Monday, December 15, 2008

Flying Shoes, Bursting Bubbles

The most remarkable thing about the gesture was the fact that it was an act of defiant contempt, rather than one of criminal violence.

Bush's reaction was remarkable only in the sense that he displayed, for perhaps the last time before he becomes deservedly inconsequential, the depth of his ignorance and the utter impregnability of his unearned self-regard.

Immediately after a Iraqi reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi disrupted a Baghdad press conference by hurling both shoes at Bush, calling him a "dog" and denouncing him in the name of "the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," Bush sat down with ABC reporter Martha Raddatz to decant some of his unique wisdom about matters of diplomacy and cultural understanding.

Raddatz pointed out that Zaidi's gesture -- attempting to strike Bush in the face with the sole of a shoe -- is "considered a huge insult in this [part of the] world."

Bush's reply defies parody: "Look, they were humiliated. The press corps, the rest of the Iraqi press corps was humiliated.... But I'm not insulted."

So -- this carefully calibrated gesture, this surgical strike of an insult, which was directed specifically at the individual most responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans, managed somehow to humiliate everybody else in the room, while sparing the invincible ego of the one who was targeted.

This is not a sign of a character healthy and stable enough to slough off petty insults. It is a manifestation of a sociopath's indifference to the legitimate concerns of other people -- in this case, a young Iraqi journalist who has been subjected to violence by both American occupation forces (which had previously arrested him twice without cause) and the criminal mobs set free to prey upon the country by the U.S.-led invasion of his homeland.

"The guy wanted to get on TV and he did," opined Bush in his interview with Raddatz. "I don't know what his beef is. But whatever it is I'm sure somebody will hear it."

Mr. Zaidi's inexplicable "beef," of course, is his entirely understandable rage and resentment over the foreign occupation of his country, and the needless death of innocent people.

Unlike Bush, who has made four lightning-quick visits to Baghdad -- fleeting appearances under the cover of impenetrable security, during which he was spared any exposure to the gratitude of the pitiful people he "liberated" -- Zaidi lives in Iraq. He has to live with the consequences of Bush's whimsical little venture in mass murder and social destruction.

It was quite understandable that Zaidi found himself unable to abide the spectacle of Bush stewing in self-congratulation while Nouri al-Maliki and the assembled reporters dutifully played along with the charade, passively ratifying the lies that continue to sustain the world-historic crime that is the Iraq war.

Those who don't believe in a Creator find it difficult to explain how matter attained self-awareness. The existence of George W. Bush presents us with exactly the opposite conundrum: How can someone blessed with the capacity for thought be at once utterly self-preoccupied and entirely devoid of self-awareness?

Consider how Bush deflected the matter of Zaidi's insult -- which has understandably resonated throughout the Arab world -- by comparing it with what he considers to be a similar incident during the visit of another ruler to Washington:

"I've seen a lot of weird things during my presidency and this may rank up there as one of the weirdest. On the other hand, I do remember when the president of China came to the South Lawn, and a member of the press corps started yelling --I think it was Falun Gong slogans at the Chinese president. So this happens and it's a sign of a free society."

I'm not sure which part of this double-barrelled absurdity to deal with first.

Did Mr. Bush have a measurable understanding of the comparison he was drawing? The Falun Gong movement seems to share a phylum with Scientology and the Unification Church, but there are credible reports that its adherents are on the receiving end of severe official persecution, ranging from imprisonment to (allegedly) summary execution followed by harvesting of their organs for commercial use. Given that fact, is Mr. Bush really comfortable with his comparison?

Furthermore, after Dr. Wenyi Wang, a correspondent for the Falun Gong-founded newspaper Epoch Times, interrupted the press conference by shouting to Bush that he should "ask Hu Jintao to stop persecuting the Falun Gong," she was arrested and charged with "willfully intimidating, coercing, threatening and harassing a foreign official," a misdemeanor carrying penalties up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

This wasn't done in China by Hu's government; it was done here by the regime over which Bush presides.

Yes, those charges were dropped in April 2007 -- as part of an agreement in which she was required not to commit any other crime, including the supposed offense of "confronting" any foreign leader about his government's human rights record.

All of this, one assumes, constitutes what Bush is pleased to call the workings of "a free society."
Perhaps he means a society in which the ruling elite is generally kept free of vexing exposure to the unfiltered opinions of those they rule.

It was the sudden, unaccustomed exposure to a contrary opinion that may have precipitated
Attorney General Michael Mukasey's sudden fainting spell during a recent address to the Federalist Society in Washington.

Generally described as "conservative," the Federalist Society has been an incubator for many of the Bush Regime's signature policies in the war on terror -- institutionalizing the practice of torture, undermining habeas corpus, indefinite detention of terrorist suspects, the use of drumhead military tribunals with Soviet standards of evidence, exalting the president to the status of Grand and Glorious Decider, and so forth.

Mukasey used his address at the Federalist Society function for the same reason Bush made a final stop in Baghdad: Both of them were seeking to secure the Bush Junta's "legacy" by making grand summary statements of its supposed accomplishments before docile audiences.

