Laura Bush: Shoe-throwing incident sign of ‘freer’ Iraq

December 29, 2008

The video of an agile U.S. President George W. Bush ducking two shoes thrown at him during a news conference in Baghdad has been fodder for jokes on late-night television and a big hit on the Internet.

Even Bush laughed off the Dec. 14 incident. But his wife was not amused by an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at Bush, narrowly missing the president.

“It was an assault,” Laura Bush said in a Fox news interview broadcast on BUSHSunday. “And I think it should be treated that way.”

Iraqi TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi was tackled to the floor and arrested, and his lawyer said he was severely beaten in detention. He is to stand trial on Dec. 31 on charges of “assaulting a foreign head of state visiting Iraq,” a spokesman for Iraq’s High Judicial Council said.

But Zaidi has become a hero to Sunnis and Shi’ites alike, and clerics on both sides are demanding that he be freed.

Asked about demands for the reporter’s release, Laura Bush said that whatever happens with Zaidi is up to the Iraqis.

“But I know that if Saddam Hussein had been there, the man wouldn’t have been released. And he probably … you know, would have been executed,” she said. “As bad as the incident is, in my view, it is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves.”

Many Iraqis blame Bush personally for the tens of thousands who have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrive in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 6, 2008.

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