Bush Shoe Thrower: Press Asserts al-Zaidi Had Saddam, Baathist Connections

It seems to be emerging as an accepted fact that the reporter who threw both his shoes at Bush this weekend had specific ideological connections to Saddam Hussein and/or the Ba'ath Party.

It seems to be emerging as an accepted fact that Muntather al-Zaidi, the reporter who threw both his shoes at President George W. Bush this weekend, had specific ideological connections to Saddam Hussein and/or the Ba'ath Party, a pleasing conceit that seems intended to isolate al-Zaidi from an Iraqi populace who have, by and large, soured on the U.S. occupation. The most commonly cited source would appear to be this blog post from the New York Times "Baghdad Bureau," which notes that al-Zaidi -- in addition to having a rather commonplace "long-building anger towards the United States military presence in Iraq" -- also had "ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party," and was "head of the student union under Saddam Hussein."

Absent from this account is any indication that al-Zaidi pursued either his fealty to Saddam or the Ba'ath Party with any particular zeal. While several people are quoted in the article describing al-Zaidi's politics and positions -- and not always in a positive light -- none attest to any particular love for Saddam Hussein or his ruling party. In a thoughtful piece from the Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman explains that this is an example of the press jumping to an untenable conclusion:

First of all, Iraqis under Saddam did whatever they had to do to survive given the reality of a totalitarian regime. Baghdad metal band Acrassicauda wrote a song praising Saddam so they could get some funding for equipment. Did al-Zaidi head his student union because he wanted to head a student union or because he believes deeply in the glory of Saddam Hussein? I don't know and you don't either.

And it's completely irrelevant. al-Zaidi has become a symbol in Iraq and the Middle East because the occupation of Iraq is an unwelcome intrusion. Calling al-Zaidi a Baathist is a particularly pathetic way to put one's head in the sand instead of confronting this simple reality. (You know who were also Baathists? Thousands of the so-called Sons of Iraq.)

The Times has abundant evidence that al-Zaidi detested President Bush, took the occupation personally, and had planned to make a symbolic, attention-seeking statement to that effect. But nowhere is it conclusively proven that he was motivated by anything having to do with Saddam Hussein or the Ba'ath Party. Indeed, based upon the extent to which al-Zaidi has been exalted in Iraq, I'd say it's fair to note that al-Zaidi was expressing a very mainstream dissatisfaction.

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