Twitter reminds us that today is a special anniversary indeed: It’s the day George W. Bush got a shoe thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist and dodged that thing like a Japanese game show champ. Good god, what a magnificent duck that was:
The “Bush shoeing incident,” as it is now delightfully referred to on Wikipedia, began when Iraqi broadcast journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi decided to send Bush a send-off present in the form of both of his shoes, lobbed at the outgoing president’s face during a press conference in Baghdad. It was meant as an insult. In case that wasn’t clear, he also yelled, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!”
And here is where it stops being funny, because al-Zaidi, who’d already been previously arrested by U.S. armed forces on several occasions, was promptly taken into custody by Iraqi police and beaten, according to his lawyers. He later told RT that he was tortured: “The treatment was cruel. There was beating and whipping. They broke my nose and teeth and leg. They also used electro shocks on me. I received all kinds of torture. I witnessed it with my naked eyes.”
Al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years in prison in 2009, later reduced to one year. He served nine months, and announced upon his release that he planned to start a humanitarian organization in Geneva.
Bush has always professed that he was mystified by the whole incident, cracking jokes about it even as Al-Zaidi was led outside, as the New York Times noted at the time:
Other Iraqi journalists in the front row apologized to Mr. Bush, who was uninjured and tried to brush off the incident by making a joke. “All I can report is it is a size 10,” he said, continuing to take questions and noting the apologies. He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.
Since then, people have started to throw their shoes at politicians all the time, which we can all agree is perhaps the greatest innovation of the last decade.