THE BLOG

Muntadir al-Zaidi and Us

01/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Muntadir al-Zaidi threw two shoes at George W. Bush at the beginning of that press conference in Iraq, he acted on behalf of most Iraqis and millions, perhaps billions, of people in the middle east, Asia, Europe, and North America. When George W. Bush treated it as the expression of a burgeoning democracy in Iraq, he revealed just what democracy means to him there and elsewhere. For while he was speaking the journalist was being beaten within earshot of Bush and the Press, screaming in pain. Democracy, to Bush, means public pronouncements about freedom punctuated by behavior off stage that flouts them and frightens dissidents into submission. The double speak is disclosed by the fact that George W. Bush has failed to say that this expression of free speech does not warrant the years in jail now being contemplated by the Iraqi rulers.

It is a pity that more American journalists have not appreciated the heroism of this guy, the way he spoke for us as well as for them. In Iraq, Bush launched an ill-considered and reckless war, killing and maiming several hundred thousand Iraqis, displacing two million more. He launched a campaign of torture. He allowed thousands of young Americans to be killed or maimed. He spent down the American treasury, placing this immense financial burden on the heads of future Americans. He further destabilized the middle east. He almost certainly encouraged Iran and Korea to renew their nuclear programs, on the grounds that if they are treated as part of an Axis of Evil and lack such armaments the case of Iraq discloses what is in store for them.

In the United States, he presided over expanded surveillance programs, left New Orleans to languish after Katrina, refused maintenance of the infrastructural supports upon which the regime depends, allowed the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression to unfold, and supported bailouts for the rich over those for workers. During all this, he refused to enter into real dialogue with innumerable critics, inciting Fox News, right wing think tanks, many neoconservatives, and the right edge of evangelism to castigate or smear any journalist or member of his own administration who dared to call his wisdom into question.

As we emerge from the worst Presidency in the history of the United States, as we seek to pick up the pieces after eight years of reckless rule, a critical question persists. Why were so many journalists, academics, clergy, think tank experts, and financial experts either lured into quiescence or cowed for so long by this regime? What remedies are available to ensure this strategy of silencing does not work again? Today is the day to celebrate a courageous journalist who brought these issues to a boiling point without posing any threat to the life or limb of the President. We need more people like him here.