The ordinary journalist, Muntazir Al-Mahdi, threw his shoes at US President George W Bush, on a farewell visit to Iraq and Afghanistan, and won instant fame. The incident immediately raised memories of Bush's father, who as president of the United States, threw up all over the Japanese prime minister at an official banquet. That was not a farewell visit, though it turned out to be one, as Bush Senior differed in one important respect from his son, in having only one term. Bush Junior ducked the shoes, which have a special negative significance in all points east of the Middle East, because of their contact with the foot. However, in the culture to which Bush is a native, and with which he is more familiar, the shoe, while negative, is not singled out as being of any particular significance, with any negativity coming from Eastern cultural traditions. And though Bush ducked the shoes, one struck the American flag. The anti-Americanism of the protester was successfully indicated: if the American president was not hit, at least its flag was. The identity of the thrower as a Shia was probably more important than as a journalist, though that too is of significance. The incident showed that the experiment in Iraq, of an elected government and democracy, had not exactly worked, as one of the supposed main beneficiaries, a journalist who should have been set suddenly free, especially as compared with the controlled press of the Saddam days, was dissatisfied enough to send his shoes after Bush. The incident, more importantly than just the state of the Iraqi press, showed its democracy in a poor light. The Iraqi prime minister, though an elected official, was not there except to host the press conference with the US president. He is not even granted the dignity of being the target of anyone's shoes. The real final authority in Iraq remains the US ambassador, and the PM is merely one of the intermediate authorities. The journalist who did the bit with the shoes should be jubilant at the result of democracy in Iraq, which has put the Shias in control of government, or rather in control of what is left after the Americans have left it. The Shias were supposed to benefit the most from the American invasion, not just in terms of the disappearance of the old Saddam-era barriers, but in terms of positive results in elections favouring them, and to have one of them throw shoes at his greatest benefactor would appear to be churlish. After all, the Americans believe that Saddam had imposed the rule of a Sunni Arab minority on Iraq, and by incorporating the Shias and the Kurds, the Americans would be building a natural majority in their favour. Zaidi has proved that contention wrong. Just because Shias have been empowered is apparently no reason for them to feel any gratitude towards the Americans. Or for feeling that they are any less Iraqi than the rest. The Americans must realise that Iraqis, Shias included, count their country as being invaded for American reasons of their own, and there was no love of Iraqis involved. What has gone after conquest has been occupation, with a steady American, and other allied, death toll, with which, it has been made painfully clear, the occupied have not consented. The result of the occupation in Afghanistan, though Bush was not shown any shoes there on his farewell visit, has been similar. Americans and other allies go on dying there, but the Karzai regime is as impeccably elected as the Al-Maliki government in Iraq, and the holding of elections happened first in Afghanistan. There the Americans first experimented with a model of democracy where 'their' man won, because he had to, an experiment which was later extended to Iraq. The result in Afghanistan is the failure of the allies to carry out any rebuilding of Afghanistan, a failure which will be extended by the duration, liberally interpreted, of the current global economic crisis. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, elections lost their utility because they were not free and fair, at least in the sense that not all parties, particularly the outgoing ruling parties, were allowed to participate. However, the elections were not allowed to have their natural result, which was a defeat for the political forces supporting the US occupation. In Pakistan, though the PPP obtained the government even though it did not win the election earlier this year, the PML-Q, the outgoing ruling party and the party which backed the pro-US Musharraf, was mauled at the polls. The PPP has been following a pro-US line, and has allowed the USA to engage in many missile strikes against the tribal areas. The protest in Iraq also showed how suicide bombers are produced. The spirit moving the Iraqi journalist to throw his shoes, knowing that he would face a terrible reprisal from the Iraqi police, is the spirit moving young men to give up the rest of their lives and to blow themselves up in the hope of taking the enemy with them. It is this spirit that the West wants suppressed amongst Muslims, and which it does not understand. Any doubts that might exist about the Shias considering themselves part of an ummah that is majority Sunni should have been removed by what has been done, which comes on the heels of what the Hezbollah did to Israel. There again an avowedly Shia party had engaged in a battle which all Muslims (predominantly Sunni) are in principle committed to: the struggle against Israel, and for Palestine. While this is a lesson that deserves spreading throughout the Arab world, it has an application in Pakistan as well along with other lessons, One other lesson that Pakistan should pay close attention to is that Bush is not popular in the countries he invaded, so why should he (or any American, for that matter) be popular in Pakistan? When Bush looks at his presidency, it is unlikely that he will remember it well. And the world? It will not remember his presidency as being more than involving the USA in a needless War, and as its defining moment the shoes in Baghdad. E-mail: