Monday, December 15, 2008

Well, Junior, if the shoe fits...

Bush effigy: They just can't get enough of him in Baghdad!
In the final few weeks before he slinks out the White House door, Junior seems to be engaging in some touch-up activities to burnish his image and perhaps salvage something for his legacy. He's doing soft-ball interviews wherein he strikes a reflective pose, pinches his lower lip, and casts his eyes downward, lost in thought. He does his best to affect genuineness and sincerity, murmuring soothing words about his hopes for a better future.

Considering his current standing in the world and the long list of catastrophic failures with his name on them, the effort seems pathetic: like buying a Walmart couch cover for that garage sofa that the dogs have been sleeping on for the last 8 years.

Part of this effort, apparently, was one last visit to the scene of his most atrocious crime --namely, Iraq. Whether he wishes it or no, Iraq is the hallmark of Junior's "presidency." (Unless, of course, it is ultimately overshadowed by utter economic ruin here at home... keep your fingers crossed!)

When "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was launched, neo-conservatives were full of bluster and confidence. (The original name was "Operation Iraqi Liberation," but somebody wised up to that unfortunate acronym!) Cheney-crony Rick Adelman assured us that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be a "cakewalk." And, in 2003, neo-con wise man Richard "The Dick" Perle sagely forecasted: “And a year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush.” And before the war even started, Cheney himself prognosticated that "we will be greeted as liberators."

Well, as events have unfolded, all but the most delusional of conservative meatheads have come to scoff at such foolishness. In late November, Iraqis congregated at the very site where the famous statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down early in the war, to burn Junior in effigy.

But there is still a tiny minority of reality-deniers that believe the invasion was a Good ThingTM, that the Iraqis are largely "better off" than they were before the war. And that minority still apparently includes Junior. His unannounced trip to Iraq was, I imagine, designed to highlight the "progress" that has been made since the invasion... a sort of "victory lap," if you will.

But, alas, the Iraqis didn't play ball. At a joint press conference, with al-Maliki, Junior was forced to duck two shoes thrown at him by a local Bagdad journalist. Here's the video:




In most Middle-Eastern cultures, throwing a shoe at someone is a vicious insult. Here's how the BBC characterizes it:

Around the Arab world, if you want to escalate a situation, by saying for example "I'm going to thump you", add the words "with a shoe" and you're adding serious insult to the threat of possible of injury.
It's that cultural significance that has added real sting to the assault by an Iraqi journalist against US President George W Bush at a Baghdad news conference.
In Arab culture it's considered rude even to display the sole of one's shoe to a fellow human being.
Certainly, crossing one's legs ankle-on-knee style should never be done in a public place for fear of offending the person next to you.
The sensitivity is related to the fact shoes are considered ritually unclean in the Muslim faith.
In addition to ritual ablutions before prayer, Muslims must take off their shoes to pray, and wearing shoes inside a mosque is forbidden.
Shoes should either be left at the door of the mosque, or carried (preferably in the left hand with the soles pressed together).
But beyond the Islamic significance, the dirty and degrading implication of the sole of a shoe crosses all religious boundaries in the Middle East. --BBC News, December 15, 2008
In short, we have no insult of equivalent severity in our Euro-American culture. The disrespect and hatred conveyed in the hurling of the shoes is beyond even the most vile of oaths we can articulate.

When I saw this video and caught the befuddlement on Junior's face, I once again experienced pity for the man. I'm forming a new perception of him; I begin to see him as a hapless victim, pushed along by forces he cannot understand. When things were going well, when he had those huge post-911 approval ratings, he could almost enjoy the ride he was on; he could almost believe the sycophantic mewlings that Condi Rice and Karen Hughes and David Frum whispered in his ear. But now that things have gone south, now that he is, perhaps, the most hated man in the world, he can only turn to those hardened, soulless monsters that used him, that made him what he is, for comfort.

"We're not out to win any popularity contests," growls Cheney. And for Junior, that's probably going to have to be good enough.

6 comments:

Eclectic Dilettante said...

Put yourself in the journalists shoes for a second. Wouldn't you wonder what the penalty would be for launching a projectile at the President's head? Given this administration's track record, could you rule out a full-service stay at Gitmo?

That journalist chose the gravest insult possible, aimed it at the most powerful man in the world, and announced how he and others feel about the US occupation of Iraq. And he did it knowing what could happen to him.

Wow!

What balls.

I hope he gets to keep them.

Heather Ann said...

That guy had good aim! ^_^ (And to be honest you almost didn't need the whole cultural explanation to feel his obvious and justified anger.) It's probably good for him that Jr. was quick at dodge ball, (dodge-shoe?) Can you imagine what would have happened if the aforementioned insult had actually whacked him in the head?

I also love your slip-cover example - very fitting! Victory banners, symbolic handshakes, and "experts" who stretch the truth will never be able to really cover up the tragic reality...

kate said...

awesomely written post dade - even though i disagree with almost all of it! :)

just a comment about the shoe incident -- i think all americans should be concerned even upset about this because it was an attack on our president and actually an insult to our country and the blood and treasure we spent in iraq. i would be just as concerned if it had happened to bill clinton or to barack obama.

its the old adage of 'its ok if we attack or insult because he belongs to us, but its not ok for someone else to do so.' just my opinion.

anyhoo. happy christmas - feliz navidad. be careful in our crazy oregon weather!

kate said...

oh and i forgot to say at least the journalist hasn't been put into a meat grinder and the women in his family raped by saddam's sons. just another wee thought. ;)

Mike said...

A good way to avoid feeling pity for the man is not to watch him. :)

Eclectic Dilettante said...

Put yourself in the journalists shoes for a second. Wouldn't you wonder what the penalty would be for launching a projectile at the President's head? Given this administration's track record, could you rule out a full-service stay at Gitmo?

That journalist chose the gravest insult possible, aimed it at the most powerful man in the world, and announced how he and others feel about the US occupation of Iraq. And he did it knowing what could happen to him.

Wow!

What balls.

I hope he gets to keep them.