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Between Iraq and a Hard Place

MATSON-Capitol Ink-Iraqass.jpg
MATSON-Capitol Ink-Iraqass.jpg

The cartoon was a play on the popular “Jackass: The Movie,” which was showing in theaters at the time, and it appropriated the image of the careening shopping cart full of sophomoric superheroes from the movie poster. It depicts President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House adviser Karl Rove, Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Jackass pranksters.  

My editor, the late Peter Kaplan, loved my rough sketch and as we discussed the cartoon, two reservations came up.  

First, we didn’t want to do a cartoon that was so skeptical of military success it looked like we were rooting for failure. However reckless and foolhardy, the Jackass players were essentially brave (and maybe even heroic) we concluded, so the analogy wasn’t completely pessimistic.  

Peter’s bigger concern was that the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein might go so smoothly and be over so quickly ( in a month or two, tops) that we would “wind up with egg on our faces.” After hemming and hawing we agreed that, although we couldn’t predict the future, we had a funny cartoon in the present and no better alternative for that week’s deadline. So we ran it.  

Twelve-and-a-half years later and six months into a bombing campaign, is there anyone who believes an A.U.M.F will bring quick results against the Islamic State with only the intended consequences?  

I can’t imagine drawing a similar cartoon today. “Iraqass” was funny at the time precisely because so many people, myself included, believed to some degree that the war would be a breeze and might even pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues.  

From this cartoonist’s perspective, history does indeed repeat … first as farce, then as tragedy.  

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