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Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush
Rediff News Bureau
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December 15, 2008 10:36 IST
Last Updated: December 15, 2008 14:18 IST

Nothing -- not even his own admission on television recently that the war was a 'mistake' -- sums up the eight years of the George W Bush [Images] presidency as an incident December 14 when Bush was almost hit by a pair of shoes hurled at him by an irate journalist.

Watch the video here

Bush was on a 'farewell' trip to Iraq, a month shy of demitting office, when Muntazer al-Zeidi, a reporter with the Al-Baghdadia channel, said it with shoes -- in Iraq, as in most nations, one of the direst forms of insult.

He hurled one, that missed the United States president by a whisker; he then hurled another shoe, but that one was wider off the mark. What was on target, though, was the words he used to accompany the missiles:

'This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq. It is the farewell kiss, you dog,' al-Zeidi said as he took aim. The journalist was immediately captured by security officials and taken out of the hall.

Bush at the time was addressing the media in tandem with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Zeidi's protest came when Bush, in response to a question, said the war was not over yet.

Bush took the incident lightly. 'It was a size 10 shoe,' he said. 'That is what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves. I don't know what the guy's cause is... I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it.'

Bush said he has seen a lot of weird things during his eight-year-long Presidency and that he would term the latest incident as 'one of the weirdest'.

"And it was amusing. I mean, I have seen a lot of weird things during my presidency and this may rank up there as one of the weirdest. So this happens and it's a sign of a free society," Bush said.

'But I am not insulted. I don't hold it against the government. I don't think the Iraqi press corps as a whole is terrible. And so, the guy wanted to get on TV and he did. I don't know what his beef is. But whatever it is I'm sure somebody will hear it,' the US President told ABC channel in Iraq.

Noting that one of the most important parts of his job because of 9/11 was to defend the security of the American people, Bush said there have been no attacks in the country since then.

'One of the major theatres against Al-Qaeda [Images] turns out to have been Iraq. This is where Al-Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where Al Qaeda [Images] was hoping to take,' Bush said when asked what he thought about his last trip to the region as President.

The outgoing US President said Saddam Hussein posed a threat after the 9/11 attacks and after his removal, Al-Qaeda decided to take a stand.

'And they are becoming defeated and I think history will say, one, the world was better off without Saddam, two, along with the Iraqi troops we have denied Al-Qaeda a safe haven because a young democracy is beginning to grow, which will be an important sign for people in the Middle East,' he said.

'I have never claimed like some said that Saddam -- you know, oh, that he was directly involved with the attacks on 9/11, but he did support terrorists. And, Saddam Hussein had the capability making weapons of mass destruction,' Bush said.

'And finally we gave Hussein a peaceful way out. It was his choice. And when he refused to allow for inspections, when he refused to disclose or disarm, then a large coalition of troops took him out,' he said.

Bush admitted that the war had taken longer than the US hoped and it was more expensive than 'we had hoped, so in one way I guess I was -- it didn't meet expectations.'

Additional Reportage: PTI

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