For Bush, if the shoe fits…

President George W. Bush wrapped up a whirlwind trip to two war zones Monday that in many ways was a victory lap without a clear victory. A signature event occurred when an Iraqi reporter hurled two shoes at Bush, declaring: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

The president visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to his successor, Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

"The war is not over," Bush said, but "it is decisively on its way to being won."

Bush then traveled to Afghanistan where he spoke to U.S. soldiers and Marines at a hangar on the tarmac at Bagram Air Base. The rally for over a thousand military personnel took place in the dark, cold pre-dawn hours. Bush was greeted by loud cheers from the troops.

"Afghanistan is a dramatically different country than it was eight years ago," he said. "We are making hopeful gains."

But the president’s message on progress in the region was having trouble competing with the videotaped image of the angry Iraqi who hurled his shoes at Bush in a near-miss, shouting in Arabic, "This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" The reporter was later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam with their shoes after U.S. marines toppled it to the ground following the 2003 invasion.

Reaction in Iraq was swift but mixed, with some condemning the act and others applauding it. Television news stations throughout Iraq repeatedly showed footage of the incident, and newspapers carried headline stories.

In Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City, supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for protests against President Bush and demanded the release of the reporter, who was jailed after throwing his shoes.

The Iraqi government condemned the act and demanded an on-air apology from Al-Baghdadia television, the Iraqi-owned station that employs Muntadar al-Zeidi. The reporter was taken into custody and reportedly was being held for questioning by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s guards and is being tested for alcohol and drugs.

"It harmed the reputation of Iraqi journalists and Iraqi journalism in general," according to a statement released by the government.

After word spread of the shoe attack, Afghan reporters had gathered at the presidential palace in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, before a news conference by Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Some of the reporters — a collegial bunch that sees one another several times a week — egged on one of their colleagues, jokingly trying to pressure the television reporter into taking off his shoe and hurling it once the U.S. president arrived. He did not.

Karzai’s deputy spokesman, Saimak Herwai, told Afghan reporters that they had to address Bush as "His Excellency," an honorary title not typically used with U.S. presidents. The request was followed by some, not by others.

Bush then took a helicopter ride to Kabul to meet with Karzai.

After their meeting, Bush said he told Karzai: "You can count on the United States. Just like you’ve been able to count on this administration, you’ll be able to count on the next administration as well."

The mixed reactions to Bush in both countries emphasized the uncertain situations Bush is leaving behind in the region.

In Iraq, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, protecting the fragile democracy. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died and $576 billion has been spent since the war began five years and nine months ago. The Bush administration and even White House critics credit last year’s military buildup with the security gains in Iraq. Last month, attacks fell to the lowest monthly level since the war began in 2003.

In Afghanistan, there are about 31,000 U.S. troops and commanders have called for up to 20,000 more. The fight is especially difficult in southern Afghanistan, a stronghold of the Taliban where violence has risen sharply this year.

It was Bush’s last trip to the war zones before Obama takes office Jan. 20. Obama, a Democrat, has promised he will bring all U.S. combat troops back home from Iraq a little over a year into his term, as long as commanders agree a withdrawal would not endanger American personnel or Iraq’s security. Obama has said the drawdown in Iraq would allow him to shift troops and bolster the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

It’s unclear what will happen in Iraq when the U.S. troops leave. While violence has slowed in Iraq, attacks continue, especially in the north.

Bush was traveling back to Washington in the early hours Monday.

After the shoe-throwing incident, White House press secretary Dana Perino suffered an eye injury when she was hit in the face with a microphone during the melee.

Bush, who has grown used to protests of his Iraq policy, brushed off the incident. He said, "So what if a guy threw his shoe at me?"

___

Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

11 Responses to "For Bush, if the shoe fits…"

  1. gazelle1929  December 16, 2008 at 9:03 am

    If the shoe flits, swear at it.

    (The devil MADE me do it!)

  2. Ladywolf55  December 15, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Bush is a witless wonder. The idiot doesn’t even have enough brains to realize when he’s been deeply insulted. There is no empathy or shame in this absolute evil narcissist. I applaud the Iraqi who was brave enough to do it. Let’s all send him some shoes to support his actions.

  3. ckaye99  December 15, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Anyone I showed the video to laughed and bemoaned the fact that the guy missed. Even to someone such as myself, who knew Bush was a problem even back when he was a governor of Texas, this was shocking. Such is the hate for this man.

    I hope this reporter is not beaten and/or tortured for his noble action – I like and respect him for doing this. I hope an organization such as Amnesty International steps in and tries to intercede for his safety. If it was me I would have called it “provocation beyond human endurance”.

  4. douin  December 15, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    This young journalist is a brave man and the whole world should applaud him for having the courage of his convictions. He and his Iraqi people have suffered much from the actions of this man in a terrible way. It is sad that there is not a single person Inside the United States that has a smidgen of his bravery. Where is the spine of the American people ? We have been calling for the impeachment of this President for years, and the whole Congress combined does not have the balls to even do that…yet they were after President Clinton, tooth and toenail, for a sexual indiscretion that only involved a willing partner. Yet this president can be the cause of millions of deaths and injured and not a thing is done. Where is the honor of the American people ?
    The world must demand that this young Man not be punished for an action of bravery and Not be mute.

  5. Flapsaddle  December 15, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    What would have been truly brave would have been for an Iraqi reporter to hurled his shoe(s) at the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.

    Or for an Arab reporter to have done the same to Pelosi and Reid – but how many would have seen that as other than a senseless attack on their own beloved leader(s)?

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  6. sawbuck  December 15, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    He’s lucky it was just a shoe. This play – soldier moron attacks a country that had no beef with us, decimates it, kills innocent men, women and children, as well as killing 4,000 U.S. troops and maiming 20,000 more, runs up a $trillion debt to the tune of $5000 a second and counting, and then has the balls to take a ‘victory lap’????
    bush should have stepped down on 9/12/2001

  7. Flapsaddle  December 15, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Perhaps Mr. Lincoln should have resigned after the attempt to relieve Ft. Sumter was defeated? That would have spared us the bloodiest war in our history – 500,000-plus – and the destruction of the original American republic and federalism.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  8. greentail  December 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    If the guy was a lefty the Cubs should sign him. They need a good left handed set up man.

  9. acf  December 16, 2008 at 2:16 am

    Considering the protection Bush is supposed to be receiving, and the conditions of removing the shoes and throwing two of them one after the other from about 20 feet away, while ranting at Bush, it’s surprising how accurate his aim was. If Bush hadn’t been able to duck, both shots would have got him right between the eyes. I guess they were protecting him against guns, knives and bombs, but neglected to consider shoes. The way security works, I bet that all reporters to press conferences will now have to check their shoes at the door. How low has Bush dragged US esteem in the world, that a US president has shoes thrown at him in a televised press conference?

  10. adamrussell  December 16, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Id donate $100 to your favorite charity for a chance to do the same.

  11. Wayne K Dolik  December 16, 2008 at 3:02 am

    If things get any worse in this Country I’m going to take up shoe throwing! I mean bailouts, everybody going broke and a rampantly corrupt business community and a corrupt Government etc. etc. etc. Phony wars have been launched and we broke the rule of law and our Constitution. Throw in Spying too.

    Yep, I think starting tomorrow I’m going to take up shoe throwing. Why, I can practice right in my own back yard, and nobody will even see me.

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