Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Muntazer al-Zaidi, an Iraqi TV news reporter, was sentenced this week to three years in prison for throwing his shoe at then-President George W. Bush during a visit to Baghdad in December.—-

The Iraqi Criminal Court convicted al-Zaidi of assaulting a foreign leader on an official visit, which carries a more severe penalty than simple assault. The news service, Agence France-Presse, reported that al-Zaida shouted, “Iraq, long live Iraq,” after the verdict was read.

Numerous polls of Iraqi citizens have shown for some time that a majority has grown weary of the U.S. occupation of their nation, and want our troops to leave. Ex-Bush Administration officials recently tried to take credit for negotiating the deal with the Iraqi government that calls for having all U.S. troops leave by December 2011, but the truth is the administration fought vigorously to extend their presence. Sensing widespread public discord in their nation, though, Iraqi officials wisely stood their ground and insisted on a firm deadline for withdrawal.

As the conservative but anti-Iraq War Cato Institute has written, "Ironically, we have Iraqi lawmakers to thank for endorsing an agreement between the Maliki government and the outgoing Bush administration that puts pressure on President Obama to remove all U.S. military personnel from Iraq by a date certain."

Al-Zaidi’s sentence likely will only stir up more anti-American sentiment among the populace. Whether one agrees with al-Zaidi’s action, the penalty seems excessive — especially since the shoe couldn’t have done any serious damage and it never even hit the surprisingly agile Bush.

It’s absurd and outrageous that al-Zaidi will spend three years in prison for a relatively minor offense, while the motley crew that illegally authorized the use of torture against prisoners detained by the United States — Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, John Yoo and others — have so far escaped any accountability.

At times like this, it’s good to seek solace from the words that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in a 1967 speech in Atlanta: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

If I were Cheney and his crew, I wouldn’t travel outside of the United States anytime soon. They might get a dose of harsh reality about how the rest of the world feels.

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