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.