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Brogue attacker: Hero or villain?

September 15th, 2009
02:52 PM ET
Iraqis unveil a bronze monument of a show thrown at U.S. President George W. Bush. (PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Iraqis unveil a bronze monument of a show thrown at U.S. President George W. Bush. (PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

LONDON, England - An Iraqi journalist imprisoned last year for hurling a shoe at former U.S. President George W. Bush was released from jail Tuesday with apparently few regrets over his actions.

“I got my chance and I didn’t miss it,” Muntadhar al-Zaidi told reporters. “I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.”

Many observers in the Middle East and beyond will undoubtedly have sympathy with al-Zaidi. Show-throwing is a traditional insult in Arab culture and al-Zaidi’s action vividly captured the resentment felt in many Muslim countries at the time towards the U.S. and its unpopular president.

In Iran, a cleric dubbed the incident the “shoe intifada” while the Turkish shoemaker who made the brogue-turned-missile reported surging sales in the days after the incident.

In the weeks that followed both China’s premier Wen Jiabao, in an address at the UK’s Cambridge University, and India’s home minister P. Chidambaram were targeted with footwear in copycat attacks.

But al-Zaidi’s attack on Bush also appealed to a more base urge common to many cultures to throw things at our political leaders.

In the UK, the weapons of choice of protesters have long been eggs, slime and gunk: earlier this year, UK Business Secretary Peter Mandelson was doused in green custard by a climate change protester, while former deputy prime minster John Prescott famously hit back when he was yoked by an egg-throwing assailant in 2001. (Read more)

But should such behavior be tolerated? Is it disrespectful –- or a security threat - to target our elected leaders with essentially harmless projectiles? Did al-Zaidi deserve to go to jail?

Or do such incidents simply belong to an healthy tradition of political dissent and protest, providing an important reminder to our leaders that, ultimately, they must answer to the people? Tell us what you think.

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Filed under:  General
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. HAL2009

    al-Zaidi missed his target , Bush was smiling anyways .
    This crazy journalist is now famous and will probably become rich.

    September 15, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  2. salem elsakran

    I don’t believe that there is still some peoples arguing wither the shoe thrower is a hero or not, on our (Arab) view he did a very tiny of what is swarming on our harts it is so tiny approaching – infinity % of what we should do to those responsible of the crimes lead to the death of more than 1.5 million Iraqi and injured more than 4 million and more than 5 millions refugees what a sophisticated crimes committed by the most civilized peoples using a very sophisticated weapons which is to quite that is hurts no body feelings.

    Salem Elsakran

    September 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  3. Okinyi

    In my view "Hero"or "Villain"is neither here nor there.

    Ideally,expressions of disaffection on issues at any level ought to be done peacefully.We must eschew violence always.Actually in all forms.

    And directing violence to a key world leader in this manner or at all is self defeating and unacceptable.I however approve of the release since sentence has been served and the trial was not very transparent anyway!

    September 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  4. vk

    defnitely an hero. americans need to stop poking nose in others matters; why will any one ever resort to such actions then

    September 15, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  5. HOWZ3R

    If there's going to be any finger pointing on civilian casualties in Iraq, point the finger at the person who approved the U.S. support on fighting terrorism in Iraq. Additionally, Al-Zaidi's ignorance has gained favoritism towards terrorists and has made the war in Iraq look like a big joke. Well, the joke is on Al-Zaidi and those who oppose President Bush, because guess what? Al-Maliki knows that the U.S. is there to fight the war on terrorism. So if there's going to be any finger pointing, Al-Zaidi should show a pair and point the finger at the person who allowed the U.S. to fight the war on terrorism in Iraq.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  6. HOWZ3R

    Al-Zaidi is a terrorist, because he looked for, and gained, acceptance from terrorists in other countries.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  7. Nzaar Ihsan

    Does throwing a rubber shoe at somebody qualify as "violence"? I don't think so – I think it's a form of protest – a rude and unsophisticated form of protest albeit.

    Second thought, what's respectful or courteous about burning someone's effigy?

    I think he should have been fined for doing something unruly – didn't deserve going to jail.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  8. David525

    Throwing a shoe is not an issue of "Hero" or "Villain", it is a statement of the times we live in. Civility has been abandoned. Rudeness has become the accepted norm. Whether from the TV pundits who over-talk their guests and engage in a self serving mockery of having a meaningful discussion on an issue or their guests who pretend to take affront all the while laughing on their way to the bank. You get what sells and at the moment rudeness sells.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  9. MoMoll

    I can't forget Bush saying "Bring them on". His COWBOY Bravado provoked this. He's, "Your with us or against us", etc. etc. He through the first punch, because he had NO concept of other cultures and how they would react.
    Like many of his time in University, I'm sure he flunked "DIPLOMACY". You treat people like garbage, they pay you back.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  10. Sanee Akbar

    He is definately a hero. If I were him, I would have done the same.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  11. IRENE STROUMPAS

    OF COURSE HE'S A HERO!!! ANY MAN WHO HAS THE COURAGE TO DO SUCH THING TO A PRESIDENT OF A COUNTRY WHO KILLED THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE SHOULD BE HONOURED. HE ONLY THROW A SHOE, HE DIDN'T THROW BOMBS....

