As I was channel surfing between football games Sunday, unhappy that my team, the Giants, were losing, I came across a CNN newsclip and burst out laughing hysterically. Somebody was throwing his shoes at a ducking Bush. Bush looked like a straight man in a very funny comedy skit. It seemed the the incident was at a Bagdad news conference and the shoe thrower was a young Iraqi television journalist. The CNN reporters then gravely explained that shoe throwing in Arabic speaking countries is a deep insult (not to mention a threat to the throwee) because it signifies that the individual is as low as the dirt on one's shoe. I kept on laughing as they showed the incident over and over again, comedy relief from a disastrous occupation.
The story today is that the shoe thrower is becoming a transnational hero in Arabic speaking countries, although he is in jail and may face up to seven years in prison for an attack on a head of state. I am sure his station's ratings will be boosted greatly. He may end up in Iraq as a cross between Ted Koppell and Geraldo Rivera, combining the serious and the sensational.
What this shows of course is the complete disaster that the Iraq occupation was and the need for a rapid exit strategy for the U.S, a strategy. which will be connected to policies that help the Iraqis repair the damage that has been done. Barack Obama doesn't have George W. Bush's baggage and doesn't have to worry about ducking a reporter's shoes (unless the reporter is from Fox News).
He has the opportunity though of advancing a peace oriented policy which will improve U.S. relations with both Arabic speaking countries in the region and Iran. While the not so new Secretary of Defense, Thomas Gates, isn't such a hopeful choice for such a policy, given his track record, it is important to remember that Gates lilke Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is working for Obama and is duty bound to advance the administration's foreign policy. This incident, while a drop in the bucket of Iraq disasters, is nevertheless an example that that bucket has been overflowing for a long time and the occupation must not only end but be replaced by a peace policy that helps Iraq reconstruct from the disaster and prevents similar disasters in the future.