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Photoshopping the President, with Tread Marks; Shoe-Toss Game Logs 1 Mil "Hits"
12/16/2008 3:15 PM ET

After the infamous incident on Sunday when Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, now in Iraqi custody, threw his two shoes at US President George Bush during a joint press conference in Baghdad with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, at least one Iraqi website known for its strong opposition to the policies of the two men has taken the shoe meme to the next level, showing images of Bush, Maliki, and other symbols, all digitally altered to celebrate the symbolism of the journalist's gesture.

The images shown here all appear on the Iraqi Rabita website, known for its strong opposition to the US presence in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi regime, which its editors frequently portray as representing Iranian and American interests in Iraq.

Rabita also carries a link to a newly created online flash video game, hosted on a Norwegian website, where visitors are challenged to lob digital shoes at an electronic caricature of the US president. As of the time of this posting, the game logged 1,106,390 successful shoe strikes, according to its internal counter.

Images: Iraqi Rabita.

Daily Column
Bush Dodges Shoes! ...Oh, and he signs SOFA.
By DANIEL W. SMITH 12/15/2008 02:00 AM ET

Today, it’s all about the shoes.

From Baghdad
In an incident that has gotten more coverage than the Iraqi parliament’s passing of the security agreement, U.S. president George W. Bush showed off an agility not often seen, in ducking to miss two shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi television journalist at a press conference in Baghdad.

Sudarsan Raghavan and Dan Eggen of the Washington Post summed it up by saying that, on his final presidential visit to Iraq, the president “received a taste of local resentment toward his policies ,” and included a four-photo spread of the near-miss on page one(left).

The best and most thorough description of the event was written by the New York Times’ Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin.
The drama unfolded shortly after Mr. Bush appeared at a news conference in Baghdad with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to highlight the newly adopted security agreement between the United States and Iraq. The agreement includes a commitment to withdraw all American forces by the end of 2011.

The Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 28, a correspondent for Al Baghdadia, an independent Iraqi television station, stood up about 12 feet from Mr. Bush and shouted in Arabic: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” He then threw a shoe at Mr. Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it.

As stunned security agents and guards, officials and journalists watched, Mr. Zaidi then threw his other shoe, shouting in Arabic, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” That shoe also narrowly missed Mr. Bush as Prime Minister Maliki stuck a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him.

Mr. Maliki’s security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until “he was crying like a woman,” said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges.

Other Iraqi journalists in the front row apologized to Mr. Bush, who was uninjured and tried to brush off the incident by making a joke. “All I can report is it is a size 10,” he said, continuing to take questions and noting the apologies. He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.

But the moment clearly unnerved Mr. Maliki’s aides and some of the Americans in Mr. Bush’s entourage, partly because it was televised and may have revealed a security lapse in the so-called Green Zone, the most heavily secured part of Baghdad. In the chaos, Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, who was visibly distraught, was struck in the eye by a microphone stand.
Andrea Stone of USA Today gives some ink to the signing of the security agreement which also occurred .
The agreement is "a reminder of our friendship and as a way forward to help the Iraqi people realize the blessings of a free society," Bush said after meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents. "The work hasn't been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace."

The security agreement calls for U.S. combat forces to leave Iraqi cities by June 30. All American troops would be out by the end of 2011.

The deal allows both sides to renegotiate if violence, at its lowest level since the war began in 2003, returns. Saturday, the top U.S. commander here, Gen. Raymond Odierno, left wiggle room for a continued U.S. presence in urban areas after next summer, saying troops will remain as mentors and trainers at Iraqi security stations.
After Iraq, Bush zipped over to Afghanistan and gave an early-morning press-conference there, prompting the AP headline “Afghan reporters keep shoes on during Bush news conference”.

The reason could be that the article was already finished, and the shoes were thrown so late, but still, John D. McKinnon, Yochi J. Dreazen and Gina Chon of the Wall Street Journal still probably deserve some kudus for their restraint in only allotting one paragraph to the shoe-throwing. It wasn’t the most fun to read, but journalistic austerity has its place.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Jane Arraf reports on the shoe incident some from Mosul, but then turns the focus on the still-embattled northern city, and the upcoming provincial elections.
The act is an Arab symbol of contempt, much like when Iraqis hit Hussein's statue with their shoes after the US invasion.

While Bush's visit was intended to mark gains made across Iraq – and there have been plenty over the past year – in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul the forces unleashed by toppling Saddam Hussein are still persistent and apparent.

Roadside bomb attacks still occur almost every day and businesses are just beginning to reopen after US and Iraqi forces wrestled the worst parts of the city from insurgents earlier this year. Some areas of Mosul still look like a war zone.

Mosul, Iraq's second or third largest city, depending on who is counting, has perhaps the most diverse ethnic mix in the country. Believed to have a slight Sunni Arab majority, the city also has a large Kurdish population, significant numbers of Christians, and almost every other minority.

