Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pardon the Shoe Thrower

Three years for attempted assault? Sorry, but that's absurd. This is not an attempt to embarrass former President Bush nor a defense of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeid's actions; he was dead wrong to do what he did and fortunate to be alive, because when you heave objects at a global leader, getting shot full of about fifty slugs is not unheard of. Critical as so many have been of Bush, he displayed impressive reflexes during this incident. However, following the footwear chucking, I believe he should have requested a meeting with al-Zeid and stated publicly that while he did not condone violence as a method of protest, he understood the frustration of the Iraqi people and the emotional scars left by the invasion.

Bush could not have pardoned al-Zeid, but as targeted victim and leader of the free world, his recommendation for clemency would have carried a lot of weight and perhaps provided a small measure of good public relations for a conflict that has enjoyed very few. Now that Bush is out of office, President Obama might appear to be tweaking Bush, showing him up, if he urged the Iraqi government to let al-Zeid off the hook. If Obama wishes to act now, he must do so by consulting Bush himself and making sure the two are on the same page.

This would be the right thing to do. Throwing a shoe at the President of the United States is reckless, unwise, and bellicose, but the man missed and people should not be punished for speculative damage and injury, except if this had been some type of failed assasination attempt, in which case conspiracy would be added to the charges. If al-Zeid had received a lighter sentence, it would not make sense to intervene, but if we are expected to set powerful examples for the Iraqi people on how to run a democratic government, it is prudent to include mercy and forgiveness among our values, particularly in cases where no real damage was done. Plus, let's face it, the whole thing gave almost all of us a good laugh. Some revered the shoe thrower for his guts and the sheer madness of what he did and others admired Bush for reacting quickly and managing to smile about the incident not long after it happened; but nearly everyone found some humor in it. And the Iraq War has not given us much to laugh about over the last six years.

Muntadhar al-Zeid was way out of line, but let's encourage the neophyte Iraqi government to set him free.