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Democracy in a Size 10

Damned if I know why it was an Iraqi who tossed his shoe at the lesser Bush last week, but it didn't come as a total surprise.

For months I'd been expecting the mother or father of a dead infantryman to throw paint on the presidential car or for a newly unemployed father of twins to rage at the President publicly over the inability to provide for one's children in a depression created by bad leadership, indifference and greed.

Instead, we waited until an Iraqi reporter in a moment of inspired, spontaneous fury showed us that Iraq, like America, is full of ordinary people who don't grab Kalashnikovs or suicide vests packed with C4 even in their deepest moments of anger. Not when their hearts are broken. Not when a glib, slippery idiot arrives from an invading power to tell them that all the violence, the mountainous dead, the years of misery have now -- hey, presto! -- been made worthwhile.

'You're free, safe and secure," Bush said, in that un-smooth lying voice North Americans are unfortunately used to. It's his fourth visit. No one had briefed him that Iraq might perceive his message as arrogance. No one had told him that the Arabs in the room still had their shoes.

And then suddenly, an Iraqi man decided to say "bullshit" in Arabic.

From my time in Saudi Arabia, I know that the point of throwing or even showing the underside of a shoe to an enemy is a not-so-subtle Arabism: shoes are attached to the lowest part of a man, they trail in the dirt. It means "you get to see the underside of my shoe... you're something I'd walk on -- or worse -- something I'd walk through."

Bush thinks he escaped the insult by not being hit. He's wrong. In Sadr City and Najaf later that day, ordinary Iraqis protested by showing and throwing shoes. Iraqis now have a non-violent way of expressing their dissatisfaction and anger. There will be a lot more shoe leather in the air in the months before we withdraw. Perhaps someone in Illinois will even consider throwing a shoe or two at Governor Blagojevich.

It couldn't hurt.

Meanwhile, Muntadar al-Zeidi, "he of the poor aim," is an overnight hero in his own country. Iraqi's are calling for his release, but he's probably now wearing an orange suit in Guantanamo Bay. Too bad. I'd like to see him interviewed on CNN, wouldn't you?

George Bush claims he doesn't even know "what al-Zeidi beef is." Surely, the man should be given the opportunity to tell us all here in America.

Maybe he could even throw in the first baseball of 2009...

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