Provincial elections in January are likely to be the first since the war began in which former Baathists, some of whom have returned under the Iraqi government's reconciliation policy, will participate in political life. It's a volatile mix and one in which US forces have been sometimes the catalyst for violence and sometimes the glue that holds the city's fractures together.
In Other News
Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times reports from Balad that the top American commander in Iraq said Saturday that some soldiers would remain in a support role in cities beyond summer 2009, when a new security agreement calls for the removal of American combat troops from urban areas.

“We believe that’s part of our transition teams,” he told reporters in Balad while accompanying Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who arrived on an unannounced trip Saturday.
General Odierno declined to say how many American troops might remain in Iraqi cities past the summer and said the number still remained to be negotiated with the Iraqi government under the terms of the so-called status of forces agreement. “But what I would say is we’ll maintain our very close partnership with the Iraqi security forces throughout Iraq even after the summer.”

Later on Saturday, a spokesman for General Odierno, Lt. Col. James Hutton, reiterated that the soldiers staying in cities would not be combat forces but rather “enablers,” who would provide services like medical care, air traffic control and helicopter support that the Iraqis cannot perform themselves. He said that all their actions would be closely coordinated with the Iraqi government and that all tenets of the security agreement would be followed.

Mr. Gates met with General Odierno for an hour and then was scheduled to return to Washington. Before the meeting, Mr. Gates held a question-and-answer session with American soldiers and repeated the Bush administration’s pledge to the Iraqi government of a complete troop withdrawal by the end of 2011. ...Mr. Gates came to Baghdad from Manama, Bahrain, where he warned that foreign powers should not try to “test” President-elect Barack Obama with a crisis in his first months in office. He said the new administration would be committed to security in the Gulf and criticized Iran as trying to destabilize the region. “The president-elect and his team are under no illusions about Iran’s behavior and what Iran has been doing in the region and apparently is doing with weapons programs,” he said. Mr. Gates, who was speaking at a conference on regional security, said that Mr. Obama and his advisers had done more extensive planning across the government for the transition than any other incoming administration he could remember and asserted that they would therefore be prepared from their first day in office. Mr. Gates, who is staying on as defense secretary, has worked for seven presidents; Mr. Obama will be his eighth.
“So anyone who thought that the upcoming months might present opportunities to ‘test’ the new president would be sorely mistaken,” Mr. Gates said. “President Obama and his national security team, myself included, will be ready to defend the interests of the United States and our friends and allies from the moment he takes office on Jan. 20.”

Only on Slogger
Images Making the Rounds by Email Point to Macabre, Bizarre Reality
12/08/2008 6:13 PM ET
Fishers of men: Iraqis remove an unidentified corpse out of the water, in an undated photo circulating in an email message in Iraq.
Fishers of men: Iraqis remove an unidentified corpse out of the water, in an undated photo circulating in an email message in Iraq.

A series of macabre photos are circulating in Iraq with the heading "Only in Iraq," showcasing the well-developed dark sense of humor that Iraqis have had ample opportunity to cultivate.

A selection of the undated, uncredited images in the email, obtained by IraqSlogger, are displayed here, with translations where necessary. The origins of the email message are unknown at this time.

Caption reads: An Australian journalist obtained an Iraqi passport of the repealed S-type, officially issued in a new name, after paying a sum of 110 US dollars.
Caption reads: An Australian journalist obtained an Iraqi passport of the repealed S-type, officially issued in a new name, after paying a sum of 110 US dollars.

Only in Iraq.
"Only in Iraq."

An Iraqi egg seller points to his national reconciliation eggs which he sells alongside such varieties as solar powered eggs and federalism eggs.
An Iraqi egg seller points to his "national reconciliation eggs" which he sells alongside such "varieties" as "solar powered eggs" and "federalism eggs."

A statue of Saddam Hussein gestures grandly before a burned-out building.
A statue of Saddam Hussein gestures grandly before a burned-out building.

Scanning a corpse with a metal detector.
Scanning a corpse with a metal detector.

Newspaper ad bills preparation of asylum stories for Iraqis, for the United Nations, Canada, and Australia.
Newspaper ad bills "preparation of asylum stories for Iraqis, for the United Nations, Canada, and Australia."

Only in Iraq.
"Only in Iraq."

Photo Gallery
Wacky Costumes and Banners Mark Ceremony at Engineering School
07/09/2008 1:54 PM ET
Iraqi graduates in costume for the 2008 Baghdad Technology University graduation.
Iraqi graduates in costume for the 2008 Baghdad Technology University graduation.

2008 graduates of the Baghdad Technology University donned costumes and installed elaborate banners and decorations on their campus to mark their graduation ceremony, in a longstanding Iraqi tradition.

One Iraqi who attended the ceremonies at the engineering and technical school reported that the motifs in this years costumes included war, a theme with which all the Iraqi graduates would be intimately familiar, traditional Arab dress, as well as costumes inspired by melodramatic Syrian television programs known throughout Iraq.

Below are some photos from the 2008 graduation ceremony.

