Freedom Of Expression Is Relative

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A new hero for Iraq The freedom was expressed in an odd way; the cries of the hapless shoe thrower could be heard as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s body guards pummeled him right outside the room as Bush continued speaking.

[Global: The Iraqi "Hero" With No Shoes]


His name may not sound familiar before this week; until an Iraqi reporter Munthadar Al Zaidi stepped into history Monday, during a press conference in Baghdad.

As President George Bush was thanking the room of journalists, Al Zaidi found a unique way to express his anger at the United States’ military intervention in Iraq since 2003. In an unprecedented style of punditocracy, he threw not one, but two shoes, as crude missiles aimed at Bush's face. "Here is your goodbye kiss, dog," the Iraqi yelled at the most powerful president in the world.

Throwing a shoe at another person is the most insulting act in the Arab world, which is why a majority of people in that region hailed Al Zaidi as a hero. This simple gesture is seen by many as a way to express eight years of frustration under the Bush Administration.

From an Iraqi perspective, it's a way to sum up Bush's failure in Iraq. The US intervention has put the people down on its knees and triggered a civil war, which the American government is refusing to take responsibility for. In fact, there are still many Americans who believe that the current situation of violence has nothing to do with the US presence in Iraq.

Iraq under Saddam Hussein's rule was no heaven; it was a tough dictatorship, but there was no sectarian violence amongst the Shias and the Sunni Muslims. Once removed from power in March 2003, the country fell into anarchy and has not recovered. Millions have left their country and become refugees. Besides, there are no official numbers about the amount of casualties, especially of innocent Iraqi civilians, women and children, since 2003; the reason is that the numbers are extremely high.

Quoting a US official, The New York Times last Saturday wrote that the $117 billion reconstruction effort in Iraq has failed. According to the report compiled by the Special-Inspector General for Iraqi reconstruction, figures have been invented, such as the number of Iraqi forces on the ground.

The report also explained that almost half of that amount, $50 billion is coming straight from the taxpayers’ money; literally the money has been given away to corrupt officials. American soldiers won't like it; but they were sent only to help their leaders get richer, nothing more nothing less. At no point was the welfare of the majority of the Iraqi people and the country’s future taken as priority; which is why US soldiers will always be seen as invaders not heroes.

Back to our shoe thrower.

Bush later said that he was pleased that freedom of expression was working in Iraq. The freedom was expressed in an odd way; the cries of the hapless shoe thrower could be heard as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s body guards pummeled him right outside the room as Bush continued speaking.

His employer TV channel Al Bagdadiya has demanded that he be released; there have been several demonstrations in Iraq and in the Middle East, of supporters also demanding that Al Zaidi be freed. There are media reports that the authorities plan to put him in trial, in which case he could face anywhere from two to seven years imprisonment, perhaps more, depending on the charges. Saddam Hussein's lawyer, Khalil Al Dulaimi, has said he was ready to help Al Zaidi.

Bush spoke about freedom of expression.

Even as I new arrival to the United States, I have quickly seen that this has its own limits. Most world news channels I am accustomed to are not available here so Americans are only fed a specific diet of "news."

BBC World is not available here; just BBC America, which is not as good. Moreover, one of the best international news channels worldwide, Al Jazeera English, is almost unavailable in this country while the rest of the world watches it. Even CNN international is out of reach. Unless there is something to hide, why don’t Americans have access to these international news channels.

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