Iraqi journalist hurls shoes at Bush
15 December, 2008
BAGHDAD: An Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes and an insult at George W Bush, without hitting him, as the US president was shaking hands with the Iraqi premier at his Baghdad office on Sunday.
As the two leaders met in Nuri al-Maliki’s private office, a journalist sitting in the third row jumped up, shouting: “It is the farewell kiss, you dog,” and threw his shoes one after the other towards Bush.
Maliki made a protective gesture towards the US president, who ducked and was not hit. The journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi from Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo, was frogmarched from the room by security staff, an AFP journalist said. Soles of shoes are considered the ultimate insult in Arab culture. After Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled in Baghdad in April 2003, many onlookers beat the statue’s face with their soles.
Some Iraqi journalists stood up to apologise. The White House said Bush ducked to avoid the first shoe, while the second narrowly missed the president.
Bush said: “Thanks for apologising on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn’t bother me. If you want the facts, it was a size 10 shoe that he threw.”
Playing down the incident, the president later added: “I don’t know what the guy’s cause is... I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.” Earlier, Bush said the American intervention in Iraq had been difficult but “necessary.”
“The work hasn’t been easy but it’s been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace,” Bush said at a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani. “I’m so grateful that I’ve had a chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends,” said Bush, on his fourth visit to Iraq since the ousting of Saddam.