A friend writes:
Via MEMRI, the Iraqi journalist cum shoe hurler Muntazer al-Zaidi reveals that he handed his ring to a photographer at the Bush press conference in Baghdad before his first tossed shoe because he thought it was likely he would become a martyr – i.e., be killed – for his act. But in the George Bush-inspired, post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, martyrdom was not to be. He served nine months in prison and exited a hero throughout the Arab world. I’d venture to say that Muntazer didn’t use his time in prison to reflect on the changes wrought in Iraq, as he continues to curse America and its role there. Can anyone doubt what would have befallen Muntazer – a Shi’ite – had he tossed his shoes at Saddam or at an esteemed guest of Saddam’s prior to the U.S. invasion? That Muntazer and the other civil-disobedient Muntazers in Iraq don’t make the connection between the invasion and the transformation of their civil liberties is equal parts a failure of our public diplomacy and the puerile rage that animates the Arab world.
Also noteworthy in Muntazer’s interview is his take on the transformation in US-Iraqi relations spearheaded by President Obama: None. While his comments confirm recent Pew polls on the utter failure of the President’s outstretched hand and focus on the Islamic world in changing Muslim attitudes towards the US, Muntazer sees Presidents Bush and Obama as essentially indistinguishable. Muntazer’s outrageous characterization of President Obama (“Away goes a white dog, and along comes a black dog. They are the same, except for the color. Away goes a white U.S. president, and along comes a black president. They are no different.”) suggests that President Bush may have better understood the pathology of the Arab world than does President Obama.
A long period of democracy, free speech and the marketplace of ideas will do more to transform the next generation of Muntazers and the Arab world than any other cure – and it is George Bush that tomorrow’s Muntazers will have to thank for that.