Huffpost Politics

Iraqi Throws Shoes At Bush During Press Conference (VIDEO)(SLIDESHOW)

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UPDATE at 9:40PM - SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO AND SLIDESHOW:

Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with Cairo-based network Al Baghdadia Television, had experienced first-hand the brutal violence that consumed Iraq last year, reports the Washington Post:

Zaidi, colleagues said, was kidnapped by Shiite militiamen last year and was later released.

In an eyewitness account of the shoe-throwing incident, Modesto Bee reporter Adam Ashton reports that Bush and Maliki had just finished their speeches and were preparing to take questions from the Iraqi media, who "have never had a chance to ask a question to the American president" when "the shoes started flying."

In additon, Ashton reports that Iraqi security guards removed two more Iraqi journalists who had praised Zaidi's shoe-throwing protest as courageous:

As it ended, a couple Iraqi security guards in suits took away two more Iraqi journalists because one of them called Zaidi's protest "courageous." Hammed bravely stood up for the journalists. Talking to a friend just isn't a crime. They were released a few minutes later after some American officials intervened on their behalf.

Some of the security guards started looming over members of the White House press corps who flew in with Bush, at least until a White House communications aide shooed them away...

Zaidi's TV station is pushing for his release. "Any action taken against Muntathar will remind us of the actions and behaviors taken by the reign of the dictator and the violence, the random arrests, the mass graves and confiscations of freedom from the people," the board of Baghdadiyah TV said.

This wasn't the first time that Bush - or at least a depiction of Bush - has been pelted with shoes in Iraq.

Three weeks ago, HuffPost blogger Jamal Dajani noted that crowds of Iraqis "gathered in Ferdous Square, where Saddam Hussein's statue one stood" and pelted an effigy of Bush with their shoes.

UPDATE at 6:08PM:

Politico reports that White House Press Secretary Dana Perino may have suffered a black eye in the wake of the shoe-throwing incident:

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was slightly bruised in the aftermath of the shoe-throwing melee at President Bush's news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, a senior administration official said.

But Perino will be fine and is continuing with the presidential party, the official said.

Journalists at the scene said she suffered a black eye, perhaps when she was hit with a microphone.

It's ironic that the president would be pummeled in such a controlled setting, when the White House took elaborate, James-Bond-like precautions to ensure he landed in secret.

UPDATE at 5:08PM:

CNN reports that Bush compared the shoe-throwing incident with heckling during a political rally and described it as "a way to gain attention"

"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.

"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.

Here is the slow-motion video from CNN.

CLICK THROUGH THE SLIDESHOW:

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***UPDATE*** 2:30PM McClatchy reports that the man who hurled his shoes at Bush during his press conference was an Iraqi journalist. CNN notes that this is considered an insult among Muslims:

An Iraqi television journalist hurled two shoes at President Bush on Sunday during a joint news conference Bush was holding with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to mark the signing of a U.S.-Iraq security agreement.

Bush had just finished his prepared remarks in which he said the security agreement was made possible by the U.S. surge of troops earlier this year, whhen the journalist, Muthathar al Zaidi pulled his shoes off and hurled them at the president. "This is a goodbye kiss, you dog," Zaidi shouted.

Bush dodged the shoes and was not struck. Bodyguards quickly wrestled Zaidi to the floor and hauled him, kicking and screaming, from the room. Two other Iraqi journalists were briefly detained after one of them called Zaidi's actions "courageous."

Earlier from AP: BAGHDAD � On an Iraq trip shrouded in secrecy and dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the unpopular war that defines his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of opposition to his policies when a man hurled shoes at him during a news conference.

"This is the end!" shouted the man, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.Bush ducked both shoes as they whizzed past his head and landed with a thud against the wall behind him.

"All I can report," Bush joked of the incident, "is a size 10."

The U.S. president visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

"There is still more work to be done," Bush said after his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, adding that the agreement puts Iraq on solid footing.

"The war is not over," Bush said, adding that "it is decisively on it's way to being won."

It was at that point the journalist stood up and threw his shoe. Bush ducked, and it narrowly missed his head. The second shoe came quickly, and Bush ducked again while several Iraqis grabbed the man and dragged him to the floor.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes after U.S. marines toppled it to the ground after the 2003 invasion.

Bush brushed off the incident, comparing it political protests at home.

"So what if I guy threw his shoe at me?" he said.

In many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a clear victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely disliked across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died in the conflict, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.

Polls show most Americans believe the U.S. erred in invading Iraq in 2003. Bush ordered the nation into war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq while citing intelligence claiming the Mideast nation harbored weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found, the intelligence was discredited, Bush's credibility with U.S. voters plummeted and Saddam was captured and executed.

For Bush, the war is the issue around which both he and the country defined his two terms in office. He saw the invasion and continuing fight as a necessary action to protect Americans and fight terrorism. Though his decision won support at first, the public now has largely decided that the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq.

In the news conference with al-Maliki, the U.S. president applauded security gains in Iraq and said that just two years ago "such an agreement seemed impossible."

"There is hope in the eyes of Iraq's young," Bush said. "This is the future of what we've been fighting for."

Said al-Maliki: "Today, Iraq is moving forward in every field."

Air Force One, the president's distinctive powder blue-and-white jetliner, landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington. In a sign of security gains in this war zone, Bush received a formal arrival ceremony _ a flourish absent in his three earlier trips.

Bush soon began a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders.

He met first with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the country's two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, at the ornate, marble-floored Salam Palace along the shores of the Tigris River. Defending the war, Bush said, "The work hasn't been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace."

Later, Bush's motorcade pulled out the heavily fortified Green Zone and crossed over the Tigris so he could meet al-Maliki at the prime minister's palace. A huge orange moon hung low over the horizon as Bush's was ferried quickly through the city.

The two leaders sat down together for probably the last time in person in these roles. They signed ceremonial copy of the security agreement. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the trip proved that the U.S.-Iraq relationship was changing "with Iraqis rightfully exercising greater sovereignty" and the U.S. "in an increasingly subordinate role."

The Bush administration and even White House critics credit last year's military buildup with the security gains in Iraq. Last month, attacks fell to the lowest monthly level since the war began in 2003. Still, it's unclear what will happen when the U.S. troops leave. While violence has slowed in Iraq, attacks continue, especially in the north. At least 55 people were killed Thursday in a suicide bombing in a restaurant near Kirkuk.

It was Bush's last trip to the war zone before Obama takes office Jan. 20. Obama won an election largely viewed as a referendum on Bush, who has endured low approval ratings because of the war and more recently, the U.S. recession.

Obama, a Democrat, has promised he will bring all U.S. combat troops back home from Iraq a little over a year into his term, as long as commanders agree a withdrawal would not endanger American personnel or Iraq's security. Obama has said that on his first day as president, he will summon the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the White House and give them a new mission: responsibly ending the war.

Obama has said the drawdown in Iraq would allow him to shift troops and bolster the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Commanders there want at least 20,000 more forces, but cannot get them unless some leave Iraq.

The trip was conducted under heavy security and a strict cloak of secrecy. People who made the 10 1/2-hour trip with the president agreed to tell almost no one about the plans, and the White House released false schedules detailing activities planned for Bush in Washington on Sunday.

The new U.S.-Iraqi security pact, which goes into effect next month, replaces a U.N. mandate that gives the U.S.-led coalition broad powers to conduct military operations and detain people without charge if they were believed to pose a security threat. The bilateral agreement changes some of those terms and calls for all American troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2011, in two stages.

The first stage begins next year, when U.S. troops pull back from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities by the end of June.

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Saturday that even after that summer deadline, some U.S. troops will remain in Iraqi cities.