Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Looking at a Propaganda Cartoon

Cartoons have been used throughout history to spread propaganda. They are an excellent propaganda tool because they can be understood in many different languages, they are simple, take little time to absorb, are easily retained in memory. The written words can often be picked apart by astute readers, but many people looking at cartoons may not have the visual skills necessary to see what is wrong with it.

I am presenting an example of a propaganda cartoon here from this website:


Daryl Cagle's website, "The Political Cartoonist Index", has many current political cartoons arranged according to subject. Some are conservative, some liberal left wing. This particular cartoon, by Brian Fairrington, is intended to give the impression that George Bush and the Republicans have done 95% of the work in killing Osama Bin Laden. To many observers, this message will stick easily in their minds far better than the bullet stuck in Osama's.

I have taken the next step, which is questioning the over simplification of this bit of right wing propaganda, and I have put my corrected version below it. Of course, both cartoons are an oversimplification of the actual operation.

From what I can see, most Americans feel that all America deserves the credit for this operation. But if we must say who is especially responsible for getting revenge on Bin Laden, who was it?

I have seen a lot of comments from apparently normal right wingers saying it was the troops who were 100% responsible for killing Bin Laden. These same people claim that Obama was no more than a brain dead puppet whose lips were being manipulated into mouthing "OKEY DOKEY" by his white military handlers. I disagree with their opinion. In fact if they were right, democracy itself would be in big trouble.

A more realistic view is that many people had a part to play according to their assigned roles. Somebody had to make the helicopters, the guns and the bullets. Somebody had to sift through a million false leads on Bin Laden's whereabouts. Somebody had to decide which lead to follow up on. Somebody had to ride the helicopter with a gun, get off and aim and pull the trigger. Somebody had to drag the body aboard. I don't know who had to do all those things, and some people risked their lives. But there was also the one person who had to give the go-ahead to use American Forces to penetrate the territory of an ally without notification. And that same person will have to deal with the retaliation not only from Al Quaeda, but from Pakistan. Instead of a retaliatory strike, Pakistan could deny America access to the only road bringing supplies to the troops in Afghanistan (That includes Canadian troops too!).

The guy who pulled the trigger risked his life, just as many other people are risking their lives all the time, including civilians (and including Obama in case you forget!).

Obama, (luckily or by design, you decide) has taken a peaceful position that is far more acceptable to the international community than G W Bush's bullying torturing aggressiveness. So it will be far easier for Obama to smooth the ruffled feathers from this intrusion into Pakistan than it would have been for Bush. How about giving credit for that, you war hawks?

Look, it's this simple. Jimmy Carter gave approval to an operation against Iran that failed (remember that?), and he is still getting the blame for it to this day. Obama gave the order, and will deal with the fallout from this operation, not the military. He should get as much
credit for doing it right as the blame he would have taken for an epic failure. Is that fair?

Picture: The second cartoon is my photoshopped "correction" of the first to show the opposite point of view.


  1. Numerous analysts have maintained from the outset that the most effective approach to targeting 'high value targets' such as 'terrorist' leaders is through the use of intelligence and focused action, rather than through conventional military deployments.

    Although that is likely a gross oversimplification, the bin Laden assassination suggests that there may be some merit to the argument. On the other hand, the experience of the Mossad's hit squads has been rather mixed.

    So, when it comes to allocating credit for taking out bin Laden, it all depends on how one looks at it. Obama supporters (including cartoonists) will spin it one way; Republican supporters will feel entitled to claim the opposite.

    But most people seem to ignoring the important question, 'Does this assassination make Americans any safer?'

  2. I am no psychologist, but I would bet that most Americans would want Bin Laden dead even at the risk of being a bit less safe. After all, they still drive cars that kill a lot more people than 9/11. If you want something bad enough, you're willing to take a few risks.

  3. 'Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.'
    (Romans 12:19 - KJV)

  4. I think it's too bad that both sides have tried to hard to take this victory from one side and attribute it to the other. Bush's administration was doing everything it could get to get Bin Laden, and Obama's administration did everything it could to get Bin Laden, and those nearly 10 years of hard work paid off.

    This was an American victory, regardless of what political pundits are trying to cast it as.

    Separate from the Bin Laden issue, though, those who would hail Obama's administration as being more peaceful would be sadly mistaken. He has ramped up drone attacks all over the world, sent more troops to Afghanistan, and has given lip service to removing troops from Iraq (50,000 of which are still there). Now we're involved in Libya, and his claim is that our involvement there is so limited that he doesn't need permission from Congress to continue his involvement.

    Madeye: Yes, we are much safer now that Bin Laden was dead. He was the inspiring figurehead, the organizer, and the main fund raiser for Al Qaida. They are much less affective as an organization now that he is gone, and I don't believe that they'll be able to mount any kind of affective retaliation.

    The killing of Bin Laden was not vengeance. It was justice against an enemy combatant in a declared war, a war which was declared on both sides. There is nothing wrong, unjust, or illegal about that.

  5. Paul: You write, 'those who would hail Obama's administration as being more peaceful would be sadly mistaken.'

    How true that is. One need only look at the defense budget increases during this administration.

    Tough to square those military spending increases with a trillion and half dollar deficit.

    The USDX (U.S. dollar index) has depreciated 11.5% during the last 12 months, is now close to record lows, portending a flight from the dollar, with everything that entails. Tough times ahead.