x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

When the shoe fits

In a war that has been punctuated by iconic moments, the shoe will be the symbol that most likely endures longest in connecting George Bush to Iraq. In 2003, the sight of a statue of Saddam Hussein being assaulted with footwear highlighted the moment in which, at Mr Bush's instigation Saddam's regime had visibly lost power. In 2008, the sight of the US president ducking to avoid flying shoes conveyed the eagerness among many Iraqis to witness Mr Bush's exit from power.

In a war that has been punctuated by iconic moments, the shoe will be the symbol that most likely endures longest in connecting George Bush to Iraq. In 2003, the sight of a statue of Saddam Hussein being assaulted with footwear highlighted the moment in which, at Mr Bush's instigation Saddam's regime had visibly lost power. In 2008, the sight of the US president ducking to avoid flying shoes conveyed the eagerness among many Iraqis to witness Mr Bush's exit from power. While Muntader al-Zaidi may have been simply been venting a spontaneous outburst of anger as he hurled both his shoes at the president of the United States of America, his act of defiance struck a chord with many Iraqis along with fellow Arabs across the region. As Hazim Edress, a resident of Mosul, told The New York Times: "He has done what the whole world could not." The Associated Press reported: "A day after the attack, al-Zaidi's three brothers and one sister gathered in al-Zaidi's simple, one-bedroom apartment in west Baghdad. The home was decorated with a poster of Latin American revolutionary leader Che Guevara, who is widely lionized in the Middle East. "Family members expressed bewilderment over al-Zaidi's action and concern about his treatment in Iraqi custody. But they also expressed pride over his defiance of an American president who many Iraqis believe has destroyed their country. " 'I swear to Allah, he is a hero,' said his sister, who goes by the nickname Umm Firas, as she watched a replay of her brother's attack on an Arabic satellite station. 'May Allah protect him.' "The family insisted that al-Zaidi's action was spontaneous - perhaps motivated by the political turmoil that their brother had reported on, plus his personal brushes with violence and the threat of death that millions of Iraqis face daily." Likewise, The New York Times said: "Maythem al-Zaidi said his brother had not planned to throw his shoes prior to Sunday. 'He was provoked when Mr Bush said [during the news conference] this is his farewell gift to the Iraqi people,' he said." AFP reported: "An Iraqi lawyer said Zaidi risked a miminum of two years in prison if he is prosecuted for insulting a visiting head of state, but could face a 15-year term if he is charged with attempted murder. "In Cairo, Muzhir al-Khafaji, programming director for the television channel, described Zaidi as a 'proud Arab and an open-minded man.' " 'We fear for his safety,' he told AFP, adding that Zaidi had been arrested twice before by the Americans. " 'We fear that our correspondents in in Iraq will be arrested. We have 200 correspondents there.' "Khafaji said Zaidi is a 28-year-old graduate of communications from Baghdad University who had worked for the station for three years. " 'He has no ties with the former regime. His family was arrested under Saddam's regime.' " From Beirut, the Xinhua news agency reported that Hizbollah said in a statement that Mr Zaidi "should be treated like a hero who refused aggressions by the occupation against his people." The Lebanese group called on all Arab media to campaign for the Iraqi journalist's release. Hizbollah described Mr Zaidi's action as a "farwell kiss on behalf of the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." The New York Times garnered the opinions of Iraqis from several major cities. Saeed Shakir al-Sayyd, a 40-year-old teacher in Baquba, said: "Freedom and democracy should be explained in a correct way. I think what Muntader al-Zaidi did is incorrect and not professional... He's a journalist and deals with the language of words and not throwing the shoes and cursing. This man was wrong." Nawal Jaafer, 30, said: "Yes, we all hate American because it destroyed Iraq and distributed the riot and sectarianism among its people. I think what al-Zaidi did is a real expression on what's hidden in the hearts of the Iraqis." Karim Muan al-Qaisi, a 50-year-old merchant, said: "Despite my hatred of Bush, he's a president for a big country and a guest for the Iraqi government. And we are as easterners think insulting the guest is an insult for the host. Despite our hatred to the guest there should be respect and diplomacy." Mohamed al-Hili, a 35-year-old policeman in Baghdad, said: "I am happy for what happened because that will reflect how we do not like Bush. And our government has a different attitude and belief than ours. And I'd like to add that Mr Muntader is a hero and he must be our president or at least PM. We need to replace al-Maliki with the real Iraqi - Mr Muntader." "Mohammad Ismaeil, a reporter in Diwaniya, said: "What happened is a shame, and it was because there is not a law governing press and media in Iraq." Jasim Mohammed, a 24-year-old laborer in Mosul, said: "Muntader's action got back the Iraqi dignity. He got back part of our gravity. God bless you Muntader. We are demanding the Iraqi forces to release him." Ahmad Sameer, a 22-year-old student, said: "It was the moment of the age because Bush will never forget it and it was a reminder to Bush about his wars and causalities in Iraq, but in an Iraqi way." Writing for UPI, Martin Sieff noted: "At least 300,000 Iraqis died violently in the war to topple Saddam, the chaos of Bush's bungled occupation policies, and the fierce Sunni Muslim insurgency and civil war that followed. Some estimates go well above a half-million. A total of 300,000 Iraqis died during the 24 years of Saddam's dictatorship - a death rate only one-quarter as bad as the one that occurred under Bush's occupation and policies." Khaled Diab said in The Guardian: "If President Bush believes in any of his own rhetoric, he should join the chorus of voices calling for the journalist's immediate release."

After the arrest of Wall Street trader Bernard L Madoff, who is accused of defrauding investors of $50 billion, several major European banks along with a number of prominent Jewish philanthropic organisations, a charitable trust of real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman, the foundation of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, and a charity of movie director Steven Spielberg, all face substantial loses. Yet as The New York Times noted: "a question still dominates the investigation: how one person could have pulled off such a far-reaching, long-running fraud, carrying out all the simple practical chores the scheme required, like producing monthly statements, annual tax statements, trade confirmations and bank transfers. "Firms managing money on Mr Madoff's scale would typically have hundreds of people involved in these administrative tasks. Prosecutors say he claims to have acted entirely alone. " 'Our task is to find the records and follow the money,' said Alexander Vasilescu, a lawyer in the New York office of the Securities and Exchange Commission. As of Sunday night, he said, investigators could not shed much light on the fraud or its scale. 'We do not dispute his number - we just have not calculated how he made it,' he said." In BusinessWeek, Michael Mandel considered some of the wider implications of the case. "Painfully, the allegations of fraud surrounding the Madoff affair are also exposing the fundamental fallacy of the global economy. Like Madoff's trusting investors, the rest of the world was willing to assume that the US economy as a whole was a low-risk, good-return investment. This belief drove the entire structure of global trade and finance for the past 10 years. And when the subprime crisis showed this assumption of low risk to be false, the financial crisis resulted."

pwoodward@thenational.ae