25 December 2008

A most excellent Christmas idea!

On the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, Mark Bowden suggests:

As a holiday gesture, President Bush ought to ask the Iraqi government to pardon Muntazer al-Zaidi -- the Iraqi journalist who tried to hit him with his shoes.

Sometimes a small outrage affords an opportunity for a grand gesture. The president was not harmed by the stunt. He had the grace to joke immediately afterwards that the missiles were a "size 10." Video of the shoe-throwing, which went viral on the Internet and has been seen now by just about everyone on the planet, has mostly elicited laughter.

But already the consequences have been no joke for Mr. Zaidi. By most accounts, he has been roughly treated in prison, where he was taken after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's guards were seen beating him after he threw the second shoe. He now faces as many as 15 years in prison, one for every one of his 15 minutes of fame.

This is clearly out of proportion... [But] With its national pride at stake, the Iraqi government is unlikely to cut the journalist a break. If a gesture is to be made, it has to come from Mr. Bush.

Pardoning him would be the fair thing to do, and would cost nothing...

It would also be a small way of acknowledging that Iraqis have borne by far the greatest measure of pain in this war, and that America's handling of the country since chasing Saddam Hussein from power, while trending in the right direction currently, has not been a singular and shining success. Many Iraqis have come by their anger toward the U.S. honestly.

Magnanimity is a strong prerogative, too seldom used. It is a chance for the man to be as large as the office. No one was better at this than Abraham Lincoln, whose frequent public acts of forgiveness, from promoting his political rivals to commuting the death sentences of Union soldiers, earned him an enduring legacy of kindness and humility.

I wish I had thought of it, but Mr Bowden's suggestion is also the right thing to do. In fact, if you want to see just how conflicted many people are about America, offer al-Zaidi asylum.

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