Re: "In Iraqi's Shoe-Hurling Protest, Arabs Find a Hero. (It's Not Bush)" (front page, Dec. 16):
When Iraqi journalist Muntada al-Zaidi threw his shoes at George W. Bush, the latter, your reporters write, "brushed it off as an expression of democracy."
While that paraphrase suggests a certain lofty tolerance of dissent, Mr. Bush's actual words betrayed a rather different attitude: "That's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves." Thus the president cast Mr. Al-Zaidi's gesture in particular, and all protest in general, as mere exhibitionism.
For his outburst, meanwhile, Mr. al-Zaidi was severely punished by Iraqi security agents, who kicked and beat him until "he was crying like a woman," according to another journalist. He is still being held in military custody.
That certainly is not "what people do in a free society." And to say so is a fundamental civic obligation, not a way of showing off.
Mark Crispin Miller
New York University
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