Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Shoe...

The Bush vs. Shoe incident in Iraq led me to check some Iraq blog feeds that I haven't read in a long while. The demonstrations in the streets of some cities yesterday in support of the journalist are telling. The more reserved "This was impolite, Bush was a guest" responses are also interesting.

The NY Times had a blog detailing reactions from various cities.

Inside Iraq, a McClatchy Newspapers blog hosted on the Washington Post's website, has a couple posts relating the "man on the street's view," (the authors are all Iraqi).

"Oh my God! It was astounding! I couldn't believe my eyes! I don't know whether I would call him a hero, but he certainly did what no one else has dared to do: He stood up strait and told the whole world his opinion about this shameful occupation. They may hurt him, behind closed doors – they may even kill him – but they can never take back that shoe. In history, Bush's term ends with flying "shoes"."

Iraqis are clearly amused; Americans are probably just confused. But Americans have had their head in the sand for a while. A new 513 page Federal report on the Iraq reconstruction, and its many blunders, began circulating last weekend. The summaries of the report I've read say: "Failure." We were lied to going into it, we were lied to all through the reconstruction-- how much money was being spent, how big the Iraqi police forces were, how quickly utilities were coming back online, etc.

I was also struck by an ABC interview with Dick Cheney last night that showed just how much power he had in making decisions (and Bush seemingly so little). Other recent reports about the White House approving CIA interrogation methods through secret memos seem to indicate that Bush was rarely present when decisions were made:

"In interviews, the officials recounted a series of private briefings about the program with members of the administration's security team, including Rice and Cheney, followed by more formal meetings before a larger group including then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. None of the officials recalled President Bush being present at any of the discussions."

(The implication here is that people are covering for him so that he can't be prosecuted for decisions he didn't make, but maybe he really just wasn't party to some of the discussions).

Bush's "so what?" answers about Al Qaeda not existing in Iraq before the invasion (CBS last night) would have been "shocking" 2 years ago, but now we're just tired of hearing it. Will history really reflect more favorably upon Mr. Bush than our current complacency does?

Our leaders are laughing off the incident or saying "what a great example of freedom and democracy!" I think the incident shows that Iraqis have been asking "what price, freedom?"

Iraqis are still dying by the hundreds every month. There is still a lot of ethnic fighting and the government may not be functional for very long. Infrastructure is still slowly being rebuilt, and being blown up at the same time. It seems that many Iraqis have felt they haven't had a good voice to complain, which is why the journalist who chucked his shoes is being hailed as a "hero" by many.

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