Follow the Shoe: Will Bush Ever Stand Trial in the People's Court?
Is anyone else worried about what's happened to Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the shoe-throwing journalist still in "detention" in Iraq? This is, after all, the land where habeas corpus went to die, and no one's seen or heard from him other than second-hand reports from his brother in the week before Christmas. We don't really know what "detention" means to the people holding the keys. We don't know if he "tripped and fell down the stairs" or if his arm really was broken in the arrest. The New York Times itself can't make up it's mind whether he's been tortured by the cops or handled with kid gloves because the Whole World is Watching.
Funny how a government that can't keep the electricity running found a definition for his crime with record efficiency: "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit... an offense that carries a prison term of between five and 15 years under Iraqi law, for throwing his shoes at Bush on December 14."
His lawyers might make a case for diminished capacity, PTSD, (Al-Zaidi has been covering the widows and orphans of Iraq, been kidnapped once and arrested twice) but that would erase the meaning of al-Zaidi's quixotic gesture, like that killer last line of Mark Twain's "The War Prayer": "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." What I'm hoping for is five years minus time served, compensation if he has indeed been abused while in detention-- and a guarantee of a free pair of custom-made shoes for life. If he ever visits Kalamazoo, his money's no good here. This heartfelt anger was political theater that turned the propaganda of professionals, their jet planes and "Mission Accomplished" signs, into tinkling brass.
I love the man. "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog! This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq!" What most commentators have missed is that technology has made our leaders as remote from any consequence of their actions as any ancient autocrat. Somebody (I thought it was Bertrand Russell, but I can't find the quote) said of Khruschev and Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis: "If they say 'live', we shall live; if they say 'die', we shall die." This is an unhappy thought for a culture that can grant an utter fool the power of a god, and puts our entire species at the whim of distant torturers. Predator planes, satellite spies, the NSA's erosion of privacy and the Army's research into robot soldiers are become so commonplace that this power to murder and ruin is now in a hundred hands instead of a few. Who would begrudge a man who has seen too many dead children the throwing of a shoe?
"Now the movements of nations have become like a huge slow solemn dance of the elephants, random power swaying in unpredictable directions, their movements obscured by a stifling rain of paper, pastel forms in octuplicate, programmed tapes, punch cards. Through this low rain, in the shadowy patterns of the dance, scurry a half a billion bureaucrats, each squealing self-important orders. Beneath the wrinkled gray legs, ten thousand generals squat, playing with their war game toys. The billions of mankind sit in the huge gloomy reaches of the stands, staring without comprehension... and because tension and waiting can only be sustained so long, they can make their own little games and charades in the stands, the charades of art, sex, money, power and random murder."
-- John D. MacDonald, A Deadly Shade of Gold.
Mr. al-Zaidi appears to have been a gentle soul who specialized in human interest stories about widows and orphans. The popinjay he targeted is responsible for three times as many innocent deaths as were killed on 9/11, spent money that would make a Nero or Caligula blush-- and still professes not to know what the fuss was about. That he is insulated from shame is no surprise; I've never seen a crime that a Bush couldn't wriggle out from under, from banking for Nazis to drug running by the Contras to... Good luck pinning one down with the sword of Justice; they must be covered in protective slime like a catfish.
Will there, should there be, a commission to investigate crimes committed by the Bush administration? President Obama is playing his cards close to the chest, and too many members of Congress are guilty of aiding and abetting. You won't see an American standing trial in the Hague as long as Kissinger's still alive, but an independent "truth commission", like the ones in South Africa, might be nice.
When frothing near the ceiling about seeing the whole crew in leg irons, I have to keep reminding my friends that incompetence isn't punishable by law. They remind me that George Bush left so many fires burning in his wake, it could be years before anyone got around to pursuing the firebug. This in itself is a kind of brilliance, like those beasts that escape their pursuers by defecating. Someday, perhaps, with the wheels of Justice grinding very slow, but exceedingly small.