Footwear – viewed in the Middle East as low and unclean – was hurled at his head, but a seemingly oblivious George W. Bush just ducked and shrugged.
December 14, 2008 was a memorable day in the histrionics of polished shoes and politics. But, there was one question left for journalists to ponder in this saga.
What does it take to actually offend George W. Bush?
If not the greatest insult an Arab can muster – the hurling of footwear at a man’s head – then what?Is it that the photographic moment ricochets globally and stays, replaying in an endless loop for the ages?Or maybe that the Iraqi shoe-hurler himself is all but deified, replete with offers of marriage?
No, not even those humiliations managed to penetrate the willfully oblivious presidential bubble, after Bush so deftly ducked and just as quickly shrugged off the leather projectiles at a that Baghdad news conference.
“Whether or not Bush gets it – and he is famous for not getting international etiquette – this was a monumental offence,” says Mark McCrum, whose book ‘Going Dutch In Beijing’ chronicles faux pas in many cultures.
“The thrower didn’t just use shoes, which are the lowest, most unclean thing in his world, he called Bush a dog. The combination of the two, it just doesn’t get worse than that.”
In fairness to Bush, it is easy to miss the sheer magnitude of shoe symbolism in the Middle East. But think back and you might recall that shoes played a starring role at the beginning of the Bush’s Iraq ordeal five years ago, when, just as the old regime collapsed, Iraqis spontaneously began removing their shoes and beating them against anything bearing the likeness of Saddam Hussein.
“Whatever George Bush makes of it, the throwing of the shoes comes from a place embedded deep in the culture of the Middle East. This was a cultural message. And the worst one available.”
Excerpts from article by Mitch Potter: