Monday, December 12, 2011

Dumb, Dumber and Doonesbury

by Jeff Huber

I’ve been mourning the lamentable state of the anti-war movement lately, especially the portion of it populated by the political left, a great percentage of whom appear to be more concerned with the slaughter of baby seals than with the slaughter of baby humans.  And why wouldn’t they be?  We’ve actually seen more images in our warmongering mainstream media of ice floe carnage than we’ve seen of the carnage of armed conflict.  Nobody in the deep-pockets pocket of the Pentarchy really cares if liberals manage to curb baby seal hunting.  There’s not that much money in it. 

Must remember...this is my shoulder,
this is my elbow, this is my shoulder...
To be fair, a considerable number of liberals have enough angst left over for a healthy hand-wringing or two about those pesky old wars after they’re done saving a) wild animals from hunters so they can be killed by other wild animals instead and b) trees that were grown for the specific purpose of being cut down and used in construction.  Lamentably, though, the few progressives who have the staying power to protest the uniquely American brand of man’s inhumanity to man can seldom discriminate between their shoulders and their elbows. 

Doubly disconcerting is that so many of these feckless war protesters are high-profile humorists, comedians, satirists and other makers of malcontent merriness who enjoy the uncritical adoration of The Huffington Post’s circulation, especially of those callow-eyed progressive cadets of Generations X, Y, and now even Z (nine-year olds who can’t stay up to watch Stewart and Colbert can catch them on reruns the next day).  

Case in point is Doonsebury cartoonist Garry Trudeau who, as friend of Pen and Sword J.P. White recently suggested, is living proof that one doesn’t have to be especially funny to be a commercially successful humorist, especially when said humorist attended Yale like Trudeau did.  As our present president and his immediate predecessor have proven, you don’t need talent to succeed in your chosen field if you have Ivy League credentials.    

When it comes to our woebegone Wars on Evil, Trudeau’s heart generally seems to be in the right place, but he has a penchant for letting his head hobble off to some cozy cranny where it’s isolated from the light of day and breathable air, like it appears to have done when Garry penned his 7 December strip in which a junior U.S. Army officer concedes that the omnipresent evildoers in Iraq are still able to bring the fight to us thanks to “a little help from Iran.”

I don’t dig trolling into other people’s web sites, but this couldn’t go unchallenged.  Here’s what I left in Garry’s “Blowback” inbox:
What a crushing disappointment to see in your 7 Dec. strip that you too have chugged the propaganda that blames Iran for our failures in Iraq.  The recent IAEA report was the latest piece of kangaroo courtliness to accuse Iran of malfeasance—this time in regard to its nuclear program—and support the charge with pure poppycock. 
The loop-tape allegations that Iran has armed and trained Shiite Iraqi rebels have never been substantiated.  The only verifiable outside aid and comfort to Shiite militiamen was the training and weapons then Lt. Gen. David Petraeus gave to Iraqi security force recruits—predominantly Shiites—who disappeared into the night with 190,000 AK-47s and other combat gear. 
Shame on you, Garry, for allowing yourself to become one of the warmongery’s leading echo chamberlains. 
 Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired)     
Someone named “Editor” posted my comment, and added the following curious caveat: “This seems a good occasion to remind readers that if GBT shared the beliefs of all of his characters, he would be deeply schizophrenic.”

Holy non-rebuttal.  Knowing it was a waste of effort, I further submitted this:
Satirists, perhaps more so than other literary figures, present a worldview of moral judgments, and owe it to their audience to indicate when their characters’ actions and words reflect their vision of the truth and when they do not.  Mark Twain knew exactly how to do this.  Garry does some of the time.  This time he did nothing to indicate that his character’s “with a little help from Iran” was intended with any degree of sardonicism.
...and dumber...
That submission hasn’t been blessed for live bandwidth at the Doonesbury site.  Maybe they have a one-per-disgruntled-customer policy.  Something that did make the cut, however, was an attempted disproval of my original post by one Dean Mitchell that began: “The evidence of Iranian involvement has been continuous, with lots of reporting.”  If you click on the “lots” and “reporting” links of Mr. Mitchell’s sentence, you’ll discover what kind of “evidence” he considers convincing. 

