City of Brass

To be honest I find this rather insulting and pathetic:

An Iraqi reporter set off pandemonium Sunday by hurling two shoes atPresident Bush during a news conference that was the centerpiece of hissecret good-bye visit.

Bush was cool under fire and prevented an even bigger incident bywaving off his lead Secret Service agent, who was prepared to extracthim from the room.

The president successfully ducked both throws. Photos show him withhis head down near the top of the podium.  The embarrassing incidentmarred a visit meant to show off the improved conditions since thetroop “surge” dramatically reduced casualties to U.S. troops.

“This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog,”the journalist shouted, Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times reportedin a pool report to the White House press corps.

Myers reported that the man threw the second shoe and added: “This isfrom the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

Now, I’m not one to suggest that the Iraq War was a good idea, or that Iraqis should be grateful to Bush for any reason. The United States toppled Saddam, but also turned Iraq into a cauldron of violence, and in so doing made ourselves less safe as well. Further, President Bush is ultimately the man who made the call to go after Iraq instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan, so blaming him for present Iraqi misery is fair.

However, all of that said, it is also true that the Iraq War did put Iraq on a very different trajectory fro the dictatorial stasis it was locked into. Alone of the Arab states, it now has an opportunity (though not a guarantee) to evolve towards a truly republican mode of government. It may yet fail, but the potential is there. Even Egypt, the next most “free” Arab nation, is still fundamentally a (sometimes) benevolent autocracy, with political power embedded in the Mubarak dynasty. In Iraq, there are still strongmen and corruption and all sorts of bad things, but now for the first time in a long time, the Iraqi people have a say. It’s up to them what they make of it. If they are so blinded by hate of Bush that they do not see the meaningful difference – that there is, for the first time, hope – then they will forfeit that opportunity and return to stasis. I hope that Iraqis are not as cynical as that, for their sake and ours.

And, frankly, throwing a shoe at a visiting head of state is just rude. No one could have dared do such a thing under Saddam; at least journalists are free to register their discontent. But doing so in this manner was unprofessional and childish.

UPDATE – here’s video of the incident:

Related – I have a series of posts at Nation-Building blog about withdrawal from Iraq, including my main argument about the blood cost of doing so, . Also relevant is the CSIS paper by Anthony Cordesman, “The tenuous case for strategic patience in Iraq” (PDF).

There’s an interesting discussion at Talk Islam about the basic difference in message tone between Christian evangelists trying to convert muslims and Islam’s appeal to potential converts who are presently Christian. In a nutshell, I invoke the Mac vs PC argument.

In response to this angry blogger’s accusation that muslims voted in favor of California’s Proposition 8 (which outlawed gay marriage), I’ve put up a post at Progressive Revival, Beliefnet’s group politics blog, which asks where the evidence is. It should be noted that Mormons were instrumental in the bill’s defeat, but muslims are not as centrally organized as Mormons are, so I think that even if there were a general muslim conservative antipathy towards homosexual marriage, it wouldn’t have made as much of an impact as the Mormons’ systematic campaign. As my post at PR blog notes, the issue was more a generational one (for Blacks and Latinos, anyway). Without any exit polling about Prop 8 that addressed voters’ religion, however, it’s impossible to say for sure one way or another. 

This is hilarious:

That’s very promising! Progress should be incremental. And the mullahs are always trying to encourage people to grow their beards, anyway…