Technology University students decorate their university facilities with banners installations.
Technology University students decorate their university facilities with banners installations.


Graduates in costume.
Graduates in costume.

A banner produced by a group of graduating engineering students in costume as military commandos.
A banner produced by a group of graduating engineering students in costume as military commandos.

Graduates in costume as an armed group.
Graduates in costume as an armed group.

Photoshopped banner represents a group of graduating students as a military unit.
Photoshopped banner represents a group of graduating students as a military unit.

Students dressed as cavemen for the graduation ceremonies.
Students dressed as cavemen for the graduation ceremonies.

A graduate dons traditional Arab garb and rides a horse for the festivities.
A graduate dons traditional Arab garb and rides a horse for the festivities.

Heroes
Army Medic Shares His Personal Combat Experience in Online Diary
12/11/2007 1:51 PM ET
"With just a small pack of medical supplies, Sergeant Joshua Delgado learned to work fast in the most trying circumstances. As a new breed of medic, he’s one of the hundreds of unsung heroes in Iraq, kids with limited medical training who are saving more men on the battlefield than in any other war in American history," GQ explains in the introduction to its piece profiling the medic, and honoring all like him by naming them amongst the "men of the year" in the December issue.

You'll have to buy the magazine to read Damien Cave's reportedly moving portrait of the life and work of Sgt. Delgado, but GQ has posted excerpts from his personal diary, which convey the frustration, fear, pride, anger, boredom, and comradeship of his deployment.

In one particularly interest anecdote, Delgado recounts a run-in he had with a superior over the possible identification of an IED, illustrating the taught tensions and heightened apprehension natural to a soldier who just wants to get home alive.

Today I got extremely pissed off with some things that happened. We were clearing the reed line around what is going to be a new checkpoint. After we were done, we came back on the road, and I saw what looked to be an IED. (It was a half-buried MRE box with a rock on top.) I yelled it out loud and started to move the truck that was closest to it away. After observing it, the decision was made to shoot at it. Nothing happened. Our trucks moved past it to secure more of the road ahead. I had a gut feeling things didn't feel right, so I got out of the truck and gathered the IA soldiers that were with us. We searched for a command wire but didn't find one. The IAs are more familiar with IEDs than we are, so I tried my best to ask if they could look at it closer. They didn't understand, so I called for the translator to speak to them. They told us it is better not to get too close, because they believed it was an IED. The lieutenant told me it wasn't an IED, and I asked him, "Are you 51% sure?" He said yes, because nothing happened after we shot at it. He then told me, which got me pissed off, it doesn’t matter, 'cause if something happens, oh well. I saw a guy die because of one of these things, and he says oh well. I wasn't allowed to try to uncover it myself. (I wonder why, if it wasn't an IED.) We had repositioned ourselves away from the box when I got the idea of taking a photo of it, but it was too late—we were too far and about to move again. I wish I'd been able to take a photo. So nothing happened. Later I was told by the platoon sergeant I needed to be more tactful when speaking with higher-ranking officers, and even after I explained myself, I was still told I was in the wrong. I have 4 months to survive this place, and I am going to approach the situations I find myself in as needed, with or without being tactful. I made a decision to talk to the 1st sergeant about what went on today. In the end I hope it isn't an IED, because I would rather be wrong than right.... A rocket just missed the FOB and landed to our south. Honestly, I didn't even hear it; I guess my headphones were too loud.... I spoke with the 1st sergeant about what happened, and he told me he understood my concern but that at the time the lieutenant was the commander on ground and he had the final decision. I didn't argue with him, because I knew he was right, but my gut feeling still didn't feel right about the box....

It's been a week or so since the incident, and we headed back to the same spot for the emplacement of a new battle position nearby. I had told one of the squad leaders, "If I see that damn box, I'm opening it up." He thought I was playing, but I was serious. Well, we walked by the spot, and there was no box with a rock on top, but in the same spot the ground had very loose dirt compared to the compacted dirt around it. Doesn't mean anything was buried, but it could be an indication. Anyways, it doesn't matter, because at least there wasn't anything there.

Delgado returned home to Ft. Drum in October after 15 months in the war zone, meeting his 1-year-old daughter for the first time in a joyous if poignant moment, sad only because of all he has missed in the time he was gone.

When we landed at Fort Drum, it was a sight for sore eyes. Everyone was happy/excited/relieved. When we were in formation at the welcome-home ceremony, I spotted Carissa and the kids right away. It took about 10 minutes for the ceremony to end, and I went straight to them. Emily didn't really recognize me, but she came up and gave me a hug. It was funny, because she was looking around to how other people were reacting to me, and she sort of came up and gave me a light hug. She grew so much. Carissa looked beautiful, of course. Jacob looks like a tan version of me when I was a baby. For Halloween, Emily was Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz," and Jacob was the Lion. It has taken Emily a while to get used to me, but when her mommy is around, I become almost obsolete. It's OK, because they only had each other while I was gone for 15 months. It’s great to be home, and I take each day one day at a time.
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