President Bush attacked by flying shoes
A journalist hurled two shoes at US President George W Bush on his farewell visit to Iraq on Sunday, highlighting hostility still felt toward the outgoing US leader who acknowledged that the war is still not won.
Muntazer al-Zaidi jumped up as Bush held a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, shouted “It is the farewell kiss, you dog” and threw his footwear.
The president lowered his head and the first shoe hit the American and Iraqi flags behind the two leaders. The second was off target.
Zaidi, a reporter with the Al-Baghdadia channel which broadcasts from Cairo, was immediately wrestled to the ground by security guards and frogmarched from the room.
Soles of shoes are considered the ultimate insult in Arab culture. After Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled in Baghdad in April 2003, many onlookers beat the statue’s face with their soles.
Bush laughed off the incident, saying: “It doesn’t bother me. If you want the facts, it was a size 10 shoe that he threw”.
He later played down the incident. “I don’t know what the guy’s cause is… I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.”
Bush, on his fourth and final official trip to Iraq since he ordered the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam, admitted: “There is still more work to be done.”
As he and Maliki signed a security pact setting out new guidelines for US troops in Iraq, the president said: “The war is not over, but with the conclusion of these agreements… it is decisively on its way to being won.”
Earlier, Bush ventured out in a motorcade through Baghdad streets, the first time he has gone somewhere other than a military base or the heavily protected Green Zone.
Pool reports said the unmarked motorcade passed through darkened streets that appeared heavily guarded, before arriving at Maliki’s residence.
Bush hands over the delicate task of overseeing the US withdrawal from Iraq in five weeks to Barack Obama, who has pledged to turn the page on the deeply unpopular war.
“I’m so grateful that I’ve had a chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends,” he said at a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Bush has staunchly defended the invasion that triggered years of deadly insurgency and sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and more than 4,200 American troops.