The “lots” link, as I noted in my second, unpublished Blowback submission, leads to “a story with Iran allegations penned by Michael R. Gordon, one the Pentarchy's very favorite echo chamberlains.  I'm sure [Mr. Mitchell] had no idea that Gordon was one of the journo-cads who helped Dick Cheney's mob pull the Nigergate hoax on us that led to the invasion of Iraq, and has been a go-to war propaganda conduit to this day.” 

...and BlackFive's Uncle Jimbo
The “reporting” link leads to a July 2011 piece from Britain’s right-wing The Telegraph that features the standard laundry list of unsubstantiated charges against Iran straight from the mouth of then Joint Chiefs chairman and Bull Feather Merchant Marine Corps Commandant Mike Mullen. 

It’s downright horrifying to reflect that not only are the likes of Mr. Mitchell gullible enough to guzzle undiluted war propaganda from the likes of Gordon and Mullen but, apparently, the likes of progressive icon Garry Trudeau are too!

Jesus, Mary and Curly Joe DeRita.  With anti-war liberals like these, who needs Pavlov’s Dogs of War like bathetic BlackFive pundit Uncle Jimbo?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance. 


  1. Against the insidious wiles of political faction influence the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that party influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one political faction and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

    99.5% George Washington
    00.5% Myself

  2. Thanks, ER. And you too, George.


  3. I don't know if "echo chamberlain" is an original Huberism, but I'm sure as hell stealing it.

  4. Joffen,

    I'm pretty sure it is. Feel free to use it, just remember where you got it from ;-).

  5. I guess Trudeau must think that everyone who reads his strip is a fan, and can tell one of his look-alike characters from another. I can't, because I haven't read Doonesbury in almost twenty years. But I actually gave him the benefit of that doubt, thinking that the “Iran” line might be coming out of the mouth of a right-wing character, so I trolled the archive of strips online looking for some evidence of that. There wasn't any.

    So, yeah, that is the impression I came away with, that Trudeau believes that Iran is arming Iraqi rebels. Oh yeah, and also that, um...this guy really isn't very funny. (And it kills me to say that, because I appreciate any honest attempt at satire. I consider it a form of High Art, and one of the few things in life that can take the suck out of the awfulness of our world).

    I never liked Doonesbury. I first encountered it in middle school, before I had much political awareness, and my first impression was that it was kind of creepy. I mean, the way the characters all seem to look alike (Hey, Garry, you're an artist. You can draw more than one face, right?).

    But the real reason I can't read Doonesbury is because it makes me bitterly nostalgic for that great 80s strip Bloom County. The guy that drew that was funny. Trudeau, not so much.

  6. JP;

    Ah, for the days of the penguin and the cat and Steve. Yes, that was a funny comic strip.

  7. What I fail to understand in this is how "Dumbs-berry" is still so popular. I go with JP on this, the "strip" is not and never was, very funny. Maybe it is my working class upbringing, but I never "got" the deal with this "cartoon".
    Yeah, that must be it, working class back ground, enlisted in the Marines, did a tour in Vietnam, worked as a machinist, yeah, this "cartoon" is "over my head". Yeah.
    Well, I still don't see why this "cartoon" is so popular. Must be a "college thing".
    Just my 2 cents worth.

  8. It's not over anybody's head, Charlie, much less yours. It's only a "college thing" to the extent that it's an "Ivy League college" thing.


  9. I think it was Mark Twain who said "If you do not read a paper.... you are uninformed.... however, if you do read a paper.... you are misinformed."

    I quit reading the funnies, and a paper, years ago. I much prefer to surf the net.... where I have more to choose from.... than what's available in my city..... which is down to one daily paper.

