Monday, December 15, 2008

Shoes Thrown at Bush……And America

In the American news media, the sight of George Bush ducking as shoes were thrown at him was treated with mirth. George Bush himself was a good sport about it. There was even a thinly disguised “Schadenfreude” in the tone of liberal commentators who almost seemed to chuckle at George Bush’s humiliation.

Even at first glance, it was a disrespectful gesture. Years ago, President Lyndon Johnson created a mini scandal in Thailand when he sat at a state dinner with the sole of his shoe exposed. It created a ripple of shock in a country where it was perceived as being as rude as “flipping the bird” is in America.

Little noticed was President-elect Obama’s first faux pas. Because the shoes thrown by the Iraqi reporter were thrown at the President of the United States. It was an affront to an office, one that will soon be held by Barack Obama. It was dishonourable for him not to have taken offense when our President was pelted with shoes. It was disgraceful that Obama did not take offense to Bush being called a dog.

The response of Iraqi justice was totally appropriate. George Bush was also a guest in their country. Not only was it an attack on a head of state. Traditions of Arab hospitality demand that guests be protected. To let the attack on America’s President go unpunished would not only be an affront to him but a disgrace to the obligations of a host to protect his guests.

While George Bush’s response may have been sporting by American standards, it projects a perception of weakness in the Arab world. The seven years of imprisonment faced by the President’s assailant is nothing compared to what he would have faced under Sadaam Hussein, who probably would have had the man’s entire family wiped out.

In the Arab perception , there is little difference between Obama and Bush. Their differences are seen as cosmetic. It was not under the presidency of “imperialist warmonger” Ronald Reagan that the Iranians overran the US embassy in Teheran. It was under the “peacemaker” Jimmy Carter.

The silence of Obama on the affront to America’s honour is disturbing. The closest analogy in western experience is that of a substitute teacher, who overlooks a few small infractions, tries to be friendly and easygoing and ends up being a doormat.

How much loss of life will be involved as Barack Obama learns on the job? How long will it take before perceived weakness invites a cycle of disrespect culminating in violence?

The latest news is that of mobs demonstrating, demanding that the “shoe man” be freed.Understanding the Arab world and giving into Arab mobs are two different things. It would be unwise to plead for leniency for an attack on a head of state. If the response is not harsh, then others will contemplate throwing far more lethal objects than shoes.

We have for better or worse elected a new President. The world is taking our measure. We should behave accordingly. When a leader forgoes his honour, those whose names are quickly forgotten pay the price.


KGS said...

In full agreement. Obama should have expressed his outrage. what do you think is going to happen to him once the Muslims abroad figure out that he's actually an apostate?

Anonymous said...

"Traditions of Arab hospitality demand that guests be protected."
What would you do if the person who killed your wife/children/parents and is still torturing the rest of your family comes to your home as a guest? Prepare the best food you can and entertain him? I will not throw shoes at him. Neither will I make food for him. I will kill him. Or hand him to the cops and ensure he is hanged!