Muntadhar al-Zaidi was sentenced to 3 years in prison this past week. Al-Zaidi is the journalist who threw two shoes at Bush in Iraq a few months ago, during Dubya's disgraceful legacy tour. The quotes from the incident have often been lost in the coverage, and I think they are very important. Before throwing the first shoe, al-Zaidi yelled "this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog." The second shoe was preceded by "this is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq." Really powerful stuff.
Back when it happened, I thought (along with many others) that al-Zaidi, a respected journalist, should be considered for the Pulitzer. He took a great risk to make a strong statement against Bush, a man that is responsible for so much suffering in Iraq. He was reportedly beaten quite severely in jail. And now, thanks to a court system that the CPA through Paul "Viceroy" Bremer set up, this man has been sentenced to three years in jail. This is an absolute outrage. Sure, throwing his shoes was not exactly "appropriate", but that was the whole point. There are few things as insulting in Arab culture as throwing your shoes at someone. And his two comments...everyone knows the "dog" one. But the media never mentioned the second one. That was his raison d'etre. This war has led to a level of death in Iraq that few Americans even begin to understand. How many women lost their husbands? How many children lost both their parents? How many lives have we destroyed? Sure, it's easy to look at statistics here, and use the language of "strategy" to dehumanize the situation. Al-Zaidi couldn't really do that. Iraqis can't do that. If they're fortunate enough to be alive and fairly healthy, they get to see hell every single day. And a journalist like him, covering this continued tragedy...imagine how much carnage he's seen. Then think about the fact that the man who is most responsible for that horror comes to your country near the end of his term to tout the progress that has been made in an effort to boost his own legacy. This man whose war has devastated your country. He was there for a PR tour. He had the nerve to act triumphant. So, yeah, there was nothing more appropriate for al-Zaidi to do than throw his shoes, even though he knew the police would brutalize him. They focused on his words, not just his act, all over the Arab and Muslim world. There's a reason people consider him a hero...and it's not just some reactionary "he threw his shoes at that Bush devil" thing. No, it's because what he said, what he decided to take a stand against. He was unwilling to let Bush have his PR victory in a land he turned into hell, for all those whose lives Bush has destroyed.
And what does he get for his courage? Three years in jail. This is a travesty. He goes to jail for throwing shoes at a man who made the decision to illegally and unjustly carry out a war and occupation, based on cooked intelligence, that has made Iraqis long for the Hussein years, and that man gets to retreat to a life of luxury and set up his Freedom Institute at Southern Methodist University to basically defend his decisions as president. Perfect. This ruling is an absolute crime, and we need to stop it from happening. How? For starters, make sure people know just what happened. And don't make it a joke...so many thought it was hilarious that he threw his shoes at Bush. Yeah, it was funny, but also incredibly serious - I think it was one of the most purely honest actions against the war and occupation. So, people need to be serious about this...no, ha, no way, the shoe thrower is going to jail? This is a serious indictment against the type of system Bremer set up in Iraq, and the entire scale of justice in terms of the war. Three years for a non-violent act of opposition to the war and occupation...three years. That's incredibly unjust. Though, if his appeal is denied, and they send al-Zaidi to jail for three years for this, Iraqis in return should be allowed to try Bush and his Iraq War cabal for crimes against humanity in an Iraqi court. How's that sound?