Archive for August, 2005

August 19, 2005

Moral Equivalence, Republican Style

DF writes:

Hey Ted,,,ain’t wrote you in a while. I have been looking at your toons,,,just to get a laugh at the left side of things. I don’t want to argue or bitch at you…you’re gonna believe what you want and I the same. I do have 1 thing for you though. You say that what happened at Abu Ghraib was “torture”…I say it was child’s play and will prove it.
Go to this link ( and see what Americans suffered at the hands of Japs. Compare the two. Now,,,do you still think that what happened in Iraq was torture?

So this is what it’s come to: now the armchair warriors are reduced to comparing themselves favorably with the Japanese war criminals of World War II.

August 19, 2005

One Vet Says

Bryan says:

Your column, “Sacrifice? Count me out.” was some of your best work that I’ve read. I don’t always agree with you, but this time you really knocked one out of the park. Kudos. By the way, I am a veteran who has been “over there”. Keep up the good work.

Thanks, man, I appreciate it. And for those who wonder, yeah, I hear from a lot of disgruntled Iraq war vets.

August 19, 2005

The Big Tent and the Troops

BY writes:

Ted, you’re a god. Unfortunately, a lot of liberals would disagree with me. The Left is split on whether we should criticize the troops for obeying unethical orders; too many think we’d hurt the soldiers’ pwecious wittle feewings. How can we all fit into the Big Tent?

God? More like a minor wood nymph. But thanks.
Two thoughts:
First, it’s time for the Democratic Party/American left to start recognizing that there is a wide range of opinion concerning the sort of tactics we deploy against the neofascist hard right. It’s embarrassing to see Democrats shy away from their own party chairman, Howard Dean–particularly when he’s one of the few Dems willing to say out loud what they all say over rosé.
Which brings me to point two. One of the major reasons Americans don’t trust Democratic politicians is thay they come off as even more mealy-mouthed than their Republican counterparts. Some straight-talking, even trash-talking, is what’s in order here. That includes not allowing themselves to be beaten over the head with the flag or the flag’s well-armed surrogates, the military. Besides which, the kind of people who’d take offense to such remarks probably won’t vote left anyway.

August 19, 2005

Sacrifice for Sacrifice’s Sake?

Regular Right-wing Correspondent Alan writes:

Did you get many emails from regular readers who were surprised to hear you say you weren’t interested in making a sacrifice?
You’re certainly not alone in that. Unquestionably, the per capita rate of U.S. citizens unwilling to make any personal sacrifice to protect this nation is growing exponentially and will eventually result in its’ demise.
Our soldiers in Iraq are taking a disrespecting from the liberal pacifists now, much like the Viet Nam vets did. When the day comes that you really need someone to protect your ass you’ll find that, with the help of your liberal brethren, you’ve convinced everyone that nothings worth risking your life for.

No, Alan. Liberals, as much or more than other Americans, are always willing to sacrifice to protect this nation. That doesn’t mean, however, sacrificing every time Piehole wages another bullshit war for no reason–er, no good reason. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq don’t have anything to do with protecting America. And that is why they’re not worth risking so much as a toenail for.
Oh, and please drop that “disrespected Vietnam vets” line. That’s been thoroughly debunked. It didn’t happen to any significant extent.

August 17, 2005

“Slandering” Troops

A Marine major writes:

As a Marine reservist who was mobilized last year and has returned, I find your cartoon about our current troops committing torture very saddening.  I wish you could spend some time in Iraq with the troops to see first hand how our troops interact with the Iraqi people.  

Thank you for your service, but I can’t help noticing the way that you gloss over the proven, photographed, widely documented acts of systematic torture committed by many US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere. The fact is, many soldiers who may not condone such behavior become tarnished by it because their sense of loyalty and embarrassment prevents them from speaking out against it. The truth is, it’s more the duty of honorable US soldiers to condemn torture by Americans than it is mine or anyone else’s–but they’re not doing it.

Our troops today are patient, kind and disciplined.  To characterize them as sadist only aids the enemy’s propaganda efforts. 

