Not So Funny: Qatari Diplomat's Shoe Joke

I called Alison Bradley, the Qatari embassy press liaison, to learn more. What would compel a diplomat of the Persian Gulf sheikhdom to act in such a reckless manner on an airplane? Had this diplomat gone rogue? Bradley told me that she was busy with more important things “like dealing with officials in Doha, the State Department, and authorities in the United States.”

And then, voila, by the afternoon the press pendulum swung to the other side. Suddenly the story reversed course, taking on a more sinister tone. It turned out that Mohammed al-Madadi was on his way to the Supermax prison in Colorado to visit fellow citizen and convicted al-Qaeda sleeper agent Ali al-Marri who is incarcerated there. “Qatari Diplomat Was Going to See Qaeda Inmate,” blazed a headline at ABC. Like dominoes, various news agencies followed suit. Suddenly, the suggestion was: forget the smoking jokes, it’s okay to be aghast.

The diplomat never made it to Supermax. He was questioned and released. It turns out that Mohammed al-Madadi will not be charged. The alleged quid pro quo is that al-Madadi leaves the country and does not come back. Officials on both sides are embarrassed and want the whole incident to go away. America runs its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq out of the oil rich nation of Qatar and the oil rich nation likes what America offers in return.

The moral of the story seems to be that the whole incident is better off left vague.