Notice an important aspect of the shoe-throwing incident in Iraq: No one is suggesting that the reason that the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush did so because of his hatred for America’s “freedom and values.”
That was the line that Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other U.S. officials immediately issued and repeated ad infinitum, ad nauseam immediately after the 9/11 attacks. They said that the terrorists hated America for its freedom and values, not because of the bad things that U.S. government officials had been doing to people in the Middle East for years.
The shoe-throwing journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi, eloquently summed up the reason for his pent-up anger and rage by what he yelled as he threw his second shoe at Bush: “This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq!”
Nothing about America’s First Amendment. Nothing about Christianity. Nothing about rock and roll. Instead, one succinct point about the Iraqi people killed by Bush’s army.
It’s that point that all too many Americans have just never permitted themselves to understand or appreciate. It’s always about “the troops” — thanking them, glorifying them, honoring them. It’s never about the Iraqi people who have been killed, maimed, exiled, or made homeless by the massive death and destruction that Bush’s invasion and occupation have wrought on the people of Iraq.
There is also the callous indifference among U.S. officials to the Iraqi dead. Despite all their highfalutin rhetoric about wanting to help the Iraqi people, U.S. government officials have never given one whit for the Iraqi people, and the Iraqi people know it. Why, since the inception of the invasion and continuing through the seven years of occupation, Pentagon officials have steadfastly refused to even keep count of the Iraqi dead.
The fact is that any number of Iraqi deaths was acceptable to achieve regime change in Iraq. In the minds of U.S. officials, no sacrifice of Iraqi life was too great. Never mind, of course, that the dead were never asked whether they were willing to die for the sake of regime change. Never mind that their children, spouses, parents, and friends might not have considered the sacrifice to have been worth it. All that matters is that U.S. officials believed that sacrificing an unlimited number of Iraqis was worth it.
Of course, that was the same callous mindset that guided U.S. officials during the 1990s. That was the period of time when U.S. officials, after intentionally destroying Iraq’s water and sewage facilities with the aim of spreading illness and disease among the Iraqi populace, imposed one of the most brutal sanctions regime in history on Iraq. When U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions had been “worth it,” her response went to the core of U.S. policy toward the Iraqi people: “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”
That statement, not surprisingly, reverberated throughout the Middle East, raising people’s blood to a boiling point. It had nothing to do with America’s “freedom and values.” Instead, it had to do with a U.S. government policy that caused massive death among Iraqi children, year after year for 11 years, and the callous indifference among U.S. officials to such deaths.
Today, it is not surprising that those who got placed into power in Iraq are happy with Bush’s invasion. It’s also not surprising that the multitudes who have lost loved ones in Bush’s invasion are none too happy about the sacrifices that Bush involuntarily imposed upon them in his war of aggression upon their country. In reflecting on the Iraqi dead and injured and the massive destruction wrought upon their country, we must never forget that neither the Iraqi people nor their government played any role in the 9/11 attacks on America. Maybe the anger and rage manifested by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi will cause more Americans to finally confront not only the horror of U.S. policy toward Iraq but also U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the rest of the world.