In both cases, there was at least one ram among the sheep. For Bush, it was Muntazer al-Zaidi. For Mukasey it was Richard Sanders -- no, not the actor who played Les Nessman on WKRP in Cincinnati, but rather a State Supreme Court Justice from Washington.

Sanders is often described as a libertarian-leaning judge; he says that "protection of our constitutionally guaranteed liberties as the first duty of our highest court." He managed to sit in silence for 17 minutes as Mukasey, basking in the fawning glow of his sycophantic audience, extolled the virtues of the Bush Regime's assault on the rule of law. But Sanders, as sickened by the audience as he was by the speaker, could abide no more.

"Tyrant! You are a tyrant!" Sanders stood and exclaimed, causing Mukasey to pause momentarily. He left just moments later. A few minutes later, Mukasey suddenly started stumbling over his words as he read his prepared text; to the horror of his audience, the Attorney General suddenly slumped foward over the lectern, bringing FBI agents scrambling to the podium to catch him before he fell.

Sanders had left by the time Mukasey's collapse took place, and was understandably concerned for the official's health. But as someone who cherishes liberty and respects the Constitution, Sanders simply couldn't suppress his reaction.

"Frankly, everybody in the room was applauding or sometimes laughing, and I thought, 'I've got to stand up and say something.' And I did," Sanders told his hometown press. "I stood up and said, 'Tyrant,' then I sat down again, then I left."

In a statement issued to the press, Sanders described how his outburst was the product of insuperable revulsion over both the Regime's behavior and that of its willing accomplices in the audience at that Federalist Society event:

"In his speech, Attorney General Mukasey justified the Bush administration's policies in the War on Terror, which included deying meaningful hearings for prisoners in Guantanamo, and other questionable tactics.... [T]he government must never set aside the Constitution; domestic and international law forbids torture; and access to the writ of habeas corpus shoud not be denied.

The program provided no opportunity for questions or response, and I felt compelled to speak out. I stood up, and said, `tyrant,' and then left the meeting. No one else said anything. I believe we must speak our conscience in moments that demand it, even if we are but one voice."

Or, for that matter, if we have only one set of shoes to hurl at the Emperor.

Policymakers, from the Dear Leader on down, are hermetically sealed off from dissent of any kind. On those rare occasions when frustration and moral outrage find a fissure in that bubble and the serenity of a political celebrity is disturbed, the result is usually a prominent display of some kind of corrective violence directed at the dissident.

Because he's a sitting judge, Sanders won't be punished in any way for his eruption. A private citizen almost certainly would face some kind of reprisal: That, after all, is what Tasers are for.

On sale now!

Dum spiro, pugno!


Anonymous said...


As I repeatedly watched the shoe throwing incident, it occured to me that Mr Bush's reactions were perfectly timed. I invite all your readers to review the video several times in succession and see if you notice this too. Bush hardly blinks an eye as 2 shoes are hurled at him...his evasive maneuvers were perfectly timed. Either Bush is much more "in tune" with reality than we give him credit for, or he was not surprised by this incident and indeed, appeared to be expecting it.

MCLA said...

"I don't know what his beef is" should go down in history as another "Let them eat cake".

Mimi said...

I just became a "fan" of Mr. Zaidi's on Facebook--and I'm a fan of yours. As ever, your analysis of the shoe incident and related happenings is thorough, thoughtful, and sound. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Masterfully put, Grigg. Your last paragraph brings to mind Rothbard's "War, Peace, and the State," more specifically thus from the penultimate:

"The gravest crimes in the State's lexicon are almost invariably not invasions of person and property, but dangers to its own contentment: for example, treason, desertion of a soldier to the enemy, failure to register for the draft, conspiracy to overthrow the government. Murder is pursued haphazardly unless the victim be a policeman, or Gott soll hüten, an assassinated Chief of State; failure to pay a private debt is, if anything, almost encouraged, but income tax evasion is punished with utmost severity; counterfeiting the State's money is pursued far more relentlessly than forging private checks, etc. All this evidence demonstrates that the State is far more interested in preserving its own power than in defending the rights of private citizens."

Anonymous said...

Speaking of tasers, I'm sure you've seen the statistic that over 400 people have died as a result of them over the past 6 years. And rest assured, 400 is extremely conservative. I've read the reports where they'll be tasered, the coroner or police report will say they excited themselves to death, and that's the end of it.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am going to express my true feelings here. I may be wrong to have these feelings and I know it is a wrong thing to aggress and strike anyone who has not aggressed against me first.

I am cheering for shoe thrower Muntazer al-Zaidi, and I am very sorry that he sustained a broken arm and ribs by the Iraqi police as a result of his action.

I only wish this would have happened in the USA and the weapon would have been large rotten tomatoes and that they would have hit him in the face each time. Then I wish we could have rallied around the jail or prison where they would have put the thrower. Then I wish we could have documented how the U.S. mainstream media totally ignored reporting the story and the larger and larger numbers of people supporting the thrower.

George W. Bush, idiot puppet that he is HAS aggressed against the every citizen of the U.S.A. and has made a mokery of the freedom that our hundreds of our soldiers have fought and bled and suffered and died for, especially the soldiers of the Revolutionary War.

