By now, I’m sure that everyone has heard about, read about, and even seen video of President Bush ducking shoes thrown at him by an angry Iraqi journalist. If not, you can even go relive the experience at www.sockandawe.com, which deserves massive props for the creativity of their name, even if the game itself kind of sucks.
However, something that I don’t see anyone really talking about is one of President Bush’s comments on the issue:
That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves
I heard comments of his which even better fit what I’m going to talk about here, but can’t find them online, so I’m sorry about that. I think the point still holds, though.
It is amazing to me, the amount of time and energy this administration expends defending as the inevitable product of ‘a free society’ conduct that it would never allow to happen here at home. There was Donald Rumsfeld’s despicable comments about how “Democracy is messy”, to defend the U.S. military not taking any action to maintain order in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. I’m sure that President Bush does not feel that this weekend’s “attack” is in any way symbolic of a general lack of respect or love for American actions in Iraq, but he’s simply wrong. It’s indicative of an entire society which saw four years of the complete acceptance of failure by the Bush administration before recognizing that Iraq was not a success story.
These comments reminded me a lot of a story in Time a few years back, about Iranian President Ahmadinejad giving a talk at an Iranian university.
But in the back of the room, a group of 50 activists burned an effigy of the President, set off firecrackers and interrupted his speech with chants of “Death to the dictator!” Ahmadinejad grinned tightly and struggled to finish…
Compare that to this country, where if you remove your jacket during a speech by the President, and are wearing a t-shirt underneath which espouses anti-war slogans, you will be forcibly removed by security forces. I mean, Jesus – if people started burning Dick Cheney in effigy at one of his rare public apperances, he would just have everyone hauled off to Guantanamo, right?
So, let’s be clear. It is good that Iraq is a sufficiently free society that the reporter was given the opportunity to espouse his views, although most of the commentary since makes it sound like he is not exactly being given all due process and legal rights, at least if you consider ‘the right not to be beaten’ as one of those rights. But, let’s not kid ourselves – the guy hates America, and is representative of a large contingent of Iraqis who feel the same. At the same time, while I am free enough that I can write this blog item without fear of reprisal, my freedoms are also curtailed in many important fashions, the kind of thing that really ought to keep the rest of us a little worried at night…