The Shoe: ‘Out of Loyalty to Every Drop of Innocent Blood That Has Been Shed’


Why I threw the shoe

I am no hero. I just acted as an Iraqi who witnessed the pain and bloodshed of too many innocents

By Muntazer al-Zaidi / September 17, 2009

I am free. But my country is still a prisoner of war. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: what compelled me to act is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

Over recent years, more than a million martyrs have fallen by the bullets of the occupation and Iraq is now filled with more than five million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. Many millions are homeless inside and outside the country.

We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shia would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ. This despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions for more than a decade.

Our patience and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. But the invasion divided brother from brother, neighbour from neighbour. It turned our homes into funeral tents.

I am not a hero. But I have a point of view. I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacres of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I travelled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.

As soon as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies, while I washed away the remains of the debris of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the blood that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.

The opportunity came, and I took it.

I took it out of loyalty to every drop of innocent blood that has been shed through the occupation or because of it, every scream of a bereaved mother, every moan of an orphan, the sorrow of a rape victim, the teardrop of an orphan.

I say to those who reproach me: do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated.

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.

If I have wronged journalism without intention, because of the professional embarrassment I caused the establishment, I apologise. All that I meant to do was express with a living conscience the feelings of a citizen who sees his homeland desecrated every day. The professionalism mourned by some under the auspices of the occupation should not have a voice louder than the voice of patriotism. And if patriotism needs to speak out, then professionalism should be allied with it.

I didn’t do this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I wanted was to defend my country.

[Muntazer al-Zaidi is an Iraqi reporter who was freed this week after serving nine months in prison for throwing his shoe at former US president George Bush at a press conference. This edited statement was translated by McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Sahar Issa www.mcclatchydc.com.]

Source / The Guardian, U.K.

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11 Responses to The Shoe: ‘Out of Loyalty to Every Drop of Innocent Blood That Has Been Shed’

  1. masterspork says:

    I do not buy it, if he really was concerned about the people in his country he would be doing more then just complaining. Because why he is busy throwing shoes at statement, his countrymen are working to protect their neighborhoods against those that are putting down IED and launching attack on civilian targets.

    http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=106744985&albumID=2009403&imageID=27166080

    Also I would not imagine that he would be alive if he had done this against a insurgent leader.

    If you want to defend your country then go grab a SKS and join these men in defending the towns against Al Qaeda fighters.

  2. richard jehn says:

    In large measure, MS, no one has ever tried to sell you anything here. As far as I am concerned, you can take it or leave it. I thought we were breaking through your preconceptions in a couple of the remarks you made on another post; apparently not. This man has a simple message, and he is clearly not a warrior as you are. His role is not to fight – it is to speak in the most eloquent terms what he was feeling about our occupation of Iraq.

  3. masterspork says:

    I have to disagree on the because if you where not trying to change people’s minds you wound not be reposting the stories here.

    And what misconceptions are those? That helping the people of Iraq quality of life and safety is a waste of time? That calling people out on false stories about what they did and saw in Iraq is wrong?

    When I am talking about people defending their country I am talking about the local citizens. They are not active soldiers, just normal people taking watch to make sure that the people of their neighborhoods do not have to worry being blown up going to town to sell their trade Granted there are more ways to help then these, but I do not believe that throwing a shoe helps anything. (Also considering how this blog views the town hall meetings that are just as volatile as the shoe incident.)

    One question I would ask is if he had ever done any stories about the CLSs and the challenges they face every day are? If not, why?

    Also I would still be interested in your answer to why you came back to the US after 25 year stay in Canada.

  4. Fed Up says:

    Masterpork’s assumption is that the USA was not just righteous, but downright heroic to invade and occupy Iraq!

    He doesn’t see the invasion as a trigger event for all the slaughter and and misery that followed.

    So, Masterpork, how come the USA can invade anyone for any reason, and with any lie, it pleases? How do you justify that. I’m serious…I’m curious.

    How come Pol Pot can slaughter a million but when George Bush et al. does it, its not only ok, its downright heroic? How do you see that, eh? How do you make sense out of it?

  5. masterspork says:

    No my point is that it is easier do things like this rather then the Al Qaeda in Iraq knowing they would have you killed within the day.

    Except you cannot prove that Iraq would not be another Yugoslavia that saw massive bloodshed and misery after Tito died.

    Yugoslav brotherhood and unity dissolved quickly following Tito’s death, as his “sons” vied for the position of the Father. An escalation of gruesome and violent acts by citizens against one another led to demands for the autonomy of republics and to a fracturing along ethnic lines. Bosnia became the central site of a multicultural dissolution, engineered by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. One of the most poignant symbols of this painful disintegration was the Croatian army’s bombing of Bosnia’s Mostar bridge, which brutally separated the city’s Muslim and Croat populations.

    http://cidc.library.cornell.edu/DOF/yugoslavia/yugo.htm

    For better or worse it just accelerated the timeline for it to happen in Iraq. That is why we stayed there because if we completely left 2003 things would be much worse on a epic proportion.

    Now about the reason for invasion was the continued violations of the cease fire that stopped the Gulf War. There was no peace treaty at all. Also to repost from previous post.

    the United States did not cede control of it’s military to the UN. Not to mention that the UN has been giving us a mandate that allowed us to be there, being renewed each year until 2009 when the Iraq-US security pact took over. If the UN really thought that we had violated international law do you really think that they would have given us and repeatedly renewed a mandate that allowed us to stay there?

    http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sc9725.doc.htm

    Because the comparison is not correct. If this where true then all of the violence would be targeted at us, but it is not. It is the different groups that are fighting each other. That is why the religious buildings, markets and such where being attacked over past events done in Saddam’s government and before that.

    A problem that is still being a issue today.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090902/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq_iranian_exiles

  6. Anonymous says:

    MS,
    Have you read the book “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East”, by Robert Fisk?
    It is pretty evenhanded as far a blame for the misery goes. It seems the whole lot of us (meaning the western world)
    were in on it. We’ve caused a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. For what?
    mps

  7. masterspork says:

    Cannot say that I have, I will look up up because I do most of my reading online. I am not too worried about who is to blame unless it is coming with a plan to help/fix things. This is the things that are going determine if things well change for the better or worse.

  8. Fed Up says:

    “Except you cannot prove that Iraq would not be another Yugoslavia that saw massive bloodshed and misery after Tito died.”‘

    I can prove that there has been massive bloodshed since Bush invaded and occupied Iraq. Evidently, you don’t care about that sort of massive bloodshed, eh?

    Of course, one cannot prove what will happen in the future.

    However, I’ll take a shot at it: the way you determine if there will be a bloodbath or not is the relative strength of the protagonists, and their intentions. The US backs and will continue to back with money etc. the Shia, evidently. The Sunni are the ancient elite of that area, the US, an external force, came in and overthrew them, stole their property and subjected them to humiliation and suffering, and meantime solved NO PROBLEMS at all, none, in Iraq, to the contrary, we devastated the country and its people.

    So I do think there will be a bloodbath, whether we stay or go, because Bush basically overthrew an ancient elite, the Sunni, there, and they do not like it. They can fight and will fight. This “al quaida” stuff as to Iraq is another media invention, one of many.

    Still, it is better if we leave, because its a sinkhold, and Bush was stupid, very, very stupid, to go there in the first place.

  9. masterspork says:

    Where did I say that there was not? We had enough troops to defeat Saddam’s armies but we where limited to prevent the violence because of numbers also we did not have the benefit of a working Iraqi army and police. Not to mention the help of the Sons of Iraq and the concerned local citizens (CLCs). If you think that I am not concerned about that type of violence, why do you think I volunteered to go there to help?

