Saturday, January 3, 2009

So What?

*Another yearender epistle, actually bits and pieces from two succeeding columns.

It may have been asking too much of US President George W. Bush to hope that two missed shoe-throws at him would prompt a more introspective insight into the hellish debacle he has wrought in Iraq.
Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi committed the deed during what should have been a triumphant Bush victory lap in Iraq. For his gesture, and for calling the American President a dog, al-Zaidi got tortured into apologizing. Given the human rights record in the so-called Green Zone, he’s probably lucky.
The journalist, who has spurred arguments among peers, Muslim or otherwise, may have taken the wrong tack in reminding Bush of the repercussions of his actions in the aftermath of 9/11.
In the context of the times, it was like insisting on a debate with a schoolyard bully whose idea of resolving conflicts is a fist smashed against a face or, better yet, several fists while cohorts hold a victim helpless on the ground. But anything more vigorous could have ended in a spray of bullets and upped the casualty quotient in that part of the world. (I don’t agree with his action; I’d rather reporters report. But he also represents the perpetual dilemma of a journalist: How neutral is neutral when one’s country is going up in flames and the wails of the damned echo night and day?)
In another important sense --that is, if he truly wished a sudden conversion for Bush -- al-Zaidi failed in his mission.
Bush’s response was limited to a quip about the journalist’s shoe size. His forehead crinkling in the manner of the “Mad” magazine guy, Bush gave the verbal equivalent of a finger flip. What was the tantrum all about? he asked reporters.
That is typical of Bush’s rather fragile hold on reality and his perversely unique take on the responsibilities of the US Commander in Chief. For example, Bush likes to claim his invasion of Iraq led to the dismantling of al Qaeda in Iraq. In an interview with ABC News after the show-throwing incident, when reminded by journalist Martha Raddatz that Iraq didn’t have an al Qaeda presence until he invaded the country, the US President replied: “Yeah, that’s right. So what?”
A President who can make light about a) the lies he peddled his people to bully Congress into approving a war, and b) his approving the use of torture (though he doesn’t call it that) for perceived political enemies, will certainly not be impressed by a references to widows and children.
Bush never got the underlying threat of the journalist’s symbolic gesture. But some sectors of the US government are having nightmares imagining a hostile world that takes up shoes against Americans.
There’s very much likelihood for those kinds of antics as there is a potential for the gesture – a joke now in the West – to morph into a more sinister campaign.
Like any other act of desperation by the weak, show-throwing will probably target the innocents. That is, until the madmen in charge of the martyr assemblylines discover the merits of provoking a murderous response from tense soldiers who snap at a hail of leather and canvass.
Bizarre, right? But that’s exactly what to expect as a legacy of Bush’s world. Enemies will always lurk in the bushes. But with Chief Executives like Dubya, you actually open the gates for them bad guys.
We close the year with a prayer for those young American troops in hostile lands. May they have the grace and the humility and wisdom to not press the trigger when resentful hosts start throwing shoes at the US’ imperial soldiers.

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