When the next history of Iraq is written, the chapter on the stormy years following the U.S. invasion will be bookended by two iconic images: one of elated Iraqis in Firdos Square in 2003 raining their loafers and boots on a fallen statue of Saddam Hussein, and the other of President George W. Bush ducking flying footwear at a 2008 Baghdad press conference during the last official visit of his term. In many Eastern cultures, hurling a shoe at someone is a grave insult. Iraqi TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi's decision to fling his size 10s made him an instant hero to many, although some noted that it broke Arab rules of hospitality, not to mention the journalists' code of objectivity. But the sentiment behind the shoe leather was widely shared: Iraq may have more of a future now than it did under Saddam, but Iraqis are never going to be grateful for having been invaded. (It's unclear what will become of al-Zaidi, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will undoubtedly be more lenient than Saddam would have been.)
In the U.S. a different story is drawing to a close: one that began with Bush standing defiantly atop a heap of rubble at ground zero and started its downward spiral when he stood before an ill-advised banner reading mission accomplished. At home, the pelting of the President led to more merriment than anger. Thus the plight of his Administration in its final days: unpopular at home and unloved even by those for whom it expended American blood and treasure to free from tyranny.
Still, al-Zaidi may have done Bush a favor. In an ABC News interview the next day, the President conceded for the first time that al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq before the U.S. invasion, adding, "So what?" In another news cycle, this admission would have dominated the headlines: that after the debunking of Bush's original excuse for war--Saddam's weapons of mass destruction--his argument that Iraq was a crucial nexus in the global war on terrorism also held no water. Thanks to al-Zaidi, nobody heard the other shoe drop.
A Brief History Of: The Times Square Ball PAGE 28