SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Is the famous shoe-throwing journalist of Baghdad now a torture victim? George W. Bush’s triumphal visit to Baghdad turned out to be something closer to theater of the absurd. The lasting image, repeated countless times in the broadcast news, shows Muntadar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi TV journalist throwing first one shoe, then the other, at the hapless president. “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!” he shouted.
Al-Zaidi, like almost every local reporter in Iraq, has repeatedly been arrested and held by U.S. forces. That is a little-discussed aspect of the Bush Administration’s heavy-handed policies in Iraq. They demonstrate contempt for the local media by imprisoning and mistreating reporters by the hundreds. The local media reciprocate, of course–Americans do not, by and large, get a flattering portrait in the local Iraqi media, unless the Americans are paying for it. (And pay-for-coverage is another aspect of the bizarre media relations scheme engineered by the United States.)
Last night, reports spread in the Iraqi media that al-Zaidi had been tortured and was being held by the Americans in Camp Cropper. When I first heard this I dismissed it; it struck me as impossible that the U.S. forces in Iraq would do such a thing, particularly considering the media attention the shoe-throwing garnered. Now, however, I am wondering just what happened to al-Zaidi. The BBC reports:
Muntadar al-Zaidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury, his older brother, Dargham, told the BBC.
The BBC also confirmed reports that al-Zaidi was in U.S. custody and now receiving medical attention. It is not clear that he was in U.S. custody when he was beaten; however, the Baghdad Command owes us some explanations before the situation gets out of hand.
Bush’s visit to Baghdad helped us relive the Bush experience in Iraq: deceit, stealth, misrepresentation in government dealings, the contempt of the Iraqi public, and now an echo of prisoner abuse and torture. The Bush legacy tour is really out on a bender.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”