Muntadhar al-Zaidi paid the price for throwing shoes at George W. Bush to win the Wings of Justice
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on September 16, 2009
Muntadhar al-Zaidi felt like he couldn’t take it anymore. Years of war and suffering in Iraq, started under false pretenses, plagued on his mind. He witnessed the devastation: orphans, widows, refugees. Here is a man who stood up.
You might not remember the name, but you certainly know what al-Zaidi did, throwing his shoes at George W. Bush during a visit to Iraq last December 14.
This week, al-Zaidi was released from prison for his actions, but his story was about torture, his own torture, allegations of being beaten with cables and pipes and tortured with electricity. All of this came shortly after guards removed him from that infamous news conference.
People can certainly disagree with his tactic, yet still agree with the sentiment of what he did. Even al-Zaidi understands this.
“I am not a hero and I admit that,” al-Zaidi said. “I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.”
But what al-Zaidi did took courage. He certainly knew that what he did would warrant abuse and likely jail time. In reports, al-Zaidi noted that he did what he did as a promise for those who had suffered due to the war that he would avenge their loss.
And he did give hope to those in Iraq, the Arab world, and yes, even the United States that someone would stand up to George W. Bush, so that somehow Bush might see some expression, or display of protest, especially in Iraq of all places.
To be sure, al-Zaidi paid the price, not just physically, but also spending 9 months in jail. And al-Zaidi must have been a pretty good prisoner, since he was sentenced to three years (his sentence was reduced to a single year by an appellate court in April), and was released early due to good behavior.
Now that al-Zaidi is out of jail, he is concerned for his life and worries about U.S. intelligence agencies going after him. Whether that is true, the worry adds to the sacrifice made by al-Zaidi.
Inspiration was drawn by al-Zaidi’s actions to produce a symbolic, but more civilized reaction. On March 19 in Atlanta, there was a protest on the 6th anniversary of the Iraq invasion. As part of the protest, protesters were encouraged to throw their shoes at two Bush effigies. On top of that, organizers offered to donate any thrown shoes to charity.
Muntadhar al-Zaidi took an unconventional step to express dismay at an unjust policy to a person who was kept away from any form of protest. The shoe throwing didn’t hit his target, but it did send a message about the Iraq War that few others were able to display in front of George W. Bush. And al-Zaidi certainly paid a significant price. He also wins the Wings of Justice Award.