Freedom symbol insulted

Published 9:31 pm Monday, December 22, 2008

By Staff
As you no doubt have seen on the news in recent days, a young Iraqi reporter, Muntander al-Zaidi, threw his shoes at Pres. George Bush during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Mini-ster Nuri al-Maliki inside Baghdad's Green Zone.
The president ducked to avoid the shoe, and just seconds later, Mr. Zaidi threw his other shoe, which also missed the president, striking the wall behind him.
Last week, it appeared that the shoe thrower would be facing criminal prosecution with possible charges of initiating an aggressive act against a head of a foreign state on an official visit as well as insulting the leader of a foreign nation.
Interestingly, much of Mr. Zaidi's defense will center on his right to freedom of speech - a freedom the man he attacked helped secure.
The incident is a clear sign of the success earned by America and her allies in Iraq.
Consider what this man's sentence would have been had he done something similar during the reign of Saddam Hussein?
Most certainly, Mr. Zaidi would have been put to death by Saddam Hussein, a tortured, cruel death.
President Bush was in Iraq for the signing of two historic agreements between the United States and the government of Iraq.
The agreements, a Strate-gic Framework Agreement, which covers our political, economic, and security relationship with Iraq, and the Status of Forces Agreement, which implements our security relationship, are the result of the hard work of our troops.
We are continuing to transition security responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces, allowing military commanders to move U.S. combat forces out of major populated areas so that they will be out of those areas by June 30, 2009.
In fact, the Status of Forces Agreement sets Dec. 31, 2011, for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq.
These dates were based on the success of the troop surge over the past two years. The extraordinary efforts of our military will allow U.S. forces to reduce their presence without sacrificing the security gains achieved by the surge.
Security incidents in Iraq remain at their lowest since early 2004. Due to these sustained security gains, all five surge brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, a Marine Expedition-ary Unit, and many of our coalition partners have been able to leave Iraq and return home.
Additionally, the Iraqi government has taken over reconstruction and caring for its people. Since 2003, the government of Iraq has appropriated $85 billion for reconstruction and security. The U.S. has not appropriated any funds for major reconstruction since 2005.
The successes in Iraq are undeniable. For what our troops have achieved in Iraq - the freedom of 25 million Iraqis from the tyrannical Saddam Hussein - was never as obvious as when a reporter chose to throw his shoe at our president.

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