Sunday, December 28, 2008

Laura Bush talks about change in Iraq

First Lady Laura Bush gave her take on her husband's presidency in a televised interview this weekend. Not surprisingly, she had a positive view on what he accomplished, but there was one quote that jumped out at me.

In talking about the now infamous shoe-throwing incident in Iraq earlier this month, Mrs. Bush said that while she was concerned about it since it was an attempted (if slightly comical) assault on the President of the United States, she also saw it as a positive step for the people of Iraq. "In my view, it is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves," she said. That echoes a comment made by George W. himself where he said he took the shoe tossing as a positive development for freedom of expression since no one would have dared to do such a thing under Saddam Hussein.

But maybe things haven't changed that much after all, if a story about the shoe thrower Muntader al-Zaidi in the New York Times last week is to be believed. Al-Zaidi wrote a letter to the Iraqi government asking for forgiveness for his actions, saying he was influenced by a known terrorist to throw his shoes at Bush. Al-Zaidi apparently decided to ask forgiveness after Iraqi security officials spent a couple of days beating the crap out of him, including whipping him with electrical cables, burning him with cigarettes and knocking out one of his teeth, according to al-Zaidi's brother.

Last month the LA Times ran a long piece on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki that said Kurdish, Sunni and even some Shiite (Maliki is a Shiite) were worried that he had the potential to turn into an authoritarian strongman, the alleged treatment of Muntader al-Zaidi, who publicly embarrassed Maliki by attacking Bush, is an indication that they could be right. Maybe things haven't changed all that much in Iraq after all.
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