Friends, where were you 10 years ago when you heard the news?
On this day in 2008, President George W. Bush was in Baghdad. It was a month after his party was wiped out in the presidential election, partially because he was a dogshit awful president who led the country into a catastrophic war based on a lie.
During a press conference with then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—Bush said moments that the Iraq War was “decisively on its way to being won.” Then a journalist named Muntadhar al-Zaidi suddenly stood up, shouted, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” in Arabic, and threw his goddamn shoe at Bush’s head. Immediately after, he yelled, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq,” and threw his other goddamn shoe at Bush’s head.
Bush, showing remarkable agility for a then-62 year old man, unfortunately dodged both shoes. It’s one of history’s great shortcomings that at least one of those shoes didn’t even graze his dome. In the Disney remake in my head of this moment where great historical liberties are taken, Bush is hit by both shoes in slow-motion and spit flies everywhere like he just got rocked in the jaw by Muhammad Ali.
Alas, it was not to be.
After al-Zaidi threw his shoes, he was tackled and arrested. He was initially sentenced to three years in prison, but he would be released after spending nine months in jail. Bush called it one of the “most weird” moments of his presidency. “Here I am, getting ready to answer questions from a free press in a democratic Iraq, and a guy stands up and throws his shoe,” he said. “And it was bizarre, and it was an interesting way for a person to express himself.”
It was also a “way for a person to express himself” that caught fire immediately after he did it, per a Washington Post write-up of al-Zaidi’s release in 2009:
The little-known television reporter catapulted to fame after the news conference for Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in December in Baghdad.
In the aftermath, Zaidi received medals from Arab potentates, marriage proposals and a $10 million offer for his shoes from a rich Saudi. Restaurants were named after him, and shoes became a new accouterment of protesters in demonstrations against the United States.
“What drove me to the confrontation was the injustice that befell my country and people, and how the occupation tried to humiliate my homeland and crushed the people, men, women and children,” al-Zaidi said at the time of his release. “The chance came, and I did not miss it.”