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Throwing shoes, licking boots and other matters

Being President Bush has always been problematic. His first term began with a voting machine glitch, which led to a huge controversy with his detractors even challenging the validity of his election. Then Al Qaeda came home to roost with a bang bringing down as it did the Twin Towers. His ill-conceived bull-in-a-china-shop reaction characterised by showmanship landed the US in a military imbroglio in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan.

President Bush may have heaved a sigh of relief in 2003, when the Iraqi people beat with their shoes a statue of the ousted President Saddam Hussein, who was hunted down and hanged. With the execution of the monster, he may have thought everything would be hunky-dory for him and the US.

But, President Bush was in for a rude shock from an unexpected quarter in Iraq on Sunday. He found two shoes fly towards his balding pate at a press conference. He was quick enough to duck the leather projectiles and laughed off the incident later with a joke: "All I can report is that it's a size 10."

The shoe owner concerned, Muntadar al-Zeidi working for a Bagdad-based TV station brought his profession into disrepute and ceased to be a journalist upon hurling his first shoe at President Bush.

But, reflected in his deplorable action was the pent up resentment of the Iraqi people opposing the occupation forces and their dastardly, if not criminal, excesses. Before the invasion of Iraq, it may be recalled, some Iraqi hardliners had promised to make a dog of Bush, dog being an animal hated in that part of the world.

Dog lovers may not be offended by that kind of remark. Instead, they may wish all political leaders were like dogs. For, the dog is man's best friend and has no history of betrayal or treachery. Not even all the gold (or black gold) in the world will make it switch its allegiance. So, President Bush being a dog lover himself may not have minded being called a dog on Sunday. Flying footwear was the only problem!

Security guards lost no time in wrestling the suspect to the ground and whisking him away. Until yesterday evening nothing was heard of him. One may wonder why Muntadar was ever arrested. No one was hurt in the attack and President Bush himself shrugged off the attack saying that he 'did not feel the least bit threatened by it'.

Cynics may say the US and its puppet administration in Iraq ought to take a leaf out of Sri Lanka's book in handling such situations. In this country, it is not shoes but bombs and bullets that political leaders face.

President Ranasinghe Premadasa was blown to smithereens in 1993 and President Chandrika Kumaratunga escaped death by the skin of her teeth in a suicide bomb blast in 1999. One year after the assassination of the former, the latter offered his killer, Prabhakaran, the entire Northern Province sans elections for a period of ten years! That is how Sri Lanka treats those who harm its leaders!

Prabhakaran thought he deserved more than a province for the crimes he had been committing and therefore turned down President Kumaratunga's generous offer contemptuously. In spite of his abortive attempt on President Kumaratunga’s life in 1999, the US-led Co-Chairs pressured Sri Lanka to grant him a federal state so that he could reign supreme therein. When Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was assassinated, the international community wanted the Sri Lankan government to honour the CFA with his killers.

(Earlier in 1987, this country had been gentle with two suspects, Ajith Kumara and Wijithamuni Rohana despite their effort to account for two heads of state. The former tried to assassinate Sri Lanka President J. R. Jayewardene by lobbing a grenade in Parliament and the other, an honour guardsman almost succeeded in smashing the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's head with a rifle butt in protest against the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. Both of them who deserved to be behind bars for the rest of their lives walked to freedom later on and even became heroes to some crackpots!)

Muntadar's shoe attack has given rise to a serious ethical question. No, it is not whether what he did as a journalist was right or wrong. That his action was reprehensibly wrong is obvious to even a tyke, as was said earlier. Instead, the question is: Is bootlicking by journalists any better than shoe-throwing? In 2002, at Prabhakaran's press conference a section of the media reduced themselves to the level of cheer leaders by clapping and whistling like a bunch of school boys to appease the terror mastermind whenever he played to the gallery. There are many other journalists who are cozying up to terrorists and their financiers and shamelessly carrying out their propaganda for a mess of pottage. Those calculating terror backers in the garb of scribes are, we reckon, worse than Muntadar and those of his ilk who let their uncontrollable desires get the better of reason in public.

Back to Iraq, Sunday's incident bears testimony to the failure of the US policy towards Iraq despite the elimination of Saddam and the forcible regime change. The Bush administration is on its last legs and President-elect Barack Obama will be inducted in a month or so. Now that the outgoing President Bush has got a shoe attack by way of a 'farewell kiss', it will be interesting to see what lies in store for Obama in Iraq.

Will it be flowers or shoes?

Obama has vowed to withdraw troops from Iraq but many a pair of shoes is worn out between saying and doing, it is said. If he honours his promise, he will, no doubt, receive bouquets from Iraqis. But, what will he get from the oil Mafiosi for a pullout which will certainly militate against their interests that President Bush sought to further by going to war in Iraq.

Will it be something worse than flying shoes?

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