    Found this on Sam Smith's blog:

    Found it interesting.... and thought I would share...

    First thing that crossed my mind.... when I saw the bulldozers at Zuccotti Park.

    Happy Holidays!

  10. Thanks for the link, EL, and happy holidays to you too.

  11. Putting the Trudeau cartoon in a bit of perspective, try to picture the low-level military caste that same evening, on a midnight run for the border with Kuwait, leaving "the bad guys" to their own "activities" so that our Government Issue heroes emerge the next day somewhere safe, with their heads held high and their tails tucked proudly between their legs.

    As for the so-called "liberals" and their postulated anti-war effectiveness, Chris Hedges provides the definitive treatment of them in The Death of the Liberal Class. That happened a long time ago. No one cares what "liberals" think about anything, certainly not President Obama or the junior Republican Democrats. Working class Americans -- their ranks swollen with the newly impoverished former middle class -- will either organize and demilitarize America, or crony-corporate crypto-fascism will cement its triumph in the very near future. I doubt if Gary Trudeau will even see it coming.

  12. Since when did Mullen get promoted to the Marine Corps? He's one of your bathtub admirals.

  13. He's not a Marine: he's a bull feather merchant. Don't worry, Uncle Jimbo didn't get it either. ;-)

  14. Well said, Michael. I may cob your line about how no one cares about what liberals think about anything.


  15. Yo Jeff, This boy's a hard-left progressive and a big fan of your razor-sharp criticism of for-profit militarism and it's Washington funders. I suppose you have always been on the other side of the political divide from this boy, but till now I never noticed, and didn't care, and still don't, because we seem to agree on the most important stuff. In this case, however, I think you've somehow got it wrong. Which is hardly a big deal, to err is human, after all,... right up to the end.

    I think Trudeau had his military guy mouthing the same nonsense that so many real-world upper-echelon kiss-ups have blurted out during the last several year to explain their failures: "It's the Iranians fault." They've been plenty anxious to blame somebody else for their ineptitude in Iraq, and it doesn't take a genius to see that simultaneously promoting Iran as the next revenue enhancement opportunity is a winning career strategy.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and if you should choose to reexamine your attitude toward liberals, you may be surprised -- probably not -- to find you have allies on those issues of greatest importance.

  16. Thanks for the input, Jeff. I don't agree, obviously, that Gary was making a satirical comment or that if he was he did it a manner the satirists need to make satirical points. But then, I've been accused of that sort of thing from time to time.

    Regarding my political leanings, let me make something clear: I don't belong to a political party, but I vote against Republicans every chance I get. ;-)

  17. As much as I agree with Jeff Davis that some liberal allies would certainly help -- to the extent one can actually locate such persons -- I think Thomas Frank pretty much summed up the problem when he wrote in What's the Matter with Kansas?:

    "... no Democratic presidential nominee has called himself a "liberal" since Walter Mondale."

    The Republicans -- and their willing tools in the upper ranks of the military officer corps -- have assiduously made a dirty word out of anything associated with "liberal" -- and the weak-kneed liberals in the Democratic Party have allowed this happen. No true liberal will ever find President Obama anywhere near him or her when it counts. Just ask the Occupy Wall Street protesters if any of them have seen or heard of Obama while the cops beat, pepper-sprayed and bulldozed them out of their First Amendment rights.

    The American and Iraqi people have just gotten so sick and tired of the endless military bungling that they just want it over. They don't want to learn any lessons. They don't want any more reminders of the bloody stupidity and waste. They just want it over. The professional military just want out of the lost cause without having to account for their dreadful, dismal failures. The Trudeau cartoon speaks to none of this. If anything, it rather perpetuates the true estimation that Americans have of their military personnel: low-paid refugees from educational and economic nowhere who will believe, say, and do anything for a paltry monthly paycheck and a glib "thank you for your service." A rather insulting -- although accurate -- portrayal of contemporary America, and not the least bit ironic, in my estimation.

