Throw The Book Not Shoes At Bush

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[National News]

News organizations have to feign surprise to make news. In reality, it is of course no surprise that Bush would be greeted in Baghdad with all the warmth and approbation of fraudster Bernie Madoff dropping by the Palm Beach Country Club, nor that Iraq's physical infrastructure, $69bn later, is still in a worse state than before 2003.

In Arab culture, dogs and the soles of shoes are two very potent demonstrations of detestation and the intemperate. Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi's lobbing of two well-aimed shoes at the president is a belated make-up for all the softballs thrown at him in Washington.

Zeidi has clearly epitomized Iraqi feelings across the board, with protests on the streets and support messages from Arab journalists. Ironically, many of them, including Zeidi's own TV station, are comparing his arrest with the brisk way that the Baathists had with dissent. This is a little unfair – he is still alive as far as we know, which is more than could be said for anyone who would have done that to Saddam.

But it does raise the question of how the White House managed to tame the major media in the US even without the implicit threat of shooting journalists and their families.

With a few notable exceptions like Helen Thomas, Bush's press conferences have not generated the indignation he so richly deserves from a largely quiescent White House press corps that needs government inspectors and Congressmen to tell it when it can be surprised and even occasionally indignant.

In a parochial way, one can understand why the press corps lacks indignation over Iraq's 100,000 civilian dead and over two million external refugees, plus untold more internally displaced.

But it is still surprising that so many reporters can be polite and deferential with someone who has turned the US Federal Reserve into a giant Ponzi scheme and broken the world's strongest economy.

They defer humbly to someone who has contrived the deaths of 4,200 US servicemen and women in Iraq. It even failed to follow through on questions about the president's murky military record with the Texas Air National Guard while his peers were dying in Vietnam.

This intrepid press corps showed no compunction in following in minute detail Clinton's screwing around, but kept silent as Bush screwed entire nations.

Last week, a Senate report pointed the finger directly at Bush and his senior officials for authorizing - indeed, ordering - torture and abuse of detainees. But no one threw any shoes.

It is that fawning quiescence that allowed Bush to tell Bob Woodward: "I'm the commander – see, I don't need to explain – I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

And there we have it. Some people in the US and abroad certainly did ask why Iraq was invaded, and some who agreed with the invasion, certainly questioned its abysmal lack of foresight and planning and the totally inept conduct of the occupation. The information in these reports has been available all along. But it has to wait for a government or congressional report before it is mentioned. And still no shoes.

As Bush gives up his dude-ranch in Crawford to move into the McMansion that really suits him in Dallas, he should not be allowed to go quietly into that good night to file My Pet Goat into his presidential library. Better than throwing boots, prosecutors should be throwing the book at Bush and his accomplices.


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