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Bush Propaganda Machine Twist Message of Toles Cartoon

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Click Here to see the Tom Toles cartoon.

A political cartoonist knows that when his work bristles neck hairs and causes uproar, he has hit the nail square on the head because the truth stings the worst. In contrast, Bush's lies seem to slide through the court of public opinion with nary a peep.

Such is the case for Tom Toles, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist of The Washington Post. His cartoon causing the furor pictures a quadruple amputee soldier in a hospital, being visited by a Dr. Rumsfeld, filling out a chart. Rumsfeld says, "I am listing your condition as battle hardened." At the bottom a smaller figure of the doctor adds, "I'm prescribing that you be stretched thin. We don't define that as torture." According to Toles, the cartoon was in response to Rumsfeld's remarks about "battle-hardened" troops after a Pentagon-sponsored report said the Iraq War risks breaking the military.

The 'fair and balanced' boys and girls on Fox News, with feigned abhorrence, characterized Toles' cartoon, published on the 29th of January, as being shamefully offensive to our injured service men in Iraq. Similar responses aired on other mainstream media outlets.

Then, no less than The Joint Chiefs of Staff were so "offended" they sent a letter to The Washington Post protesting Toles' use of a quadriplegic. They described it as "a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation, and as a result, have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds. It was beyond tasteless and a disservice." They went on to say, "As the Joint Chiefs, it is rare that we all put our hand to one letter, but we cannot let this reprehensible cartoon go unanswered."

But, in fact, our soldiers themselves were not offended. Dave Autry, deputy communications director for the Disabled American Veterans, says, "He's not offended by the cartoon because it points out a grim reality."

Toles himself, said he did not regret what he drew. "What came soon to mind was the catastrophic level of injuries the Army and members of the armed services have sustained . . . I thought my portrayal of it was a fair depiction of the reality of the situation. I certainly never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on, or a derogatory comment on, the service or sacrifice of American soldiers." And, The Washington Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt backed him.

How can Bush's corporate media and military get so rattled over a little drawing? Could it be because a major newspaper had the guts to defy the prescribed Bush propaganda and expose the real horrors of the Iraq war? The Bush policy has been 'out of sight' - 'out of mind'. It's a lesson learned from the televised Vietnam War when every night the nation watched grisly scenes of their dead and maimed sons rushed away on stretchers to standby helicopters with the rat-tat-tat sounds of their whirling blades. Getting the true picture was possible back in the era of unbiased, un-muzzled journalism, but not today. Consequently, images of the row after row of flag draped coffins coming in from Iraq and close-ups of real blood and guts combat are now rare.

The shedding of crocodile tears over this alleged affront to injured soldiers is a disgusting display of hypocrisy considering the maltreatment of our troops in Iraq by Bush's military with the compliance of silence by the mainstream media. Over the duration of the Iraq War there has been a lack of regard for our men and women in uniform fighting over there. They faced inadequate numbers, extended stays, shoddy living facilities and a shortage of potable water. They have had to fight with a chronically insufficient supply of body armor and armored vehicles. Rank and file GI's are being forced to take the heat for following the perverted orders of the brass. They will experience life-long illnesses and early death from exposure to depleted uranium weapons. Many will go home to bankruptcy and loss of employment as well as the Bush/GOP cuts to veterans. And, incredibly, not all our wounded are getting all the care they need.

To characterize anti-war sentiment as being non supportive of our troops is an old mind-twisting propaganda technique of the right wing. Back in the Vietnam era, the anti-war demonstrations were all about saving the lives and limbs of our soldiers by demanding their return home out of harm's way. But, the pro-war faction, including the corporate war profiteers, countered with the 'big lie' that the protestors were expressing their ill will toward individual fighting men and women and calling for their condemnation. And, today's generation of pro-war advocates are employing the same old propaganda by targeting Tom Toles' cartoon.
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Dan Merica is a political cartoonist and opinion writer battling the right wing scourge now devastating our country. His work is posted on his website, www.cartoons-political.com.
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