A shoe: An insult and an ironic symbol of freedom

Published 8:08 am Monday, December 22, 2008

By By Jo Bonner
As you no doubt have seen on the news in recent days, a young Iraqi reporter, Muntander al-Zaidi, threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.
The president ducked to avoid the shoe, and just seconds later, Mr. Zaidi threw his other shoe, which also missed the president, striking the wall behind him.
Last week, it appeared that the shoe thrower would be facing criminal prosecution with possible charges of initiating an aggressive act against a head of a foreign state on an official visit as well as insulting the leader of a foreign nation.
Interestingly, much of Mr. Zaidi’s defense will center on his right to freedom of speech - a freedom the man he attacked helped secure.
While pundit after pundit is attempting to make sense of the incident and compare the incident to Iraqis throwing their shoes at the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein, the incident is a clear sign of the success earned by America and her allies in Iraq.
Consider for a moment what this man’s sentence would have been had he done something similar during the reign of Saddam Hussein?
I can guarantee that he would not be working with a team of attorneys ironing out his defense strategy. Most certainly, Mr. Zaidi would have been put to death by Saddam Hussein, a tortured, cruel death.
Although much of the mainstream media has largely chosen to ignore the successes in Iraq, much has been accomplished.
In fact, President Bush was in Iraq for the signing of two historic agreements between the United States and the government of Iraq.
The agreements, a Strategic Framework Agreement, which covers our political, economic and security relationship with Iraq, and the Status of Forces Agreement, which implements our security relationship, are the result of the hard work of our troops.
We are continuing to transition security responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces, allowing military commanders to move U.S. combat forces out of major populated areas so that they will be out of those areas by June 30, 2009.
In fact, the Status of Forces Agreement sets December 31, 2011, as the date for all U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq.
These dates were based on the success of the troop surge over the past two years. The extraordinary efforts of our military men and women will allow U.S. forces to reduce their presence without sacrificing the security gains achieved by the surge.
Security incidents in Iraq remain at their lowest since early 2004. Due to these sustained security gains, all five surge brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, a Marine Expeditionary Unit, and many of our coalition partners have been able to leave Iraq and return home.
Additionally, the Iraqi government has taken over reconstruction and caring for its people. Since 2003, the government of Iraq has appropriated $85 billion for reconstruction and security. The United States has not appropriated any funds for major reconstruction since 2005.
The successes in Iraq are undeniable. For what our troops have achieved in Iraq - the freedom of 25 million Iraqis from the tyrannical Saddam Hussein - was never as obvious as when a reporter chose to throw his shoe at our president.
Happy Holidays
As we celebrate this special time of the year - and look forward to the promises of the coming New Year - allow me to extend my wishes and those of my family and staff to all of you for a very happy and safe holiday season.
As 2008 draws to a close, let me once again tell you how truly honored I am to have completed another term in office as your voice in Congress, and I look forward to continuing to work for each of you in the 111th Congress.
As I have said many times, whether it is a problem you are having with your Social Security or veterans benefits, or you simply have a question about legislation pending before the Congress, we are just a phone call away.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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