US President George W. Bush made a surprise farewell visit to Iraq on Sunday to meet with President Jalal Talabani and speak with US troops. In two separate incidents, Iraqi journalists hurled shoes and epithets at Bush.
Just weeks before he bequeaths the unpopular
In a sign of lingering anger over the war that will define the Republican president's foreign policy legacy, an Iraqi journalist shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," and hurled his shoes at Bush during a news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Throwing shoes at somebody is a supreme insult in the Middle East. One of the shoes sailed over the president's head and slammed into the wall behind him and he had to duck to miss the other one. Maliki tried to block the second shoe with his arm.
"It's like going to a political rally and have people yell at you. It's a way for people to draw attention," Bush said. "I don't know what the guy's cause was. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."
The journalist was leapt on by Iraqi security officials and
Bush's fleeting visit to
It was also meant to hail a recent sharp fall in the sectarian violence and insurgency that raged after the 2003 U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, and to show support for Iraqi police and soldiers as they take on increasing responsibility.
Asked whether he had come to
"There's still more work to be done. The war is not over."
Praise for Bush
Bush held talks with President Jalal Talabani and Maliki at the presidential palace.
Later, he thanked
Talabani called Bush a great friend of the Iraqi people "who helped us to liberate our country."
Maliki, who had a strained look on his face after the shoe-throwing, praised Bush: "You have stood by
The U.S.-Iraq security pact, which replaces a U.N. mandate governing the presence of foreign troops, has its critics in
"We reject this visit, as it occurs at a time when
"This visit is a show of force."
It will now be left to Obama, a Democrat and early opponent of
Landing in daylight
Bush was greeted on the heavily guarded tarmac in
The decision to land in broad daylight reflected confidence that
Until Air Force One touched down, Bush's trip was conducted in strictest secrecy. The presidential jet was rolled out of its giant hangar only after everyone was on board. Journalists' electronic devices, from cellphones to iPods, were confiscated.
Bush, dressed casually and wearing a black baseball cap after his night-time getaway from the White House, made a rare appearance in the press cabin just before takeoff.
"Nobody knew who I was," he joked when an aide complimented him on his disguise.
Date created : 2008-12-14