NR: More on the shoe-throwing incident
Three more reports about the shoe incident, the first two with Alina Cho (midnight and 1am Baghdad time) and the final with Don Lemon (6am Baghdad time).
ALINA CHO: It happened in Baghdad today. President Bush showed up for an unannounced farewell visit, but much like the war in Iraq itself, things didn't go exactly the way they were planned.
CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad. I talked to him just a few minutes ago.
CHO: So, Michael, you may not like President Bush's politics, but one thing you can say for sure is that the man has great reflexes. So tell us what happened.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely! Absolutely. Talk about reinventing duck and cover. Okay, what happened here today is during the president's surprise visit, he has a press conference this evening, local time, with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki. Now, then the most extraordinary scenes took place. While President Bush was talking, an Iraqi journalist for a television network here stood up and threw his shoes -- first one, then the other -- at President Bush, narrowly missing his head and there we see the reflexes of the president.
After this, obviously, Secret Service and others jump on this guy and drag him out, still screaming, having called President Bush a dog and saying that, you know, this is your farewell, so to speak. We then saw President Bush, maintaining his composure, actually try to turn the incident to his advantage, brushing the moment aside. And this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?
BUSH: Right. No, I consider it an important step in - on the road toward an Iraq that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself. But let me talk about the guy throwing the shoe. It is one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and have people not gesturing with all five fingers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARE: So that's how President Bush tried to handle this rather delicate situation. And bear in mind that in Iraqi culture, throwing a shoe is close to the ultimate insult, normally reserved for things like the statue of Saddam Hussein, during the invasion when it was pulled down, the Iraqis slapped it. And then we saw shoes thrown in an effigy of President Bush just a couple of weeks ago in a rally, perhaps prophetic, -- Alina.
CHO: Well, at least he was able to joke about it. And he did by the way say, Michael, that it was a size ten shoe. Now I don't know if he was serious about that. But let's get on to business now. This is the president's fourth trip to Iraq since the war began. Clearly is going to be his farewell trip. This was his first time outside the heavily fortified Green Zone. What was on the schedule today?
WARE: Well, actually, it's his first time outside of a U.S. military base. So this was a unique trip in many regards. Indeed, when he went and met the president of Iraq, he was outside the Green Zone itself, across the river, so technically in the Red Zone, which we've only seen someone like the Iranian president do.
What's been on the agenda? First, the president has said that he was here to thank the troops for their ongoing service. He was also here to celebrate the striking of this deal between Baghdad and Washington that all but ends the American phase of the war here in Iraq. This is the beginning of the American end. This agreement dictates that America must be out in three years, it governs the new rules here, and President Bush has been hailing that as a success, even though some of his officials here on the ground don't see it as an success at all -- Alina.
CHO: Michael, as always, colorful commentary, colorful reporting. We thank you for joining us.
ALINA CHO: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Alina Cho in for Fredricka Whitfield this hour. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. President Bush has left Iraq following an unannounced farewell visit today. The president declared that the war in Iraq is on its way to being won, but an incident that disrupted a news conference today showed how much controversy the Iraq war continues to generate.
A man threw two shoes at the president before security officers dragged him away. CNN's Michael Ware joins us now from Baghdad. So as I was saying earlier, Michael, may not like his policies, but certainly the man has great reflexes, doesn't he?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he moved like a cat. And it was just so -- actually, he moved like a boxer, the way he just shifted out of the way and the thing whizzed past his head. Something to say about this incident, the man who threw this is actually an Iraqi journalist, working for an Iraqi television network. And it appears he became so outraged at something that he threw these shoes, hurled them at President Bush's head.
Now, not only is that obviously a statement that translates into any language in terms of the frustration and the pent-up anger here in Iraq about the occupation, but in this part of the world, in this country, it's the height of insult to throw your shoe at someone. I mean, it's beyond imagination to convey this to the non-Arab world.
Normally, such an insult is only reserved for the most despised, like after the invasion when the statue of Saddam was pulled down and the Iraqis leapt upon it and slapped it with their shoes. Or we just saw it a few weeks ago when tens of thousands of Iraqi took to the streets in an anti-American demonstration and took off their shoes and hurled them at what? An effigy of President Bush, perhaps somewhat prophetic -- Alina.
