DUBAI (Reuters) - A shoe-throwing incident at an Iraqi news conference with George W. Bush has inspired a spate of Internet games where the players hurl footwear at moving targets of the U.S. president.
The games, which have mushroomed online and spread by email, range from animations to cut-up footage of the now-infamous news briefing on Sunday when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at the president who ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Pelting someone with shoes is considered a grave insult in the Arab world.
One game, which appears on the site www.sockandawe.com -- a pun on “shock and awe,” the term used by U.S. military officials to describe the initial air assault on Baghdad in 2003 -- gives players 30 seconds to try to hit Bush with a shoe as many times as possible, with the score appearing in a corner of the screen.
Players are greeted with the command: “OBJECTIVE: Hit President Bush in the face with your shoes! Do it!”
On-target shots are met with a “well done” message.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can be seen peeping over a lectern next to a dipping and diving Bush in the cartoon game.
The television reporter who threw the shoes, Muntazer al-Zaidi, has become an instant sensation in the Arab world. A Facebook profile set up in his honor had enlisted 1,871 fans by Wednesday afternoon, many of whom had posted disparaging messages about the outgoing U.S. leader.
Zaidi, who admitted his action in court on Tuesday, remains in custody pending an investigation by the judge. He could be sent for trial under a clause in Iraq’s penal code that punishes anyone who tries to murder Iraqi or foreign presidents.
Zaidi’s family says he harbored deep anger against Bush, blaming him for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who died after the U.S.-led invasion unleashed a wave of sectarian and insurgent violence that has only now begun to die down.
Many ordinary Arabs opposed the U.S.-led invasion and blame Bush for the violence that followed.
Another game at bushbash.flashgressive.de, includes a leader board on which players can post their best scores.
An animated version -- “a shoe at Bush?” -- claims over 2.2 million direct hits since its December 15 start date.
“Bush’s Boot Camp” starts with an audio quote of Bush saying “those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.”
The White House, meanwhile, has said Bush has no hard feelings about the shoe-throwing incident.
“The president just thinks that, it was just a shoe, people express themselves in lots of different ways,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
Editing by Mark Trevelyan