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By Daniel Ellsberg

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Joint Chiefs Protest a Cartoon

Posted on Feb 2, 2006
editorial cartoon by Tom Toles.
From Tom Toles / Washington Post

All six Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a rare letter to the editor of the Washington Post, protesting this editorial cartoon by Tom Toles.

Editor & Publisher: A Tom Toles editorial cartoon published in The Washington Post on Monday and on its Web site has drawn a very rare and very strong protest letter to the editors from all six members of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, E&P has learned.

The letter, written on Tuesday, charges that the six military leaders “believe you and Mr. Toles have done a disservice to your readers and your paper’s reputation by using such a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation, and as a result, have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds. ... 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.” | story (Broken by AMERICAblog)

Truthdig says: Well, despite the fact that Toles has a valid satirical point to make about the Pentagon’s overextension of troops in the field, we have to wonder: With the insurgency gaining strength every day, and reconstruction efforts crippled by high-level incompetency, this cartoon is what’s upsetting our nation’s military leadership?

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By Roy Bean, June 26, 2008 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For anyone who still can think….the sign on the bed identifies the wounded soldier as U.S. ARMY.
The soldier represents the tragedy that is the U.S. military - and how our brave men and women are being used, damaged, and forgotten by the system.  Why don’t the people who find this cartoon reprehensible admit that the destruction of many good american servicemen are being ignored or hidden by today’s media.

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By Brian, February 7, 2006 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d like to know what the comments of Secretary Rumsfeld were, that provoked the cartoon in the first place. Then, I may have a greater understanding of the cartoon itself.

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By truth, February 7, 2006 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Offensive or not, that is exactly what happens to our military during war.  Or, as the Pentagon stated during the Viet Nam era, “merely containment”.  Anyone who has visited military hospitals has most likely witnessed the tragedy.  I can vouch that during The Viet Nam “containment” I personally saw young men missing multiple limbs.  One nineteen year old was missing both arms and both legs.  I will never forget it.  Neither should the rest of America.

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By hairy varmit, February 6, 2006 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Very tasteless, but not as tasteless as sending young men and women off to a stupid, corrupt and illegal war.

And not as tasteless as killing women and children with cluster bombs.

And not as tasteless as torturing terrorist suspects in other countries.

Depicting the horrors of war is not have as reprehensible as perpetrating them…

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By blog responder, February 6, 2006 at 12:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The object of attack in the cartoon, it should be obvious, is Rumsfeld, not soldiers. The cartoon takes issue with Rumsfeld’s callous treatment of American soldiers—but many seem to think that a cartoon of a wounded soldier is much much worse than sending soldiers to become wounded, preventing them from being properly armored, and hiding the wounded from the American people. For so many Americans, harsh images are more offensive than harsh realities.

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By streetcow, February 4, 2006 at 7:35 am Link to this comment
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By W. White, February 3, 2006 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The joint chiefs complain about the cartoon’s ‘callous depiction’ of soldiers. The soldiers, however, are smarters than the brass; they recognize that the cartoon’s barb is directed against Rumsfeld rather than themselves.

Furthermore, a goodly number of them probably will jump at the chance to ‘callously depict’ the liars who told them that they are ‘defending the nation’, when in reality the nation is less secure because of the war.

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By Brigham Narins, February 3, 2006 at 8:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with you. Moreover, the cartoon is clearly (or so I would have thought) critical of “Dr. Rumsfeld”—he’s identified by name; if there is a “callous depiction” of anything here, it’s of him. The pathetic soldier is left anonymous and is depicted in a neutral way—there is nothing particularly funny and thus callous about his or her wounds. And the soldier is clearly intended to represent the state of the entire “U.S. Army,” as the chart at the foot of the bed suggests. So there are two elements here: 1) the travesty of Rumsfeld’s depiction, and 2) the critical comment on the condition of the military. These are the kinds of things that political cartoons do.

There is nothing unusual or outrageous in what Tom Toles has done. What is outrageous is what the Joint Chiefs are doing at the behest of “Dr. Rumsfeld” and his Commander-in-Chief of Medicine.

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By Charlie Blalock, February 3, 2006 at 7:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If the only way you can make a point is by using an image of a injured soldier it would appear your skills are limited and your humanity non-existent.  The very person you depicted represents the men and women that make it possible for you to print your cruel and insensitive material.  I know you will simply erase this e-mail and forget it and this whole matter will fade away. It is a shame you could not trade places with the mother or father of a soldier in the condition you depicted; I do not believe you would call it satire. Since that’s not possible how about getting out of your nice safe office and visit a military hospital; maybe you could find some more material or maybe you might find somethng else. CB

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By Clyo Beck, February 2, 2006 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This cartoon is firmly rooted on the side of our GI’s. It clearly shows the impossible position into which our service men and women have been placed and correctly depicts what this administration and our military leaders have done to them.

It is not the cartoonist, but our military leaders who owe the apology. They have performed a callous disservice to our service men and women by sending them off to an unnecessary war that has killed and crippled GI’s by the thousands.

Yet rather than make that apology or admit the war was an obscene mistake and that our troops have been trapped in an untenable position, the chiefs continue to try and justify their actions by shooting the messenger.

This is because our chiefs of staff know that the best defense is a good offense. The outrage the six chiefs of staff have expressed is simply a cover for their own sins.

Increasingly unable to defend the policies of this administration that have resulted in so many unnecessary deaths and destroyed lives, they’ve come out swinging against another manufactured enemy. This shows they have no shame for, as they posture to postpone withdrawal of our troops, the ones who will continue to take the hits are our soldiers.

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By Gone Again, February 2, 2006 at 9:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe if the Joint COS had read Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun”....( Better yet, they could have passively watched the movie) and thought about the merits of war and patriotism, they would have honored and respected them by not putting them in harm’s way for a mendacious and cavalier despot.
Gone Again

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By connie draper, February 2, 2006 at 10:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Mr. Toles for presenting the truth of this war.  Rarely, does anyone discuss the wounded returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. There is very little media coverage. A comic is about the only way America is going to stand up and take notice.

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By Hunter Willis, February 2, 2006 at 9:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a non-military person in a large military town, I find this cartoon, Toles’ response, and the Washington Post’s lack of decorum reprehensible.  Many of my military friends are offended by this and feel objectified by the left’s anti-war movement.

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By Kevin Flanagan, February 2, 2006 at 7:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m not crazy about the war either, but using the image of a soldier who has lost both arms and legs for satirical purposes is over the top, in my view. You could argue that the Administration does the same thing by suggesting we need to stay in Iraq to justify the sacrifice of soldiers who have already fought and died there, but two wrong don’t make a right. Truthdigs commentary on the Chiefs’ letter really misses the point. Who cares if it upsets the military leadership? It ought to upset anyone whose sense of empathy hasn’t been overwhelmed by their politics. Toles can and has done better.

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By William Brown, February 2, 2006 at 5:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


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