CHO: I want to get to what the -- just incredible. I want to get to what the president was actually doing there today, because his fourth and final trip to Iraq as president since the war began. He was outside the Green Zone today. He did a lot, including sort of celebrating a security pact that was recently signed. What's the significance of that? And what -- practically speaking, what will that do?
WARE: Oh, look, this is going to do enormous things. I mean, unfortunately, this incident of the shoe-throwing is going to become an icon of the war in Iraq. People are going to remember this forever and it overshadows all the other purposes of President Bush's fourth visit here to the country. Now, foremost, he wanted to thank the troops for their ongoing service. But as he himself says, he wanted to celebrate these new agreements between Washington and Baghdad.
Now, these agreements, effectively, are the beginning of the end of America's war here in Iraq. President-elect Obama campaigned on ending the war, but the Bush administration has already cut the peace deal, has already struck the agreement. Now, under the agreement, U.S. forces have to be off Iraqi soil within three years. No negotiation, no question, no extensions. You're gone, is the Iraqi position, and that's in this internationally-binding agreement.
Now, also, we have the U.S. forces here on the ground, still more than 130,000 of them, under this agreement, they don't operate as U.S. forces as much anymore. Everything they do, any combat operation, they have to go and coordinate with the Iraqi government. To search a house looking for Iranian Quds force officers who are killing Americans, they have to go and get an Iraqi judge to give them a warrant.
So, this wraps the American military up in operational knots. So, in so many ways, by signing this agreement, America has surrendered much of its capacity to wage war here in Iraq. Indeed, many officials in the mission here on the ground, both military and diplomatic, have said, more than 4,000 deaths, the expenditure of so much treasure from American taxpayers and for what, for this agreement? It does not preserve American interests, according to these people here on the ground working for President Bush himself, Alina.
CHO: Michael, so interesting, your insight into all of this, but I do want to talk about what you alluded to earlier, which is that this shoe-throwing incident, really, is likely to overshadow...
CHO: ... so much of sort of the practical work that they're trying to do in Iraq. And I want to get to the president's reaction, what he said. I mean, he really joked about it. And let's listen to his reaction. You can react on the other side, Michael.
I believe we have that reaction from the president. There we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: So what if a guy threw his shoe at me? I consider it an important step on the road toward an Iraq that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself. But let me talk about the guy throwing the shoe. It is one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and have people not gesturing with all five fingers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: You got to hand it to him. He did take it well, didn't he, Michael?
WARE: Yeah, he did. You really do have to give it to President Bush. He didn't lose his composure, he moved like an athlete, and then he tried to turn the situation around by making this rather embarrassing incident a positive by citing it as an example, as you heard him say, essentially, of free speech and the forward march of the democratic process here. But that's, I'm sorry, it's just simply outweighed by the resonance of this statement.
I mean, apart from the theatrical drama of a journalist standing up and physically hurling his shoes at the head of the most powerful commander-in-chief in the world, the leader of the free world, it's the statement that it says to Arabs. It's an expression of how Iraqis or a large section of the community are feeling and it will play so acutely in the Arab world.
Through one journalist, it's -- you know, the feelings of so many have been expressed. And indeed, you have to point out that perhaps in a much more muted way, it's also the feelings of so many Americans, given the fact that President-elect Obama was brought to power with such an enormous mandate from the American people themselves, Alina.
CHO: Michael Ware, our man in Baghdad. Michael, as always, thank you. Great to see you.
DON LEMON: Good evening, everyone. We have seen President Bush in all sorts of situations and some really tough spots, but never anything like this before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (YELLING IN ARABIC)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Look at that. The President of the United States dodging a shoe thrown by an Iraqi reporter launched straight at his head, and then another one before the Secret Service and other reporters tackled him.
CNN's Michael Ware, live in Baghdad.
Michael, President Bush is now in Afghanistan, but do we know what provoked this bizarre incident earlier in Baghdad?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, at this stage, all we have is what you see. The man just stands up and starts hurling his shoes at the head of the president of the United States of America. We now have his network, an Iraqi television network calling for his immediate release. And we're waiting for dawn to get the reaction of Iraq's people, all of this obviously happening overnight.
But if what's on the screen with his station is any guide, it's going to be interesting. They've currently got his picture up on the screen permanently, demands for his release while they're scrolling pro-Iraqi nationalist film clips. So, this has obviously evoked a lot of emotion. We'll just have to see what the Iraqis have to say about it, Don.
LEMON: CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad. Michael, thank you very much.