Muntadar al-Zaidi, the shoe throwing journalist has become a mini celebrity in Iraq and support for him is rising while he remains in custody. George Bush’s response to the shoes being hurled at him was to tell a pathetically weak joke about the size of the shoes which summed up his clumsiness in dealing with all matters relating to Iraq.
Had the shoes been thrown at Tony Blair, I suspect he would have responded by saying that it was only due to the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime that a journalist could throw a shoe at a visiting head of state and not end up being killed by state police along with the rest of his family. He would have added that while many disagreed with the war in Iraq, at least there was enough freedom now for a journalist to attend a press conference and express his view regardless of the manner in which he chooses to do so. Blair would have called for al-Zaidi to be released immediately and in the best case scenario would have invited him to a meeting in front of the cameras to discuss his concerns with al-Zaidi probably ending up apologising for his actions.
Perhaps I am being too kind to Blair but he certainly would have had the nous to defuse this incident instead of the way Bush and the Iraqi Government have responded and allowed it to escalate with allegations now of al-Zaidi’s mistreatment by the security forces and thousands marching to demand his immediate release.