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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 3/17/09

The Iraqi Shoe-Thrower Should be Pardoned

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Would the American people prefer that we express our anger by killing American soldiers? Would that be less rude? I don't think so. But people in the United States should acknowledge that we are human beings and we need a way to express our anger.   

For other people, especially in the Arab world, al-Zaidi immediately became a folk hero. YouTube videos of the incident have been viewed millions of times. The company that made the shoes became wealthy overnight. And al-Zaidi has received everything from job offers to marriage proposals. Do you consider al-Zaidi a hero?   

There are people all over the world who consider him a hero, especially because his act countered the powerlessness that many Arabs feel. I wouldn't call him a hero, though. I call him a non-violence resister; I call him brave. And I certainly understand his anger, for I am angry, too.   

President Bush said in an interview that he thought al-Zaidi threw his shoes because he wanted to become famous.  

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That's ridiculous. He was prepared to die, if he had to. Instead of attributing dishonest motives to al-Zaidi, Bush should ask himself why someone would dare insult the leader of the most powerful country in the world, knowing how serious the consequences could be.  

Bush was a symbol for US foreign policy. We Iraqis have been the victims of these policies for too many years, and we are fed up. The American government supported Saddam in the 1980s during Iraq-Iran war; it encouraged Saddam to invade Kuwait but then turned against him and "liberated" Kuwait. Then the U.S. government imposed sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, especially children. Today, American troops have become the owners and we Iraqis are treated like illegal intruders in our own country.   

People in the United States have no idea what Iraqis have been enduring, how much we have suffered from this invasion. That's why al-Zaidi, when he threw his shoes, cried out: "This is for the widows, the orphans and all those who have died in Iraq." He was doing it for his people, not to become famous.  

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Bush said that thanks to the U.S. intervention, the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein is gone and Iraq is a free country. And of course, the Kurds were particularly brutalized by Saddam. As a Kurd, aren't you grateful to George Bush for overthrowing Saddam? 

The U.S. government has told too many lies to the American people and the international community. Saying that the Kurdish people have been happy with US occupation is one of those lies.  

I agree that Saddam was a brutal dictator and yes, we Kurds were victims of his brutality. I always dreamed about freeing ourselves from his rule. We were happy to get rid of Saddam and many trusted the United States and thought it would bring democracy. But then we saw our country go from a dictatorship to an occupied nation.   

Why should the cost of getting rid of Saddam be a US invasion and occupation? Is that our only alternative? How can we accept the presence of armed foreigners in the streets of our country? For years they have been ordering us around us at checkpoints, breaking down our doors in midnight raids, imprisoning our loved ones without cause and torturing them. Should we thank Bush and the US government for that?  

Besides, it was not the role of the United States to get rid of Saddam. That was for us, the Iraqis. Many people around the world didn't like Bush. But would Americans have wanted a foreign military to invade their country to get rid of him? Would that be acceptable to Americans? I don't think so.  

What do you suggest that people do to support al-Zaidi?  

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It is absurd that al-Zaidi will spend three years in prison while George Bush walks free. It is Bush who should be in prison for war crimes.  

I also fear for al-Zaidi's life if he remains in prison. He was already tortured while the world spotlight was on him; imagine what might happen when people have forgotten him. He could easily be killed by government agents. 

If Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malaki believed in democracy and human rights, he would consider al-Zaidi's act an expression of free speech and pardon him. If there is enough public pressure, that could happen. People should sign petitions, and call the Iraqi Embassy in Washington and the Iraqi Mission to the UN. It is only through public pressure that he can be released. 

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CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects the Bush (more...)
 
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