Shoe-thrower's brother steps up

The brother of the Iraqi TV reporter defends and explains the shoe-throwing.

Published December 15, 2008 4:50PM (EST)

Maythem al-Zaidi, the 28-year-old brother of Muntader al-Zaidi, the man who threw his shoes at President Bush during a Sunday press conference, has spoken up to explain and defend his brother's actions. From the New York Times:

Hitting someone with a shoe is a particularly strong rebuke in Iraqi culture. Although the president was uninjured, the incident overshadowed media coverage of the trip in the Arab world. And it has transformed Muntader al-Zaidi into a symbolic figure in the debate about the American military’s presence in Iraq.

Maythem al-Zaidi said his brother had not planned to throw his shoes prior to Sunday. “He was provoked when Mr. Bush said [during the news conference] this is his farewell gift to the Iraqi people,” he said. A colleague of Muntader al-Zaidi’s at al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, however, said the correspondent had been “planning for this from a long time. He told me that his dream is to hit Bush with shoes,” said the man, who would not give his name.

Muntader al-Zaidi appears to have a long-standing dislike of the United States presence in Iraq. He used to finish his reports by saying he was in "the occupied Baghdad." His brother said that he hates the occupation so strongly that he canceled his wedding, saying: "I will marry when the occupation is over . . ."

Muntader al-Zaidi was the head of the student union under Saddam Hussein and he earned a diploma as a mechanic from a technical institute before becoming a journalist. He worked at al-Qasim al-Mushterek newspaper, an Iraqi daily founded after the 2003 invasion, then he joined al-Diyar satellite channel, an Iraqi channel founded after the war. Two years later, he joined al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, another Iraqi channel, which is based in Cairo.

Maythem al-Zaidi contacted a judge to ask him if what his brother did is a crime under Iraqi law. The judge told him that he might serve two years in prison or pay a fine for insulting a president of foreign country unless Mr. Bush withdrew the case. “If they manage to imprison Muntader, there are millions of him all over Iraq and the Arab world,” Maythem al-Zaidi said.

Maythem al-Zaidi said has been contacted from about 100 Iraqi and foreign lawyers offering their services free of charge — including Saddam Hussein’s lawyer Khalil al-Dulaymi. When asked if he will accept Mr. al-Dulaymi’s services, he replied, “Why not, we are all Iraqis.”

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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