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Bush dodges flying shoes

Guy Adams
Monday 15 December 2008 01:00 GMT

Iraqi journalist gives verdict on Bush's reign by voting with his feet

The visiting president's joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was rudely interrupted when a local television journalist called him a "dog" in Arabic before throwing his footwear at him from a distance of 25 feet.

The first rubber-soled missile sailed over Mr Bush's head, thudding into the wall behind. As the second shoe flew towards him, Mr Bush ducked and the Iraqi premier valiantly tried an intercept. Secret service agents leapt into action, dragging the assailant kicking and screaming from the room.

Mr Bush shrugged somewhat uncomfortably, before joking: "I'm OK. All I can report is a size 10." Later, he was again at pains to downplay the incident. "It's like going to a political rally and have people yell at you. It's a way for people to draw attention," he said. "I don't know what the guy's cause was. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."

Mr Bush had arrived in Iraq early yesterday for what was billed as his swansong tour of the country, where there are still 140,000 US troops nearly six years after the war began. Next month, the Republican president hands over to his Democratic successor, Barack Obama, who has pledged to withdraw US forces from the country. "I'm just so grateful I had the chance to come back to Iraq before my presidency ends," Mr Bush said.

The footwear attack amounts to a demonstration of severe disrespect, by the standards of Arab culture, and an example of the residual anger in Iraq towards Mr Bush. The phrase shouted by the assailant, who had been formally cleared by security agents to attend the press conference, loosely translates as: "This is a farewell kiss, dog!"

Mr Bush's visit came as a draft of the first official federal report into the rebuilding of Iraq was leaked in Washington. It revealed massive blunders in the $100bn (£67bn) reconstruction operation after 2003's invasion, together with widespread Pentagon fraud and waste.

In one passage, Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, accuses the Defense Department of repeatedly "inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces," saying: "the number would jump 20,000 a week! 'We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000'."

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