I put it up as today's YGST post, but this deserves some left-column attention on this site. If you haven't seen it yet, this is video of an Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, throwing his shoes at Bush. That's the biggest insult, evidently, in the Arab world.
The New York Times is reporting on the consequences that al-Zaidi will be facing.
He's a reporter with the Cairo-based al-Baghdadia newspaper, which hasn't issued an apology as of yet for his act of protest. Instead, al-Zaidi is being seen as a hero:
Opponents of the continued American presence in Iraq turned Mr. Zaidi's detention Monday into a rallying cry. Support for the detained journalist crossed religious, ethnic and class lines in Iraq -- vaulting him to near folk hero status.[...]
In Sadr City, thousands of marchers on Monday called for an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. The demonstrators burned American flags and waved shoes attached to long poles in a show of support for Mr. Zaidi.
In Najaf, several hundred people gathered on a central square to protest President Bush's Sunday visit to Iraq, and demonstrators threw their shoes at a passing American military convoy.
He faces up to 7 years of prison, as well as brutality in the hands of police:
Witnesses said that Mr. Zaidi had been severely beaten by security officers on Sunday after being tackled at the press conference and dragged out. One of his brothers, Maythem al-Zaidi, said Monday that the family had not heard from Mr. Zaidi since his arrest, and that a security officer who picked up Mr. Zaidi's cellphone at midnight on Sunday had threatened the family.
As I mentioned this morning, lying to the world about how another nation is going to kill everyone, invading a country on the basis that your culture and military are superior, imposing your government while cleansing the government of a certain party to steal the country's biggest exportable natural resource, selling the act of reconstruction to incompetent boobs, and killing nearly a million people and displacing at least three million more all while smiling smugly all turned out to be faux pas in the Arab world. Although it isn't Bush's fault; he slept through the "Introduction to Iraqi Culture" briefing.
But I don't predict much good will come out of this for al-Zaidi. Last Thursday, as Glenn Greenwald posted about, a bipartisan Senate report was released, after a bipartisan commission studied the Bush administration's hand in various torture programs, that found that torture over the past 8 years started at the highest level of the administration: the president. He, in 2002, authorized wrote a memo that led to (their words) "erosion of detainee treatment standards." And it's been much more than just a memo that ties him; his entire administration's line on law-breaking has been that they were completely justified because they (a) hired a team of lawyers to tell them that it was OK and (b) everyone was really, really scared of terrorism.
While low-level folks have been prosecuted, Bush and others in the administration are apparently immune from legal consequences. All of this has been used throughout the Middle East and Central Asia to recruit against us, and no doubt played a significant role in al-Zaidi's anger and willingness to put his career (definitely), his freedom (probably), and his life (possibly) on the line.
This situation is pretty messed up when examined closely, but that won't stop the chorus-line of establishment folks collectively gasping at al-Zaidi's barbaric, violent act. But in terms of scale, it doesn't compare at all to Bush's. And even when it comes to al-Zaidi himself, it probably won't compare to what Iraqi security forces, armed with whatever legal reasoning was imported from the US military and the Bush administration, have in store for him.