Fareed Zakaria's recent column on the now-infamous 'Shoe Thrower,' Mr. Munthadhar al-Zaidi of the al-Baghdadia network says it simply, and says it best.
The current costs of the Iraq War are fresh in the minds of Iraqis -- they are very real, and they are very painful. Virtually every person in Iraq --save a few isolated pockets of Muthanna Province in the south and some of the all-Kurdish areas in the north, has lost an immediate or extended family member in the Troubles that began in 2003. Mr. al-Zaidi expressed a lot of those peoples' frustrations with a war they never asked for against a series of enemies (first the U.S., then either local thugs or sectarian militias) that, individually at least, they never provoked.
However, (hey, you had to know there was a 'but' coming here) the very fact that someone felt empowered to do this, and has since met a quite un-Ba'athist fate (i.e. one shot through the head just before your family gets charged for the bullet) shows something about the burgeoning openness of a society that went without things like civil society and democracy for years.
As Mr. Zakaria points out, we won't know for many years how history will view Operation Iraqi Freedom, but there is much more reason for hope than many critics who, I believe, are STILL trapped in a March 18, 2003 mindset concerning the entire endeavor would be willing to admit.
One of my neighbors made a great point about the shoe incident last night at one of our little floor get-togethers (long live the spirit of 200 Market St.!) -- the inclusion of the insult 'you dog' definitely took away from the poignancy of the act. Just as the sole of a shoe is considered extremely low/dirty in Arab culture (it's rude to even cross your legs in a way that exposes your sole to others in a meeting), the word 'dog' is considered an insult on the level of any of our four-letter beauties). If Mr. Al-Zaidi had just said, "This is for you on behalf of the widows and orphans," the disobedience would have been, well, a bit more civil.
A fair point, indeed.