It would be more accurate to say that some are patient, kind and disciplined. Others–many others–clearly are anything but. If you watch the documentary “Gunner Palace,” various reports from embedded reporters on CNN and elsewhere, or if you have personally witnessed the behavior of US troops in the battlefield (as I did in Afghanistan), you can’t help but be stricken by the horrific, rude, unprofessional and abusive behavior of many (not a few bad apples, but many) American soldiers acting as our representatives and ambassadors to the rest of the world. Breaking into people’s homes, particularly in the Middle East where such an act is considered a personal transgression of the highest order, is simply unaccptable. Placing bags over men’s heads, holding down their heads with one’s foot, using plastic handcuffs–these are all acts of abuse that inspire hatred and contempt against US forces and, by extension, the United States. And rounding up people for indefinite detention, without being charged, is simply inexcusable, and puts on a similar moral footing with our worst enemies of the past. Even Nazi Germany pretended to adhere to the Geneva Conventions related to the treatment of POWs, but we do not in Afghanistan, Gitmo, or other US concentration camps.
The best way to avoid being characterized as sadistic by enemy propaganda is to stop practicing sadism.

I wish people would stop politicizing the war on the left or right.  I wish that people would realize for the G.I. in the field is a simple matter of us completing our mission and establishing a democratic Iraq or letting the terrorist win and vindicating their strategy of murdering innocents to achieve political gain.  (If the terrorist win, terrorism will only grow exponentially.)

The war was politicized from the start because it was launched by the right, without the support of the left but rather over its loud objections. The right’s unwillingness to build consensus, or if such a thing was impossible to give up the enterprise entirely, is responsible for our current divisiveness. Characterizing Iraqi resistance fighters as “terrorists” when the Pentagon itself estimates that 90 percent of them are native nationalist Iraqis is not helpful or useful. What is sad here is that the G.I. in the field, as you put it, has been assigned an impossible task in an unwinnable war using insufficient force strength and equipment. A democratic Iraq can never emerge from the occupation. Hell, right now there isn’t an Iraq at all, but rather a de facto independent Iraqi Kurdistan and a rump Iraq minus Kurdistan. The various political and ethnic factions will fight their civil war until long after we’ve withdrawn. That became inevitable when we removed Saddam Hussein, the tyrant of a nation without any viable political rivals. As for murdering innocents, well, the United States can hardly claim that it doesn’t do that in Afghanistan and Iraq. Oh, right–those are “accidents.” Well, that’s what the insurgents say too.

I am personally very close to a Baghdad family who lost their father to Saddam’s reign of terror.  The former regime and the Baathist insurgents tortured, killed and oppressed almost the entire population including children.  More than 400,000 dead mass graves should speak for themselves.   I was in Bosnia twice and Iraq’s tyranny was much worse.

There’s no need to exagerrate Saddam’s crimes. He was a barbarous dictator. But nothing close to 400,000 graves have ever been unearthed, and the gassing of the Kurds is a far more complicated affair than Bush would have us believe. Let’s just say that no one misses Saddam, except perhaps Iraqis who long for regular electricity.

My wife is a Navy nurse currently on her way to Al-Anbar province.  We also have a two year old daughter.  I politely request that you honor our family’s personal sacrifice by not charactering us in this way.  We wear the uniform and you have slandered us.  It is very frustrating to see propaganda like this coming from your fellow countrymen when you are putting your life on the line for people seeking to be free of fear and terror.
I recommend you read Natan Shransky’s book “The Case for Democracy” to get a perspective on the Middle East.  I have spent significant time there and also have a M.S. in Int’l Relations with a Middle Eastern focus.

Suffice it to say, I’ve spent enough time in the Middle East to have my own perspective about US relations with same. And I’ve also read enough propaganda books by wide-eyed neo-conservatives who think we should rebuild the British Empire.

I know if is just a cartoon, but it is filled with ignorance and slanders those who are making great sacrifices for their country and freedom.  Criticize political leaders all you want, but don’t please do not slander the troops.

It’s not slander if it’s true. If we don’t want it to be true, we need to change our troops’ behavior.

August 16, 2005

1945 v. 2005

Kelly writes:

I read your “1945” comic on my Yahoo home page. I’m every bit of a “liberal” or “thinking” person as you. But I must say, to portray the soildiers in Iraq that way is BS. Any population has idiots in it, including folks that write commentary as you know. Should people throw you in the same pot as Rush or a similar writer? I know, Rush doesn’t write commentary but you get the point.
I have a good friend there now who is also a thinking person and knows the war is bogus. He just wants to come home. I would fell awful if he thought that’s how we think of all the troops there. To put all the soldiers in the same vain as your recent strip did does nothing but to alienate the people that need to be reading your column. It also alienates people like me who love your column and email it to all their right wing friends. Just a thought.

One of the interesting aspects of cartooning is that people project their personal biases onto images to an extent that they might not in other media. Take a look at the above-referenced cartoon. There are soldiers, yes, but nowhere does it say that these solders represent all soldiers, or even all US soldiers, or even all US soldiers in each time period. What the cartoon does, or attempts to do, is contrast the shock of US troops upon discovering the death camps and torture chambers of the Third Reich at the end of World War II with the dispassionate, blasé, and yes–even gleeful–attitude of our soldiers upon learning of the abuse, torture and murder of countless (literally) Muslim detainees in American concentration camps at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, etc. Kelly assumes that I tarnish all 2005 soldiers with torture while failing to realize that this would require me to paint all World War II-era US soldiers as benevolent. In fact, as educated people know, US soldiers were guilty of countless atrocities, including torture and murder, during World War II. Had I wanted to indicate that these troops represented ALL soldiers, I would have indicated that somehow–but I didn’t.

The harsher issue, however, is that when ONE soldier is guilty of abuse, torture and/or murder, they all are by extension. The first time an Iraqi was insulted or injured without good cause, the war lost its moral imperative. But let’s get real. The abuse of Iraqi civilians and detainees (who are, by definition, all innocent until placed on trial) is widespread, normal, typical. Entire towns have been cordoned off. Night-time raids are usual. Rent the documentary “Gunner Palace” and you’ll watch US troops, relying on “intelligence” that a house is a bomb-making lab, break down a family’s door in the middle of the night. The men are taken away to Abu Ghraib, never to be seen again, despite the fact that no evidence was ever found of bomb-making on the premises. If Iraq war veterans are honest with themselves, they’ll admit that they treated Iraqis disrespectfully–for example, yelling in English at people who only speak Arabic.

But back to the cartoon. The fact remains, America has changed. We, as a society, now condone and accept torture as acceptable. We are not the America that liberated Europe and Asia, but rather something closer to those powers that oppressed them.

August 16, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

Weinner asks:

I would like to know what your opinion is on the situation involving the protest camp set outside of the geralissimo’s house. He couldn’t possibly think that ignoring these people will make them go away and he looks more and more heartless by the day. Is he going to do anything about it or just do what he usually does: Nothing?
Don’t hand me that guilt crap either! Everyone with an IQ over 60 knows that this man couldn’t care less about the lives he’s taken.
If it isn’t too much trouble, could write about it in your blog?

I don’t know whether Bush will meet with Ms. Sheehan or not but this is one of those rare news stories that makes me feel sympathy for Piehole. Almost.
It’s hard not to enjoy seeing that shit-for-brains who plays president on TV in a tight spot. God knows he deserves it. On the other hand, this is just the sort of showboating that the GOP usually does so well. If he agrees to meet with Ms. Sheehan, soon there’ll be a long line of widows, mothers and other relatives of Iraq and Afghan war dead lining up outside Crawford and, in September, the White House. At the rate he’s killing our soldiers–and make no mistake, Bush is every bit as guilty of their deaths as the resistance fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan–he couldn’t do anything else if he met with each one every 30 minutes. Imagine if he added the thousands of maimed soldiers too! Meeting with Sheehan would establish the sort of precedent that could rapidly spin out of control.
On the other hand, “The Big Carnival” (Billy Wilder film, and my favorite film of all time) building down the road from Bush’s ersatz ranch can only get uglier and cornier from every possible perspective.
I also wish Sheehan hadn’t muddied the waters by saying nice things about Piehole when she met with him as part of a group a while back. In the end, however, anyone who’s pissed off at Bush, especially someone whose son he sent to a pointless death, is entitled to their rage.

August 12, 2005

And Finally…

Just finished Googling myself to see what the right-wing warblogs are saying about my retraction. Predictable: they have headlines like “Why Do Liberals Lie So Much”? Hey, pinheads: If I wanted to lie about something, I wouldn’t issue a retraction. A retraction is, by definition, an attempt to set the record straight. A lie, on the other hand, is when someone says something that turns out to be untrue, and refuses to admit it. Sound like anyone you know?

Posi writes:

i guess… the families of the dead soldiers can check to see if their child’s photo is included on some memorial site, but otherwise it would be tough to know if one’s dead soldier was included in the number or not. you’d know he was dead and assume he was counted, but how would you know? they’d all have to count the photos.

Well, there’s also a list.

but what i really want to ask is… what’s up with the latest toon with mix and match extremists? no clear message or continuity. did the 9000 toon throw you off track?

Nah, it was just a send-up of that absurd term “Islamo-fascist.” I tried to go simple, but I wonder if everyone got it without an explanation.

forget it, your dong great work. there’s SO much disinformation out there, how the fuck are were supposed to be able to tell between huge lies, small lies, twisted truths, and outlandish acutalities? it’s too much.

Yeah, well, that’s the problem. Usually I’m pretty good at sussing out the lies, but not this time. Of course, that still makes my record better than all the assholes who think Iraq had something to do with 9/11, but that’s a pretty low standard.

Vicker adds:

BS or not, but your cartoon made me wonder about why all casualty figures reported by the US military in Iraq are invariably on the day of the incident. I can recall none having appeared after that date. I assume some soldiers die of their injuries, but these numbers do not
appear to be added to the daily toll killed in action directly. Perhaps your cartoon had a valid point after all, even if the exact number isn’t accurate.

That may be.

Chris says:

Must say, I really dig your work, man. Always check in for your weekly columns, and get a good laugh sometimes from your cartoons, also clenched teeth in anger too, not at you though, but at Bu$Co, and how much has changed in so little time, or at least how much the right feels brash enough to say and get away with in the light of day.
Anyways, I also was taken in by the 9000+ originally. Or I felt it was plausible; I have no doubt those boys at the Pentagon would get away with it if they could. Especially with that ban they have going on photographing coffins, the Soviets did the same thing during their Afghan War, delivering the caskets at night. What I have heard about this war is that with rapid medevacs and improved technology, we’ve been able to save a lot more soldiers’ lives than we did in past wars. Unfortunately, what with the IEDs, RPGs, and other assorted lovelies, it seems that the wounds are much more severe… the flak jackets (and they’re short on those too, especially your Guardsmen, reservists, and marines… seems the marines often like to use older equipment, or they’re stuck with it anyways, and rationalize it by saying it makes ’em feel more “salty”… happened in Nam a lot too) deflect the blast, which then is absorbed by heads and limbs. This has caused an increased number of amputations, and brain damage, blindness, etc. Point is, I think a lot of people see the “wounded” column and think it’s like a Hollywood Hero wound; just one in the shoulder, or a little cosmetic blood by the mouth to look all studly. And our oh so extra vigilant press doesn’t cover the numbers of wounded much at all… over 14,000 now, or damn close to it according to (I think that’s the address). Perhaps some good will come out of this since it’s encouraged more research in prosthetics, but it’s small comfort for so many of these young people who will need lifelong care.
That’s about it for now, I reckon, keep up the good work, Ted, you’re a good man for the left, a real asset, true patriot!

I appreciate that. Still, piss fuck shit damn I hate TBRNews.

August 12, 2005

More Fallout

Mark wrote this Letter to the Editor of E&P:

The “9,000 dead” US troops in Iraq was a smear from a neo-nazi publication (Barnes Review) to discredit the peace movement. Barnes Review works with KKK leader David Duke, praises Hitler and sells Holocaust Denial books. calling it “tbrnews” doesn’t change the fact that this is a racist disinformation operation.
Barnes Review’s sibling publication “American Free Press” pretends to be an opposition publication investigating scandals but they insert lots of fake claims to discredit real evidence. Perhaps the most notorious is their creation and promotion of fake claims of official complicity in 9/11 to discredit abundant real evidence of complicity. It is reminiscent (if not part of) the Karl Rove strategy used to discredit CBS (see BS?) last fall – the “memos” given to that network that were then used to alienate the media from investigating Bush going AWOL from the Air National Guard.

I don’t know whether this is true.

Then there’s this:

your views are not understood here. my family has been saved by your troops. who do you prefer Saddam the rapest and murderer. or Bush the Mad invader…I prefer Bush, he can only save my town, family, country…….I wish more in the USA could see this. your a lier!!!