    But considering that the set up of Yugoslavia and Iraq are very similar it is a very good bet that if Saddam died of natural causes that the results would be very similar. Both countries where formed by artificial boarders that made different cultural and religious groups into one country that all but gave it a artificial feel of a nationality. So for all practical purposes it was held together by a dictator. So when that person is gone each group tries to set up their own area of rule. Something that the Kurds in Northern Iraq have all but done. The only thing that they are missing is a official declaration of independence. One of the main reason that they do not is because of Turkey and the fact that the terrorist group PPK that stages attacks against both Turkey and Iran. Both have warned and have committed limited strikes in that area.

    Next is the Sunnis that benefited the most from Saddam’s rule. They are now looked upon with distain and anger over how they where favored while everyone else was suffering. Also they have been attacking the Iraqi government because of their view that because it is majority Shiite will be very close to Iran and that they would face relation attacks over their participation in the Iran-Iraq war. Also there is the group that hid in Iraq that was actively trying to get the government of Iran removed. The yahoo link I posted talked about how the Iraqi Government was cracking down on one of it camps. These are the main groups and not the sub groups in each area.

    So if Saddam died of natural causes, he would have left a power vacuum in the area that I think would be very similar to Yugoslavia. Also it is hard to feel sympathy for the Sunnis considering that Saddam used chemical weapons on his own population that he believed opposed him. Not to mention that he had the national soccer team killed for loosing a soccer game. Also about the group “Al Qaeda in Iraq” being a fake group is not true. Because when we where out on a repair mission we talked to a IP checkpoint (IA?) The commander of the checkpoint said that the near group of houses was occupied by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The way that he knew was because he had a informer there. The villager has been run off with the road leading up to it rigged with IEDs. They even said that there was a white pickup truck that would take pop shots at them at dusk. Also Al Qaeda in Iraq is a franchise of the original group. This is the group that the Sunnis have been fighting against after they had no regard for the civilian population.

    Here is the big thing of your post that bothers me. This blog tells how horrible things are and yet this attitude of “it will happen anyways” that is seems very contradictory if not outright condescending. Because you will not be facing these challenges that they will. Also who have you talked to that lives/lived that that would say thing things would be better if we left. From the people I have talked to wanted the American support units like Engineers that I was a part of to stay to help with the repairing and improving of the quality of life in Iraq. Not to mention the general safety. The issue of should we have invade Iraq is very open to debate, but I think that the issue of staying in Iraq to make sure it does not become a failed state it not.

  10. Fed Up says:

    Iraq IS an occupied territory…how do you compare that to being a failed state?

    Most people believe that the worst thing other than genocidal extermiation is being occupied.

    As an American, I’m curious, would you rather be occupied by a foreign army that claims its there to help you, or would you rather be a citizen of a failed state?

    And if occupied, would you expect your elite, folks like Bush, Obama, Clinton, Rockerfellers, Fords, etc. etc. to not resist? Do you think they should submit to occupation and war?

    Please answer the question and do not go off on a tirade.

  11. masterspork says:

    Except that we have been giving area back to Iraq once they shown that they can handle it. The security pact that was made early this year should show that. Also the pact allowed the Iraq forces to detail US soldiers if they committed a crime. I can post the details of this from the card we received in Iraq to give to the Iraqis f we where ever arrested.

    Occupied, because even if the worse comes to pass like a Nazi occupation you know where the danger is coming from. But in a place like Except that we have been giving area back to Iraq once they shown that they can handle it. The security pact that was made early this year should show that. Also the pact allowed the Iraq forces to detail US soldiers if they committed a crime. I can post the details of this from the card we received in Iraq to give to the Iraqis f we where ever arrested.

    Occupied, because even if the worse comes to pass like a Nazi occupation you know where the danger is coming from. But in a place like Somalia the danger is unknown and everywhere.

    Honestly if we where occupied I would be more worried about the local area first before anything else. But it has been my opinion that partisan resistance does not work unless there is a conventional force backing it up. Partisan attacks only delay conventional forces at best. I would love to talk about that in further detail if you want.

    Now back to the resistance, I honesty do not know. It is easy to say what will happen when playing the “what if” game. But regardless of which way things go, it still will be on the local level where things will be decided for better or worse. That is what we are seeing now in Iraq when we started talking and working with village leaderships.

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