President George W. Bush learned quite a few dance steps in the first months of 2008. In January, Bush danced with sword in hand among royalty in Saudi Arabia. He danced on stage in Liberia in February. In March, Bush showed a few moves at The White House. Finally, a New Orleans jazz band provided music for Bush’s April dancing demonstration.
But, according to BBC, the 54th President really got down this past Sunday afternoon in Baghdad.
Early in his visit, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani referred to Bush as “a great friend for the Iraqi people, who helped us liberate our country.”
Obviously, everyone was not thrilled with Bush’s visit, which was meant to expand upon last month’s signing of a security agreement calling for U.S. troops to leave Iraq in 2011.
While holding a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, one journalist rose up and yelled, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog,” before firing a shoe toward Bush.
Not only did the President duck just in time to avoid the object, but he did so again moments later after the journalist let loose of his other shoe. His reputed verbal message this time was “This is for the widows and orphans, and all those killed in Iraq!”
Now, just five weeks until the end of his presidency, Bush should be quite familiar with the shoe symbolism of the Arab culture…and that being shown the sole of a shoe is not an endearing display, but a serious show of contempt.
Following the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue on April 9, 2003, countless Iraqi citizens proceeded to hurl shoes at the statue and also used them to repeatedly beat the statue.
Sunday’s emotional scene was perpetuated by Muntadar al-Zaidi. He is reported to be a correspondent for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya Television. Al-Zaidi was immediately wrestled to the ground by security officials, and removed from the scene.
While still at the podium alongside Maliki, Bush was asked about the incident by a nearby reporter.
“It was one way to gain attention,” Bush said. “…It’s like driving down the street and have people not gesturing with all five fingers.”
Bush later said that this was indeed “one of the weirdest moments” of his presidency. Rarely avoiding a quip, Bush also added, “If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe he threw!”
Saturday night, Bush had left Washington on the secret 11-hour flight. Air Force One had landed at Baghdad International Airport for the surprise visit. It is obvious from the press conference that not everyone was willing to greet Bush with mere traditional party favors! And they were probably not meant to be dancing shoes, either!
Sources: http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2008/s2446149.htm; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7783608.stm