Of Shoes and Bodies, Still

Of Shoes and Bodies, Still

by
Abby Zimet

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at then-President Bush was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday, two days after a suicide bombing killed 33 people at the Abu Ghraib market.

The
bombing, one of so many, failed to make the front page of the
government newspaper. The journalist, Muntazer al-Zaidi, shouted "Long
Live Iraq!" when he was sentenced. Life, death and the awful
consequences of U.S. actions in Iraq go on. Is anybody watching? 

Zaidi, a 30-year-old, Shia Muslim televison correspondent who had reported
extensively on the victims of the war, told a Baghdad court in February
that he instinctively threw his shoes - shouting "This is your farewell
kiss, you dog!" - after hearing Bush praise the "achievements" in
Iraq.  

"While
he was talking I was looking at all his achievements in my mind. More
than a million killed, the destruction and humiliation of mosques,
violations against Iraqi women, attacking Iraqis every day and every
hour," he said. "...I felt the blood of the
innocent people bleeding from beneath his feet."

In
the days that followed, Zaidi languished in jail and was reportedly
tortured. But he became a hero to thousands of Iraqis enraged by the
American occupation. Amidst demands for his release, restaurants were
renamed for him, banners were hung, graffiti appeared on concrete
barriers. Demonstrating the human capacity for creativity in the face
of adversity, an online game, Sock and Awe, to date has given Iraqis the chance to throw 88,997,757 shoes at Bush's face.

Thursday's
sentencing came in a courtroom under heavy guard, with little media
coverage. When Zaidi was convicted of assaulting a foreign leader,
there was chaos. Some of Zaidi's relatives collapsed; others called
prosecutors "sons of dogs." Defense lawyers, who had pointed out the
obvious - "It wasn't a rocket, it was a shoe" - said they would appeal.

Zaidi had called his act "a natural response to the occupation." He showed remarkable restraint.

Still,
Zaidi is only one victim of an ongoing, increasingly unheralded
catastrophe that has become the norm, writes Anthony Shadid in the
aftermath of Tuesday's bombing at a crowded vegetable market in Abu
Ghraib. He describes
a grisly scene - limbs in bags, bodies under dirt, a 12-year-old boy in
agony - that has become yet one more "symbol of death's anonymity."  

Lest we forget: We have unleashed an abiding nightmare in Iraq. To re-invent it in Afghanistan is insane.

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