Archive for October, 2007

October 31, 2007

Cartoon for November 1

True tales from the frontlines of the Global War on Thoughtism:

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October 31, 2007

THIS WEEK’S COLUMN: Who Will Be Our Next Torturer-in-Chief?

George W. Bush has shoved American politics into the dark realm of the lunatic right, zipping past Joe McCarthy into territory previously covered by historical accounts of Germany in the 1940s. We’ve lost our right to see an attorney, to confront our accusers, even to get a fair trial. Government agents have kidnapped thousands of people, many of whom have never been heard from again. Bush even signed an edict claiming the right to assassinate anyone, including you and me, based solely on his whims. Torture, the ultimate sign that civilized society has been replaced by a police state, was repeatedly authorized by government officials who smirked the few times reporters had the temerity to ask them about it.

The 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections have been and will prove to be decisive moments in American history. In each case the American people were offered a stark choice between a future of freedom and one under tyranny.
In 2000 the American people chose dictatorship, watching passively as a rogue Supreme Court violated the Constitution and handed Bush the keys to the White House. We had a chance to restore the vision of the original Framers in 2004. Instead, we sat on our asses while Bush stole yet another election. The 2008 race could mark our last chance to get back the system of government we enjoyed before the December 20, 2000 coup.

We must elect–by an overwhelming, theft-proof majority–a candidate who promises to renounce Bush and all his works. A reform-minded president’s first act should be to sign a law that reads as follows: “The federal government of the United States having been illegitimate and illegal since January 20, 2001, all laws, regulations, executive orders, and acts of commission or omission enacted between that infamous day and 12 noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2009 are hereby declared invalid and without effect.” Guantánamo, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, spying on Americans’ phone calls and emails, and “legal” torture would be erased. Our troops should immediately pull out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Somalia; we should apologize to our victims and offer to compensate them and their survivors. Bush should never appear on any list of American presidents. When he dies, his carcass shouldn’t receive a state funeral. It ought to be thrown in the trash.

Unfortunately, no one like that is running for president. To the contrary, most of the major presidential candidates want to accelerate America’s slide into outright moral bankruptcy.

Inspired by what good people find appalling, America’s Mayor has turned into America’s Maniac. Torture, says Rudy Giuliani, is smart. He endorses the medieval practice of waterboarding, revived in CIA torture chambers after 9/11, in which a person is strapped to a board, tipped back and forced to inhale water to induce the sensation of drowning.

“It depends on how it’s done,” Giuliani said when asked about waterboarding and whether it is torture. “It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.” Giuliani used to be a federal prosecutor. Would he have used similar logic in the prosecution of an accused torturer?

The mayor-turned-monster even used a campaign stop in Iowa to mock the victims of sleep deprivation, long acknowledged by international law as one of the severest forms of torture. “They talk about sleep deprivation,” he said. “I mean, on that theory, I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.”

Waterboarding causes pain, brain damage and broken bones (from the restraints used on struggling victims), and death. Survivors are psychologically scarred. “Some victims were still traumatized years later,” Dr. Allen Keller, director of the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, told The New Yorker. “One patient couldn’t take showers, and panicked when it rained.”

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin described the sleep deprivation he suffered as a captive of the Soviet KGB: “In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep…Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.”
Giuliani isn’t the only wanna be Torturer-in-Chief. Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, offered this Lincolnesque rhetorical gem at one of the debates: “What do we do in the response to a nuclear–or the fact that a nuclear device or some bombs have gone off in the United States? We know that there are–we have captured people who have information that could lead us to the next one that’s going to go off and it’s the big one…I would do–certainly, waterboard–I don’t believe that that is, quote, ‘torture.'”

In an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity & Colmes,” Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said the U.S. does and should torture: “We have received good solid information from [torture], and have saved American lives because of it.”

Duncan Hunter made fun of the concentration camp at Guantánamo: “You got guys like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [a detainee victim of U.S. waterboarding], “who said that he planned the attack on 9/11. You got Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards. Those guys get taxpayer-paid-for prayer rugs. They have prayer five times a day. They’ve all gained weight. The last time I looked at the menu, they had honey-glazed chicken and rice pilaf on Friday. That’s how we treat the terrorists. They’ve got health care that’s better than most HMOs…They live in a place called Guantánamo, where not one person has ever been murdered.”

Three inmates have been found dead at Gitmo. (The military claimed they were suicides.) As of August 2003, at least 29 POWs had attempted suicide. Scores of hunger strikers are being force-fed.

Fred Thompson says he won’t authorize waterboarding “as a matter of course” but likes to keep his options open. Mitt Romney punts questions about waterboarding: “I don’t think as a presidential candidate it is appropriate for me to weigh in on specific forms of interrogation that our CIA would employ. In circumstances of extreme threat to the nation, where we employ what is known as enhanced interrogation techniques, we don’t describe those techniques.”

At a Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Barack Obama refused to rule out torture. “Now, I will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. And there are going to be all sorts of hypotheticals [presumably, Tancredo’s hoary “ticking time bomb” fantasy] and emergency situations, and I will make that judgement at that time.” Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden said they agree with Obama. Democrats Bill Richardson, John Edwards and Chris Dodd have offered unequivocal stances against torture. On the Republican side, only John McCain and Ron Paul have done so. Even McCain, himself a victim of torture in Vietnam, refuses to rule out voting to confirm Bush’s attorney general nominee, Michael Mukasey. “If it amounts to torture,” Mukasey said of waterboarding, “then it is not constitutional.”



October 29, 2007

Cartoon for October 29

We stood by and watched as an illegitimate coup leader seized power in 2000, reversing the results of the presidential elections. We sat on our asses after 9/11 as he waged war against countries that had not attacked us and rewarded those that had. We farted around as he stole the key state of Ohio in 2004, and by extension the whole election. We’ve done nothing about the USA-Patriot Act, the habeas corpus-ending Military Commissions Act, the destruction and neglect of New Orleans by Katrina, Guantanamo, extraordinary renditions and legal torture.

Tell me again: How exactly do we qualify as “the land of the free and the brave”?

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October 27, 2007

Cartoon for October 27

Why is the Dalai Lama a coward? Could it be that he doesn’t really believe one of his religion’s fundamental tenets?

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October 25, 2007

Cartoon for October 25

Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut unwittingly exposed the Democrats’ Big Lie on Iraq: that they need support from Republicans to stop the war. In fact, any senator can place a “hold” on any piece of legislation. They can even do it anonymously if they’re afraid of the political ramifications of their action! So, the next time you hear on TV that the Democrats “need” 60 votes in the Senate to override Bush’s threatened veto, don’t believe it. And write to the network to demand an immediate correction.

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October 24, 2007


Troops Suck Up to Bush, Ask for Support

Over a year ago, in March 2006, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes published the results of a Zogby poll of troops serving in Iraq. 72 percent said U.S. forces should withdraw within a year. Twenty-five percent thought we should pull out right away. But 85 percent said a major reason they were there was “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the September 11 attacks.” These people are confused, to say the least.

Even more confusing is the persistent flow of complaints by Iraq War veterans that Americans on the home front are partying like it’s 2009 while their comrades back in Vichy Mesopotamia are getting blown up.

Army infantry officer Will Bardenwerper gave voice to this oft-stated sentiment in an October 20th New York Times op/ed. “As I began my 13-month deployment (in Tal Afar, Iraq),” wrote a dispirited Bardenwerper, “I imagined an American public following our progress with the same concern as my family and friends. But since returning home, I have seen that America has changed the channel.” He was struck by “the disparity between the lives of the few who are fighting and being killed, and the many who have been asked for nothing more than to continue shopping.”

Typical suggestions for fairer distribution of sacrifice and a military draft–the latter to obtain additional manpower and inspire antiwar marchers to fill the streets like they did during Vietnam–follow. At least he left out the usual calls for victory gardens and gas rationing.

The war sucks. On that point, the millions of Americans who were against it from the start (and the many millions more who’ve come around to agreeing with us) agree with the soldiers serving in it. Forced reenlistment through the “stop-loss” loophole is placing thousands of lives in suspended animation, destroying marriages and small businesses. Troops aren’t getting enough protective gear.

It’s also true that Americans have stopped paying attention. I’m a news junkie. And even I flip the page past the same old “2 Dead, 7 Wounded in IED Blast” headline.

But hey, soldier, you volunteered. If not for you, there wouldn’t be a war in the first place.

“Supporting the troops means supporting their mission.” That’s been the mantra of the pro-war right. It’s been hard for those of us who oppose the war to argue with them because so many of the troops have repeatedly allowed themselves to be used as propaganda shills for Bush Administration officials and the Republican Party in general.

It’s bad enough that a majority of soldiers voted for Bush in 2004. Over and over since the war began, American troops have been seen on television applauding Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and others whose cynical recklessness have sent their buddies to their graves. Sailors cheered wildly when Bush staged his notorious “Mission Accomplished” photo op on an aircraft carrier. They swooned when he joined them for Thanksgiving dinner in Baghdad.

“The shocked and elated soldiers jumped to their feet, pumped their fists in the air, roared with delight, and grabbed their cameras to snap photographs,” reported CNN about Bush’s visit. A “standing ovation” followed. “It gave us a little extra oomph,” said a member of the 1st Armored Division. “It really boosted my morale,” said another. No one heckled or booed the imposter president. No one threw tomatoes. No one told him where he could stick his plastic turkey.

Even after soldiers get killed, their parents promote the war so their dead kids won’t be lonely in heaven. At Fort Benning, Georgia met Deb Tainsh, whose son was killed by a roadside bomb near the Baghdad Airport. She presented Bush with more than 100 e-mails from parents of soldiers who have died or are presently serving in Iraq. “Every one of these letters says, ‘Mr. President, we support you,'” she said. “The consensus is that they…want him to do everything he can to win this war and that our prayers are with him.”

“Bush, 61, has so far met with more than 1,500 relatives of the 4,255 American troops who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Bloomberg News wire service reported last week. “In most of the meetings, [Bush’s] aides say, he hears support for his policies, hardening his resolve to stay the course in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Few Gold Star mothers tell him off. Those who do are polite to the man who murdered their children as surely and as viciously as if he’d shot them himself. Why don’t they spit at him?

Four years after the WMDs and liberation flora failed to turn up, people still enlist. After soldiers die, their parents insist that theirs was a noble sacrifice. Tell me again: Why should I care about the war? Why shouldn’t I go shopping?

Soldiers who want antiwar Americans to march to demand that they be brought home should take a cue from Vietnam veterans. They marched with peace protesters and threw their medals at the Capitol. Soldiers serving on the front refused orders. Some fragged their officers. Vietnam Veterans Against the War claimed more than 50,000 members by 1971. That year saw numerous dramatic acts of dissent by U.S. troops, including 50 veterans who marched to the Pentagon and demanded that they be arrested as war criminals. Fifteen vets took over and barricaded the Statue of Liberty for two days. These acts swayed opinions and helped convince lawmakers it was time to withdraw.

Some soldiers in Iraq have offered resistance. After being denied conscientious objector status, Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes went AWOL in 2004. He was sentenced to two months in the brig and three months hard labor. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada refused to be sent to Iraq in 2006, telling the media that the war’s illegality would make him a party to war crimes. Army Specialist Darrell Anderson, faced with a second tour of duty after being wounded by a roadside bomb, deserted and fled to Canada. “I went to Iraq willingly,” said Anderson. “I wanted to die for my country. I thought I was going to go there and protect my family back home. All I was doing was killing other families there.” The Army decided not to prosecute him. Several other deserters have applied for political asylum in Canada, but they’re only a fraction of the thousands who went there during the 1960s and 1970s.

When Bill Clinton was president, Republicans said he should be afraid to speak at military bases. That should go double for Bush. The next he shows up to use you as a TV prop, soldiers and fellow Americans, boo the crap out of him. What’s the worst he can do? Kill you?


October 24, 2007

Ted Rall Live in Columbus

I’ll be speaking about graphic storytelling at this year’s triennial Festival of Cartoon Art, sponsored by and held at Ohio State University. Here’s the schedule of this worthy event.

I go on on Friday, October 26 at 2 pm. My talk was originally supposed to be a panel discussion with Guy DeLisle (graphic novelist of “Pyongyang”), and I had originally asked Joe Sacco (“Palestine”) to participate. As it turns out, it will be just little old me.

The last time around, I think in 1996 or thereabouts, I made an ass out of myself, ranting about how old-style editorial cartoons suck while asserting that the only worthwhile political cartoons appeared in the alternative weeklies and were drawn by artists like, well, me. (Mainly, I was right. But I exaggerated big-time. Lots of great mainstream editorial cartoonists work at daily papers.) After this inspiring presentation I headed to the men’s room to take the dump I should have taken there instead of verbally, I heard several people walk in and say comments like “Can you believe that asshole?”

Normally I discount such comments. This time, they were right. Hopefully I’ll do better this year.

Anyway, this won’t be a political rant but rather a 45-minute overview of comics journalism in the modern era. I’ll be projecting images of other artists’ work, including that of absentees Sacco and DeLisle, culminating with my own current projects and a sneak peak at my upcoming graphic novel, scheduled for publication in 2008. I always save lots of time for the Q&A period.

Tickets are still available for this year’s festival, so snatch them up!

October 23, 2007

Mail Call

If you e-mailed me during the past few days and your e-mail bounced, please resend your e-mail. The problem has been fixed.


October 21, 2007

Cartoon for October 22

In Mike Judge’s cult film “Idiocracy” (a must-see for cultural elitists everywhere), stupid people breed at a faster rate than smart ones until, 500 years later, the U.S. has been reduced to utter moronitude.

Which got me thinking.

Perhaps, though it’s hard to imagine why, a perfectly intelligent person might have joined the military early in the Bush Administration. Four years into Iraq and six years into the meatgrinder of Afghanistan, however, it’s fair to say that only a less than brilliant person would sign away his life for, literally, nothing. (Save your e-mails, righties: citing “patriotism” as a reason to enlist doesn’t work. French patriots didn’t fight for the Vichy regime during World War II. They joined the resistance. A patriot would have nothing to do with the military while the White House is occupied by an illegitimate coup leader.)

Anyway, if the carnage continues in Iraq for another 500 years, it stands to reason that the average I.Q. of those who remain behind will increase. Thus this cartoon…

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October 19, 2007

Cartoon for October 20

The presidential candidates can’t resist sucking up to the powerful Zoroastrian Conservative voting bloc.

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