Archive for the ‘Nouri Al-Maliki’ Category

Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison today for throwing his shoes at George W Bush on the 15th of December. This to my mind is a disgracefully harsh sentence. If Iraq wants to be seen as a mature democracy, this overreaction to a very mildly violent political protest is not going to help its cause. Protests in this vein happen regularly in democratic societies: in the 1970s Richard Nixon was egged in Ireland by an anti-war protestor; a few years back here in the UK,  John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, had an egg thrown at him by a farmer. His response? He punched the protestor and got into a scuffle. Prescott also got soaked by a jug of iced water thrown over him by a member of the band Chumbawumba, in support of striking Liverpool dockers, at the 1998 Brit Awards; only last week an environmental protestor threw green custard over Peter Mandelson, the Business Secretary, to express opposition to his support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Now I understand that it’s open to debate whether this type of action is effective or appropriate, however I cannot see of any argument that could justify a prison sentence of three years, in what is likely to be a very harsh environment, being doled out to a journalist, who had been a law-abiding citizen up to this point. He has even been a victim of kidnapping himself and family members were arrested under Saddam Hussein’s regime. His weapon of choice, his shoes, show that his primary intent was to deliver an Iraqi insult, not to seriously injure Bush. Even if he had connected, he would have done no more damage to Bush than the President had done to himself with a pretzel. Bush himself was able to joke about the “attack” in the immediate aftermath and we have all had a good laugh since.

But the joke is now over – al-Zaidi’s lawyer’s plan to appeal and I hope they succeed in getting his sentence reduced significantly. In truth the time he has already served has been too harsh. In genuinely free societies, which Bush has claimed Iraq is now, people must feel free to express political opinion in a sometimes fiery manner, without fearing disproportionate reprisals from the authorities. Otherwise the country starts to look more like a police state.

PS – do you know of an incident of something non-lethal being thrown at a politician? Leave a comment and we can build a dossier.

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Firstly, a very Happy New Year to everybody. However, I have this weird feeling of still being stuck in 2008 with all it’s problems at least until January 20th. Because as long as Still President Bush is in office these problems sure as hell aren’t going to get solved. So it feels like we’re all sitting in a lifeboat waiting for the coastguard and hoping that nobody does anything to cause a leak (Dammit Israel!!!). They say a week is a long time in politics, so the next three weeks are going to feel like a lifetime. And what an in-tray President Obama is going to have on his first day: Fix the global economic crisis, arrange for an orderly withdrawal from Iraq, save the American motor industry while ensuring its long-term viability, achieving energy independence and solving global warming, stopping a resurgent Taliban and getting Israel and Hamas to talk just after a pretty severe deterioration in relations that weren’t the best to begin with. So…no pressure then.

Is Nouri Al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, the coolest customer alive? I noticed on a second look at the clip of the Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at Still President Bush his reaction, or lack thereof:

It made me think of the following incident from last year when Ban Ki Moon visited Baghdad – again watch Al-Maliki closely and listen to the announcer carefully (I know he pops out of picture momentarily):

Yes, you heard it correctly, he blinked!!! Does nothing faze this man at all??!! If being cool under pressure was the only qualification for running a country, Iraq would be in great hands.

And by the way, wouldn’t it be great if this incident led to a spate of similar attacks so that Bush (and Cheney et al) gets pelted with (non-lethal) objects wherever he goes.