Bush Iraq Trip: Hit by Shoes, Cheered by Troops

President Bush made a surprise farewell visit to Iraq and Afghanistan, suffering the indignity of having an Iraqi journalist hurl his shoes at him but being greeted warmly by American troops.

Sudarsan Raghavan and Dan Eggen for WaPo:

In Iraq, Bush said the conflict “has not been easy” but was necessary for U.S. security, Iraqi stability and “world peace.” He hailed a recently signed but still controversial security pact as a sign of impending victory. “There is still more work to be done. The war is not over,” Bush said, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki next to him. “But with the conclusion of this agreement . . . it is decidedly on its way to being won.”

Just after Bush finished his remarks and said “Thank you” in Arabic, an Iraqi journalist took off his shoes and threw them at Bush, one after the other. Throwing a shoe at someone is considered the worst possible insult in Iraq and is meant to show extreme disrespect and contempt. When U.S. forces helped topple a statue of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein after rolling into Baghdad in April 2003, jubilant Iraqis beat the statue’s face with their shoes.

[…]

Bush was not injured and joked about the incident minutes later: “If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw. Thank you for your concern; do not worry about it.”

He fared a bit better in his visit to the 18th Airborne Corps (via Jim Hoft):

It’s an odd juxtaposition. The shoe thrower, “identified as Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with the Cairo-based al-Baghdadia television network” was, according to colleagues, “kidnapped by Shiite militiamen last year and later released.” His resentment over the war, then, is understandable; the degree to which it’s representative of Iraqi public opinion is unclear.

American troops, especially those deployed into a hostile fire zone, are going to be thrilled to see their commander-in-chief and their enthusiasm is to be expected. Their unanimity is also, of course, a function of the chain of command, so one shouldn’t read too much into their vote of approval.

It’ll be interesting to see which attitude is more prevalent, say, ten years from now. While falling far short of its original objectives of creating a shining Arab democracy that would create a chain reaction throughout the region, we’re on a path to pull back much of our troop presence and turn security over to the Iraqis. It’s not inconceivable that Bush will be considered a heroic figure at some point in time, despite an invasion which spawned a bloody conflict.

It’s much less likely that Bush’s image will be rehabilitated at home. It’s quite likely that, contrary to what most of us expected even a few months ago, that Iraq will be a footnote to his legacy and the financial crisis — which happened on his watch even if it’s not his fault — will be what he’s remembered for.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. caj says:

    Although I do not rate Bush as a good President at all, the throwing of the shoes was rather shameful on the part of that reporter.
    I know that is the Iraqi way of showing disdain for anyone they don’t like, but none the less Bush is the President of the US and that was uncalled for.

  2. John says:

    “…so one shouldn’t read too much into their vote of approval.”

    I’m not sure why you are dismissing the fondness those in the miliarty have for our CINC. As one who started serving before Clinton and continues to serve, I can say that Bush’s predecessor would not have received the same welcome.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    His resentment over the war, then, is understandable; the degree to which it’s representative of Iraqi public opinion is unclear.

    Considering that Bush still had to make his plans in secret and didn’t announce this trip, I’d say it’s clear what the state of Iraqi public opinion is…

  4. odograph says:

    Heh, “It’s not inconceivable” was a faint claim .. to see it followed by “It’s much less likely that Bush’s image will be rehabilitated at home.” Ouch!

  5. Houston says:

    There are more statues and monuments to Ronald Reagan in Eastern Europe than there are in the United States.

    I think we can expect the same trend for Bush in the future.

  6. tom p says:

    What I wonder is, where was the Secret Service? Were they so out of position that they were unable to protect the President from the 2nd shoe?
    The POTUS had just been assaulted… Shouldn’t they have been at the Presidents side immediately?

    I’ll bet heads are going to roll.

  7. anjin-san says:

    I think we can expect the same trend for Bush in the future.

    Should be interesting, statues can’t duck…

  8. ggjr says:

    Also not a huge fan of Bush’s policies, but I thought he handled the shoe throwing pretty well. Not so sure that was true about the secret service letting that second shoe fly.

  9. Franklin says:

    Huh? I thought we were going to be greeted as liberators. Apparently the journalist didn’t get the memo.

  10. raoul says:

    The unfolding economic disaster has many parents but I would say the republicanism form of governance which Bush subcribed to and implemented is the main reason.

  11. Kathy Brisky says:

    He looks like he is a professional shoe ducker! My mom used to throw her shoes at us because she could hit us without getting up. I wonder if the guy will be in jail the rest of his life.

  12. SavageView says:

    Perhaps this guy can co-author a book with “Joe” the “Plumber” on how 15 minutes of fame can change a life.

  13. Drew says:

    That’s a really good Iraqi disguise Keith Olberman used.

  14. Triumph says:

    He looks like he is a professional shoe ducker!

    Yeah, that was a pretty impressive move. I’m sure he has been practicing it since he usually has to sit next to poster-boy-for-gun-safety, Cheney, in cabinet meetings.

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    Well the punk sure dint toss any shoes at old Saddam, he still alive and has hands.

    al-Baghdadia, lol, wtf.

  16. un globito says:

    i think that president bush should have gotten a box of dildos thrown at him. just so he knows how it feels to get screwed.

    un globito