Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig, where this article originally appeared. His latest book is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America(Twelve).
They hate us for our shoes. Somewhere in what passes for the deeper regions of President Bush’s mind might come that reassuring giggle of a thought as he once again rationalizes away Iraqi ingratitude for the benevolence he has bestowed upon them. Ever at peace with himself, despite many obvious reasons not to be, Bush quipped, “I didn’t know what the guy said but I saw his sole.” But the lame jokes no longer work.
The shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist is now a venerated celebrity throughout the Mideast, and his words to the president–“this is the farewell kiss, you dog”–will stand as the enduring epitaph in the region on Bush’s folly, which is the reality of his claimed legacy of success in the war on terror. That and the Iraqi’s devastating follow-up as he threw his second shoe, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,” a reminder that we have used much deadlier force than a shoe in the shock-and-awe invasion once celebrated in the American media as a means of building respect for democracy.
This was more than a presidential photo op gone wildly awry. One might suspect that the weekend event was designed originally to draw attention from the Friday release of the long-awaited Senate Armed Services Committee’s report on Bush’s torture policy. The report unanimously concluded that it was the White House and not a few bad apples that “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” The report, endorsed by all Republican senators on the committee, including ranking minority member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cited former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora’s testimony that “the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq–as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat–are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”