    September 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  12. cary

    i am just sad he missed.. I belive many people thought to do so but never had teh oportunity or the guts. It could hace been worse

    September 15, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  13. Allen Brand

    It didn't solve anything, but it did echo the common sentiments that even Americans have regarding George and his menagerie. Beaten and jailed sounds harsh to me, but it is the Middle East, things are different there. Even so, if the worst thing to happen to George is a few shoes thrown at him, then I'd say he's in pretty good shape. Especially considering the destruction caused by his administration's policies and procedures.

    September 15, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Reply
  14. Vocs

    Bush managed to out maneuver the shoe throwing loser who missed.

    Therefore no hero here just an impotent and ridiculous (throwing shoes is the antithesis of manly!) gesture made by a jackass who apparently lacked the intelligence to use his voice and so ended up creating one of the few times where Bush actually came off as being somehow impressive.

    Bush 1

    Al-Zeidi 0

    September 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  15. pete

    Whatever your politics views this guy was the first man with "cojones" enough to bitch-slap the powerful Dark Emperor of the Evil Empire!

    :)))

    Kudos for him, we needed more people like him (of every political side of the spectrum).

    September 15, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  16. Prem Nizar Hameed

    Zaidi is a journalist. A journalist’s tool kit includes pen and powerful words, not weapons or shoes. Since I respect this profession, I don’t agree with what he did. It does not mean that I support to the crimes Bush and his administration did to Iraqi people. Muntazar got the fame but he cannot stand with those journalists who brought the tragedies in Iraq to the public attention. Hope, he will not waste his professional quality and dedication by the momentary hero worship bestowed on him.

    For all our customers, thanks for using us;
    One shoe made a history of misuse;
    Once it was a mistake, not twice, thrice and so on…
    To save your feet, not scratch others faces, is
    What we are really made of since very long,
    (Exception is for ladies who treat some “vein patients”)
    And think now: what dignity do we have, if
    Regularly thrown at your haters’ faces?

    September 15, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Reply
  17. Rachel Thigpen

    I think that the Iraqi woman's actions were very disrespectful and unacceptable. Sure everyone has felt like throwing a shoe or two at the former president, but as controversial as he was he was still our leader. For a foreign woman to act out as she did, sent a terroristic message towards the U.S. I am glad she was punished and considering her a hero? I think not. Villian? maybe not that extreme. All in all, she was wrong, got punished, and we can all move on.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:39 am | Reply
  18. Halabee

    To Rachel THigpen

    His a man not a woman *dun * dun *

    September 17, 2009 at 12:08 am | Reply
  19. Andres Artavia Acosta

    Quiero expresar mi preocupacion por las cosas que pasan con la soberania en mi pais, COSTA RICA, donde existe un candidato presidencial que esta siendo juzgado por un caso de fraude a una institucion del estado, que se dio durante su administracion, osea esta persona ya fungio como presidente, como puede ser que a una persona en esta situacion se le permita aspirar al puesto mas alto de nuestro gobierno, me siento burlado, y confieso abiertamente que he perdido la credibilidad en el poder ejecutivo y el sistema judicial de este pais, quisiera que eso se de a conocer a todo el mundo, ojala por medio de ustedes que son de credibilidad mundialmente reconocida.

    September 20, 2009 at 12:24 am | Reply
  20. bassam

    is a good action

    September 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Reply
  21. nk from Middle east

    I wonder what would have happened in Arab Countries if a Journalist had thrown a shoe at an Arab / Muslim Leader? They would have killed him that minute and maybe his family and the newspaper that he was representing. In Iran journalist are hanged, tortured for much less.

    In Saudi and entire TV station was shut down for reporting on a story on a Guy who has sex.

    It is so interesting how Iraqi's have forgotten what Saddam Hussain and his son's and family use to do to them. Are Iraqi's forgetting how they where freed from that dictator who killed and ... its own people?
    Or do they actually deserve the Saddam Days?

    How can you be such ungreatfull people? The problems that you face is not because of US or the west but that of your own people who are killing each other in the name of religion.

    Are you forgetting who happy you were when Saddam was over trown?

    The problem with muslim world is that you love blamming the " West " for your own shortcoming. Instead of killing each other and just having kids with no future foe the sake of religion try to change and learn how to improve your life

    October 11, 2009 at 1:37 am | Reply

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