attacks by the militant group Hamas, which he points out are also criminal violations of international law, goes on to say that "such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel's imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people."
"It is an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that each day poses the entire 1.5 million Gazans to an unspeakable ordeal, to a struggle to survive in terms of their health," Falk said when I reached him by phone in California shortly before he left for Israel. "This is an increasingly precarious condition. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live."

It's not on Iraq but, when possible, we'll highlight Hedges regardless. He didn't lie to readers in 2008 nor did he cower. While so many shredded what was left of their names, Chris held on to his integrity.

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