Monday, December 15, 2008

Bush targeted by Iraqi shoe-thrower

President Bush made an unannounced, farewell visit Sunday to Baghdad, Iraq, where he met with Iraqi leaders, talked to reporters and was targeted by a shoe-thrower, who missed his mark.

Before midnight (4 p.m. ET), the White House announced that the president had left.

The incident with the shoe-thrower occurred early in the evening in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's palace inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, as Bush was addressing members of the news media and the two leaders were preparing to sign the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement.

The man, seated with reporters, spoke in Arabic as he hurled his shoes toward Bush. Both projectiles sailed past his head, with the second striking a U.S. flag behind the president and falling harmlessly to the ground. The man too fell to the ground, where he was grabbed and dragged screaming from the room.

During the incident, the man could be heard yelling in Arabic, "This is a farewell … you dog!" His full quote, captured on video, was not immediately clear.

As the man continued to scream from another room, Bush said, "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me you may want to know."

Among Arab culture, throwing one's shoes at another is considered the ultimate sign of contempt.

"So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?" Bush told a reporter in response to a question about the incident. "Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It's one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers.

President Bush, left, ducks a thrown shoe as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tries to protect him Sunday.

President Bush, left, ducks a thrown shoe as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tries to protect him Sunday.

"It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause is. But one thing is for certain. He caused you to ask me a question about it. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it.

"These journalists here were very apologetic. They were, you know, they said this doesn't represent the Iraqi people, but that's what happens in free societies where people try to draw attention to themselves.

"I guess he was effective, because he caused you to say something about it."

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