Everybody remembers Jimmy Carter's encounter with a wild rabbit and everybody will remember too George Bush's close call with the flying shoes. The only difference is that no one lionized the rabbit. (In fact, I believe they cut off its head to test it for rabies). The "Shoe Terrorist" (isn't there already one of those?) who hurled his size 10's at President Bush during a press conference has fared better than the rabbit and is being hailed as the new "hero" of the Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation. Admirers have presented him with thousands of shoes, women's and children's shoes, too, as these also make good projectiles. Rallies are being held throughout Iraq and the Arab world in solidarity with Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, demanding his release from custody so that he can pose for a statue in the pose that made him famous. His employer, Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, has stood by him and refused to apologize for his, eh, unprofessional conduct, on the grounds that he was simply exercising his right to freedom of speech, a concept introduced to the region by the Americans (next lesson: you must also respect the other guy's freedom of speech). Of course, journalists have been hurling things at George Bush for quite a long time, but nothing so literal as a pair of shoes. In the future, no doubt, Iraqi journalists will be required to check their shoes before being admitted to press conferences or other government-sponsored events. Muslims do so already before entering mosques and now we know why. We sometimes forget the practical side of ancient customs and it takes an event like this to remind us.
We must admit that George Bush comported himself with great aplomb in this the most personally dangerous moment of his presidency. He also exhibited lightening-quick reflexes, which proves conclusively that he did kick his alcohol dependency but at the same time removes that as an excuse for what has transpired in the last 8 years. But let us not exaggerate, either. In 1912, while delivering a campaign speech, Theodore Roosevelt was shot by an assassin, and though wounded and bleeding from his chest, continued speaking for an hour more. There is grace under fire and then there's grace under fire.
It was pointed out in another thread that if George Bush had liberated Cuba instead of Iraq nobody would be flinging shoes at him now. That is certainly true, not only because the Castros are universally hated in Cuba, but because most Cubans have only one pair of shoes.
Bush would have been as justified in invading Cuba for the September 11th attack as he was in invading Iraq. In fact, Cuba, unlike Iraq, once did have weapons of mass destruction on its soil and its leaders were intent on using them against the U.S. In more recent times, it was revealed that Cuba has an active biological weapons programme and stockpile. Castro also hosts training camps for Hamas terrorists and several of those involved in the attack on the World Trade Center were trained in Cuba and, like all foreigners who come under the aegis of the Castro regime, had been recruited as operatives by the DGI (Cuban Intelligence). Finally, Fidel Castro himself, as the elder statesman of international terrorism, was accorded the "professional courtesy" of being informed beforehand of the terrorists' plans and did not warn the U.S., which makes him an accessory before the fact.
In the scheme of things, however, it made more sense to scapegoat Saddam Hussein for Sept. 11th than Fidel Castro. Iraq is in the Middle East, so the dart, even if it was thrown randomly, still landed in the region that is generally considered the axis of Arab terrorism. Saddam, also, had fewer friends in the media than does Fidel. Iraq's total collapse in the Persian Gulf War had proven beyond a doubt the monumental incompetence of Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard. The Bay of Pigs, which was won by the Communists because of Kennedy's guilty conscience, was deemed too dangerous to repeat even without betraying the freedom fighters as in 1961. Besides, if Bush had liberated Cuba, what would have happened to the Republicans' electoral lock on the Cuban-American vote? It might actually shift (shhh, don't tell Henry!). "Cuba Libre!" is going to sound like a stock phrase once Cuba is actually free (in fact, it was never anything else to American politicians since 1898).