To quote Scott Horton regarding this pitiful little excuse for a human being and his cabal, "the Bush Administration’s conscious policy of obfuscation, misdirection and deceit—its mockery of Congressional oversight, and its corruption of our Constitution and system of government. "

George W. Bush has been throwing garbage at Americans and America for eight long years. Glad he experienced this deserved attack on his "dignity.

Anonymous said...

Their system is going down --- crumbling right before our eyes.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 5:40am:

I could not agree with you more - well said!

Anonymous said...

He doesn't know what the man's beef is. Amazing.

I frequently ask supporters of Bush's war how they would feel if a foreign power marched into the United States — under the auspices of "liberating" us, of course — toppled our government, and left troops to occupy our country for years on end.

They always respond that it would mean war. They would repel such an attack. But they fail to make the connection that this is exactly what we have done in other countries.

Some of them respond by saying a comparison cannot be made because Saddam was a tyrant that "needed" to be overthrown. I always respond with two things.

1. Perhaps in the eyes of someone else our president is a "tyrant" — which, clearly he is — and...

2. Yes, Saddam was a tyrant. Perhaps the U.S. shouldn't have installed him into power in the first place.

I rarely find a supporter of Bush's war who recognizes how egregious has been our interference into the affairs of other nations. And until we learn from these mistakes I fear more and more Americans will continue to share Bush's lack of understanding of the world's "beef" with us.

Anonymous said...

Will, you always have a great way of articulating how I feel about these kinds of events while also adding new information and insights.

One thing that has disgusted (but not surprised) me is the reaction of some here in the U.S. to the incident. I've heard many on the warmongering right praise Bush for his composure "under fire" while applauding the broken bones that Zaidi has received in the aftermath as well deserved.

While one may disagree with the tactic, completely missed by these people are the reasons that motivated Zaidi to throw his shoes in the first place. In a way the entire incident encapsulates blowback and how the absurd and unjust "War on Terror" is tolerated by Americans.

For Zaidi's sake it is probably good that his shoes missed their target. If they hadn't he may have fared even worse than broken bones and prison time (but who knows, he may anyway). Sad.

Anonymous said...

If the shoe fits...

Anonymous said...

There's one thing worse in Islamic culture than applying the soles of shoes to faces, and that is losing face. No doubt the Iraqi authorities felt they had lost face in front of the whole world, thus the overkill in dealing with the shoe thrower. I'm sorry that the reporter has been badly injured and I hope he'll be OK, but if the American authorities had been in charge, he might be looking at years of sensory deprivation and solitary confinement at best.

By the way, the shoe throwing was hilarious in my book.

liberranter said...

...I know it is a wrong thing to aggress and strike anyone who has not aggressed against me first.

But Mr. Zaidi was "aggressed upon" - by the American imperial forces that invaded and continue to occupy his country and that oppress, torture, murder, and dispossess his family and compatriots; imperial forces that are under the command of the very creature at whom he hurled his shoes. There was no wrongdoing here; Mr. Zaidi responded to the aggressor with the only weapon (other than his pen) at his disposal, a tiny and poignantly symbolic demonstration of "asymmetric warfare" in action.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Zaidi missed.

Anonymous said...

"Tyrant! You are a tyrant!"

Even Sanders will have a problem with the rule of law, should it ever be allowed to filter up to his rare environment.

The reason is, he and the courts will lose all power and discretion, since mankind cannot and will not accept masters, but we have, can and will accept the "rule of law":

Bill Ross
(Electronics Design Engineer)

Unknown said...

Hurling aside....

After watching the fracas in the crowd several times, my attention was drawn to the background and back to the prez. Some "protector?" rushed in from the left, some few rushed through the door to the right towards Zaidi, but did anyone notice there were no Secret Service agents to surround Bush, even throw him to the ground, shielding him from possible harm with their own bodies? Even he does not cower behind the podium, rather simply stands there with that all-too-familiar smirk to which we have become accustomed.

Let me postulate that a second attack on him would have been ridiculously easy if Zaidi had been the distraction.

Anonymous said...


if this shoe thrower is smart, and needs a defense fund, or any amount of money for that matter, he should put his "autographed" shoes up for auction on ebay. he'd make a killing with the right advertising!


Anonymous said...

Now Will . . .

Many of those of us who don't believe in a creator find it difficult to believe that matter could have possibly assembled itself into G. W. Shrub or B. J Clintoon for that matter.

I am impressed to hear that the the word 'Tyrant' was actually uttered from the lips of a bureau-rat though. Long overdue that words once again regain the power of their meaning . . .

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Anonymous said...

In the aftermath of the shoe throwing incident I am surprised that Bush did not mention the urgent need for Iraq to establish free speech zones - America's cherished method of shielding its precious tyrants and aspiring tyrants from any publicly displayed dissent, disagreement or intelligent questioning.

Anonymous said...

I just shipped a pair of extremely worn and smelly shoes to the White House via UPS. I recommend you all do the same.
-Dr Scholl