By Bob Kendall
Tina Susman and Raheem Salman’s L.A. Times article February 20 datelined Baghdad stated:
“It was the hottest ticket in town, drawing spectators from as far away as Sweden. Police formed human chains to block crowds that surged to glimpse the star attraction.”
The star attraction was the suddenly world famous Iraqi, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi who threw the shoes at ex-President George W. Bush during a Baghdad news conference last December. This 30-year-old journalist could face a 15-year prison sentence for flinging his shoes at Bush’s face when Bush made a farewell visit on December 14.
To continue the Times article:
“al-Zeidi said he acted in a burst of rage as Bush `smiling that icy smile’ spoke of achievements in Iraq since the U.S. led invasion.
“”I thought about what the achievements were — the killing of about a million Iraqis,’ al-Zeidi said. Everything faded to black, he said, except his target. `I didn’t see anything but Bush.'”
Twenty lawyers are on al-Zeidi’s legal team, demonstrating what a large backing his defense has, claiming their client should never have been charged.
The legal argument for this is because Bush was not on an official Iraq visit. That being the case, they insist that al-Zeidi should not face charges of assaulting a visiting dignitary.
Secondly, they insist he should never have been charged due to the fact that the act took place in the Green Zone, which is U.S. controlled.
Supporters for al-Zeidi consider the real issue is the freedom to publicly oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq with repeated polls showing that 70 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. out of Iraq. Throwing a shoe at someone, and calling them a dog are both supreme insults in the Mideast. Iraqis consider this act represented simply a mean of protesting the Iraq War and the 140,000 U.S. occupying forces stationed in Iraq.
To demonstrate their backing of what the journalist daringly accomplished with the shoe throwing, an Iraqi artist built a monument in his honor. More than that, lawyers throughout the Arab world volunteered to represent him.
The Times article resumes:
“The hearing began promptly at 10 a.m. As the defendant entered the courtroom applause erupted and most spectators stood up to get a better look or to express support.
“A witness from al-Maliki’s office recounted the moment, witnessed on TV around the world, when al-Zeidi took off his shoes and hurled them at Bush shouting, ‘This is your farewell kiss, you dog.’
“The chief judge, Abdul Amir al-Rubale, asked about a statement al-Zeidi made in which he described how long he had harbored ambitions to throw shoes at Bush, and had even filmed himself practicing the act.
“When al-Zeidi said the statement was untrue and had been extracted under torture, he denied he went into the December 14 news conference with plans to do so.
“Instead, al-Zeidi said his emotions took over. ‘I was feeling that the blood of Iraqis was flowing beneath my feet, and he (Bush) was smiling,’ al-Zeidi said, as a man in the front row wept.”
As al-Zeidi was removed from the Baghdad court he waved amid applause. He is swiftly gaining international cult status.
The history making trial adjourned after 90 minutes and is set to resume March 12.