Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush endorses anti-war candidate for US presidency

Muntazer Al Zaidi, the Iraqi hero, believes Senator Mike Gravel can change Washington’s policies in the region

Muntazer Al Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former US President George Bush. Courtesy of Muntazer Al Zaidi. 
Muntazer Al Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former US President George Bush. Courtesy of Muntazer Al Zaidi. 

The Iraqi journalist who sparked international attention a decade ago after throwing his shoes at former US president George Bush has endorsed an anti-war candidate for running for the presidency.

After the US-led invasion in 2003 that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, Muntazer Al Zaidi, a 39-year-old Iraqi journalist, promised those affected by the war that should he get the opportunity, he would seek compensation for their loss.

The chance came at a news conference, when Mr Al Zaidi threw both of his shoes at Mr Bush and called him “a dog”, two of the worst insults in the Middle East.

“It was a farewell kiss to the man who invaded my country,” he said. The journalist called the shoe throwing “a traditional insult in Arab culture”. The message of the act is the targeted person holds a status below that of shoes.

The Iraqi journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, taken to the ground after throwing his shoes at then US president George W Bush, on Dec 14 2008.
The Iraqi journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, taken to the ground after throwing his shoes at then US president George W Bush, on Dec 14 2008.

Mr Al Zaidi made a comeback into American politics by announcing his support for Senator Mike Gravel for his strong anti-war stance.

“I told [Senator Gravel] if he pledges to change the White House’s policies towards Iraq and the Middle East, in terms of re-calculating the presence of US troops in Iraq and compensating all Iraqis for the suffering they endured after George Bush occupied Iraq, then he would have my endorsement,” Mr Al Zaidi told The National.

“I believe that Senator Mike Gravel is able to implement these changes,” if elected as president, said Mr Al Zaidi.

The 89-year-old is powering his electoral campaign for the White House, with the intention of gaining entry into the Democratic debates, by using Twitter to critique Washington’s military intervention, capitalism and former vice president Joe Biden.

Mr Al Zaidi said the senator responded to his endorsement by suggesting he could grant him a US citizenship but he turned the offer down.

“I thanked the senator and told him that I carry, in my opinion, the greatest citizenship in the world,” he said.

After being sent Senator Gravel’s platform – in which he calls for the withdrawal of American forces from foreign theatres – Mr Al Zaidi expressed his wishes “for your success in the elections”, said a press statement from the senator’s office.

“Mr Al Zaidi’s action is a symbol of the Iraqi people’s resilience and pride,” Senator Gravel’s press secretary, Marlon Ettinger, said.

“We’re honoured to have his support. As we try to qualify for the July debates, we can not be prouder of this campaign’s ally in Baghdad.”

Mr Gravel's run for office was motivated by two teens from upstate New York, David Oks and Henry Williams.

They urged him to run in the 2020 primary in order to push the foreign policy debate to the left.

“I gave them my Twitter account, which I never used. I was very impressed with them,” said Mr Gravel. “If they can get me in the debates, I’ll go. They’re doing all the work.”

Updated: June 11, 2019 10:01 AM

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