No regrets from the Iraqi who threw his shoes at Bush

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By Maher Nazeh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi gained fame for hurling his shoes at President George W. Bush in a news conference to show his anger at the corruption and chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He is still furious.

"The same people who entered 20 years ago with the occupier are still ruling despite failures and corruption. The United States knows very well that it brought in pseudo politicians," he told Reuters, recounting his actions back in 2008 during the Baghdad media briefing.

Bush, who was standing next to then Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, ducked to avoid the footwear that spun at him from across the room. Throwing shoes at someone is a deep insult in the Arab world.

"This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!" Zaidi shouted before security officials bundled him outside.

Bush had been criticised across the Middle East for his decision to oust Saddam Hussein, an action launched based on faulty U.S. intelligence that the Iraqi leader had amassed weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. president brushed off the shoe-throwing incident at the time, saying: "It’s like going to a political rally and have people yell at you. It’s a way for people to draw attention."

Zaidi, who served six months in prison for assaulting a visiting head of state, left for Lebanon after his release but returned to run for an Iraqi parliament seat in 2018 seeking to fight corruption, although his election bid failed.

"You feel bitterness as you see people's pain 24 hours a day," he said.

He added that he continued to campaign against graft and he has never regretted hurling his shoes.

"This scene stands as proof that one day a simple person was capable of saying no to that arrogant person with all his power, tyranny, arms, media, money and authority, and to say that you (Bush) were wrong."

(Writing by Hams Rabah; Editing by Michael Georgy and Edmund Blair)