A Pro-War Cartoonist Draws the Line

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


bushtreadmill.gif

An unnamed editorial cartoonist serving in Iraq is calling out his colleagues for undermining morale with their pens. How? Drawing flag-draped coffins as symbols of military casualties. He writes: “[I]n many political cartoons, a flag-draped coffin is quickly becoming nothing more than a visual prop, a metaphor.” In particular, he takes issue with a recent cartoon by Ann Telnaes which depicts Bush running on a treadmill of flag-draped coffins. Too bad it’s a really good cartoon (not to mention that Telnaes totally rocks). But according to the soldier-cartoonist, alluding to the inevitable consequences of war is insensitive to the troops:

U.S. troops are trained to go into harm’s way. That is their job. Fatalities are inevitable, though always tragic. The death of a soldier — or 3,000 troops for that matter — in and of itself is hardly an effective measure of the success or failure of military strategy, and it is an unfair example to use in painting the president as uncaring.

If anything, it is the cartoonists who are callous to our troops by their continued negative depiction in American op-ed pages.

This sounds like the standard media-undermining-the-troops argument: Our soldiers are fearless ass kickers, yet are vulnerable to a few editorial cartoonists who question the policies that unnecessarily put their lives at risk. So then, how in the world are cartoonists supposed to depict the concept of American fatalities? Admittedly, editorial cartoonists aren’t known for having the biggest bags of visual tricks (even the versatile Telnaes has been on a coffin kick; see here, here and here.) Presumably, drawing corpses or skeletons or tombstones or the Grim Reaper would be even more offensive. It doesn’t get much more sanitized than a coffin. Which makes me suspect that the soldier-cartoonist’s actual beef is that his colleagues don’t support the war. But if he really thinks that Americans can’t handle a few sketches of pine boxes, perhaps he’s in the wrong professions.

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate