Bush vs. Al-Zaidi
Let us look at the consequences of their actions first. In 2000, Bush came into power through electoral fraud, with utter disregard for the due process of law, and by stealing and forging the ballots of Democrat African-Americans and Latinos into Republican votes. Then only for the first few months of his presidency, his popularity rose and then went into a nosedive until September 11, 2001, which gave Bush a chance to bomb, in cowboy style, every country he deemed to be an enemy of "freedom" or constituting an imagined "axis of evil."
Bush created emergency legislation which legalised military trials of war prisoners by assigning them a new identity of "enemy combatant" and allowed the army to imprison them incommunicado in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Many people were held in Guantanamo Bay on flimsiest of charges which could not be proven and they had to be released. The innocent people came out suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and regrets over years of life wasted.
Bush and his team presented false intelligence reports about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and invaded Iraq in clear violations of the international law. The toppling of Saddam did not lead to any stability and democratisation of Iraq and the country imploded. At the same time, American citizens were subject to countless violations of their privacy because domestic spying was institutionalised by Bush when he created the Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, the American economy had started bleeding because the war in Afghanistan and Iraq were not showing any clear signs of "victory" or "liberation" of the Afghans and the Iraqis.
Bush showed contempt for global environmental concerns, unionised workers of America, civil liberties, fair trial, law, justice, equality, and only supported the military-industrial complex and the elite. He shamelessly supported dictators, such as Musharraf, and their disregard for an independent judiciary. In the countries where his army had toppled the regimes formerly supported by America (Saddam and the Taliban were cold-war US allies), Bush installed puppet regimes which had no grassroots support. All this went on for eight years, driven by the unbridled greed unleashed onto the world by Bush and Co. Countless books, documents, testimonies, protests, and marches tried to register their disagreement with contemporary American imperialist hysteria. Countless effigies of Bush, Karzai, Musharraf and Maliki were burnt. But nothing expressed the global sentiment against American hubris better than the pair of Ducati model 271 size 10 shoes thrown at Bush by Muntazar Al-Zaidi. The so-called "objective" opinion-manufacturers called it an unprofessional act – as if Bush was a totally professional chief of the greatest war machine in the world.
Muntazar Al-Zaidi had chosen his mode of critique with care and, according to his relatives; he had gone to buy a special pair of shoes for the occasion. He was also aware of the consequences of his actions and the political message he wanted to send. That is why he refused the offer of legal support by the lawyer of the former dictator Saddam Hussain. According to the brother of Al-Zaidi, he has not apologised for his actions and will do it again if given a chance.
The only problem with Al-Zaidi’s defiance is that it may not lead to a complete recuperation of the lost dignity of the people’s invaded countries and, perhaps, will only serve as a surrogate expression of the undefeated will of the people. The real restoration of the loss of self-respect in the Arab world and Afghanistan can only come through getting rid of their indigenous systems of exploitation and client rulers and recuperate the collective will of the people. In many postcolonial societies, real freedom does not exist and the departure of foreign colonisers often leads to the exploitative hold of a native oligarchy, which continues to extract profit in the same manner as the former coloniser.
Even though Al-Zaidi has achieved the status of a hero in the Arab world and, if the popularity of online games which allow players to throw shoes at Bush is a reliable indicator, among the world of cyber-activists, the Arab world has to do a lot more to be able to make their voice heard. For example, they have to stop blaming the West for all their problems and carve out their own sovereign space in the global polity.
The best revenge for the exploited is, in addition to the cathartic use of a pair of shoes, to become indispensable to a large number of people all over the world by acquiring and producing leadership in science and social justice. Wherever justice and prosperity exists, people start migrating to that territory. At the moment, Muslim countries are only good for leaving. People have to make them suitable for living for themselves and others. Then they will not need to throw any shoes. Until then, surrogate expressions of free will are good catharsis —but nothing more.