I just wonder where this person lives, that he/she was “saved” by our troops. American troops haven’t died defending US soil since World War II, and then just barely (Alaska and Hawaii, which weren’t states then).

August 12, 2005

Editor & Publisher Notes My Retraction

There was never in any doubt in my mind, once I discovered the dubious nature of TBRNews, that I would issue a retraction. It sucks to admit you’re wrong, but considering the alternative–becoming as credible as a Republican–well, there’s really no choice at all. Anyway, there’s a piece about my retraction in Editor & Publisher.

You get guys like Desmond who kick sand in your face:

Your excuses are pathetic. You liberals are unbelievable. You believe anything no matter how obviously wrong it is, if it fits your liberal agenda. Why don’t you just fold up your act and disappear. It is so apparent what you are trying to do. You should be embarrassed to show your face. Say goodbye already.

Yeah, I know. Doesn’t the guy care about Bush’s lies? Or that he never, ever admits he’s wrong? But still–I do feel stupid for falling for the 9,000 story. After the lies about WMDs, the “search” for Osama in a country we knew he wasn’t in, etc., it’s easy to believe that the Bushies are capable of just about anything. That cynicism opens one up to this sort of thing.

On the other hand, kind souls like Matt have also been offering support:

Hey, just wanted to let you know that I think it was a good thing to issue the retraction, and I respect you more for it. I know you
probably have a lot of rightwingnuts emailing you and telling you to do uncomfortable things to yourself, but I’d give you a pat on the back. After all, I don’t remember hearing any neocons/fascists saying they were wrong about WMD in Iraq, or much of any thing else that they’ve fucked up.

True. In my own, admittedly biased way, I am trying to find the truth. Setting the record straight when you mess up is a big part of that.

Tom is harsh but brings up an excellent point:

I appreciate you cartoon with some exception, but regularly read it. My question for you is what do you do for the reader that glances
casually at your cartoon when you cite an inflammatory and incorrect fact? Unfortunately, I read you guidelines for e-mail and think you will probably stop reading my e-mail when I get too critical, but while I was angry and disappointed, I attempted to temper my e-mail to your guidelines.
I visited you blog for the first time yesterday and found the “retraction” you posted. Everybody gets it wrong sometimes, but your reaction seemed cowardly and infantile. To cite other cartoonists who misrepresented things hardly make it right for anyone else. You have been very critical of neo- cons and I would expect them to react the way you had. Honestly, I thought you were better than that. I would expect Karl Rove to cite others that have gotten away with his plots to exonerate himself, but you?
It would have been useful to post the retraction for the average reader to see, unless you didn’t care that the average Joe see that you got it wrong. You talked about hiding bodies in the cartoon in question, but what about hiding retractions? I am not of the political mind that frequents your blog. I’m not even sure you care much, considering the amount of e-mail you recieve (according to the guidelines). It would just be nice to see someone somewhere refuse to be shrill and caustic without the integrity to make it worthwhile.
I was disappointed in your handling of the situation and hope you have considered rectifiying it. If the US military dropped a bomb on a
wedding party, I’m sure you would expect something to be done about it. While your “bomb” is on a much smaller scale, the regular reader
might like to know that just because the other kids did it, doesn’t mean it’s right to misrepresent the truth for the sake of argument.

Of course, with few exceptions, nothing does come from the thousands of innocent civilians killed by triggerhappy US servicemen in Afghanistan and Iraq. But we’re not talking about that here.

Tom brings up an interesting point about “burying” a retraction, a practice I deplore in newspapers and television media. Unfortunately, I don’t have the kind of control editors and producers have. Here’s why: I draw three cartoons for syndication each week. Were I to include a text retraction with one or all three of the next week’s cartoons, my subscribing clients would absolutely not run those cartoons–or would run them minus the retraction. That’s because very few of my papers run all three of my cartoons each week, and they tend to view cartoons as extra content rather than staff content–stuff generated by the papers themselves. I could do an entire retraction cartoon, but no one would run it. So while I can screw up in public, it’s virtually impossible for me to issue a correction anywhere other than here, in my blog. It is no doubt a highly imperfect solution to a vexing problem, but until I own my own paper or work on staff somewhere rather than through syndication I don’t see a solution.