  18. An excellent take on the sad state of liberalism, Michael.

  19. Thanks, Commander, for your as always spot on insights. For courageous moral stands against the wars of choice our political leaders have elected to wage (first always waging the propaganda war upon the American people), one has to look to avowed "conservatives," such as yourself and Andrew Bacevich. On "the left," the staunchest and most consistent opponents have been the socialists (Joe Bageant) and radicals (Chomsky, Zinn, Vonnegut), and pretty much the entire editorial staff of the Black Commentator, the virtually unknown socialist war correspondent, John Pilger, and radical democratic politicians like Cynthia McKinney and Barbara Boxer, and Amy Goodman, the reporter whose "Democracy Now" LINK TV program (also radio broadcast) ought to be daily fare for any history class being taught in the US from grade school through university, and gold star mother Patty Sheahan, and Tom Englehardt. What these folks share in common is that virtually NOBODY in America has heard of them (then too, a couple of them have died, recently). But they get no TV face time, no radio air time, their opinions are never printed on any op-ed page, anywhere in the country. They are marginalized completely out of main stream awareness, and this is so sad.

    I'm with you 100%, Trudeau has a prominent platform - to mouth the platitudes of the War Machinery, Obummah Mis-administration, etc, etc, is to take a very easy way out.

    You are to be commended (as always, and once again) for your fiercely consistent and unflinchingly moral stands, and for calling out the tepid on their tepidity.


  20. Yeah, Mark. He's not using his platform responsibly.

    As to my "avowed conservative" credentials, the only Republican I ever voted for was Ronald Reagan. My flimsy excuse is that I was just a jayvee at the time and I probably thought voting Republican was required by the UCMJ. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who ever thought that. ;-)

  21. To paraphrase T. S. Elliot (in reference to the long-overdue "ending" of America's War on Iraq):

    This is the way the war ends
    This is the way the war ends
    This is the way the war ends
    Not with a bang, but a whimper

    We still haven't evacuated our thousands of crusader mercenary "diplomatic" personnel from the roof of their besieged Baghdad fortress yet -- but I wouldn't place any bets on how long that situation can possibly last.

    Perhaps Gary Trudeau could draw a cartoon consisting of four empty (of people) panels with one of those yellow "crime scene" ribbons draped across deserted American military ghost towns, reading: "Permanently Closed -- No Trespassing."

    Like we dragooned cannon-fodder/adviser-trainers used to say back in Southeast Asia: "We lost the day we started and we win the day we stop."

  22. Gee. I wrote the dirge ending this farce five years ago:

  23. Being a TBI survivor I wrote Blowback to point out that Toggle's symptoms were those of a stroke rather than traumatic brain injury, but the editorial comment was that GT was right and I was wrong. So I don't look at the strip anymore and it is little loss. Here's my Mark Twain quote:
    Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
    Maybe it's the feeling that the antiwar battle is one we've been losing for 10,000 years that has everybody so quiet.

  24. It's remarkable to me that GT could be so thick-headed. He could have researched TBI before he started that thread in the strip.


  25. Here's the thing; if the Iranians WEREN'T keeping a finger in the Iraqi pie they'd be stupider than a Dubya memo about WMD's in Iraq.

    And if we didn't anticipate that the Iranians would be sniffing around our little outpost of empire WE'D be stupider than a stupid Iranian after reading a Dubya memo about WMD's.

    For a U.S. government spokeshole to whine about Iran bankrolling various groups in Iraq is at the same time as pathetic and as pointless as a Los Angeles cop bitching about going after dope peddlers in East LA and running into a couple of Los Zetas or a swamp hunter in Florida whining about how big the gators are in the 'Glades.

    Duh! And we thought we could farkle about smartly in southwest Asia without getting on the wrong side of some southwest Asians...why?

    Frankly, all these stories about the Eeeevil Iranians unravelling our Cunning Plans for Iraq make me shake my head. You slam your forehead into a concrete wall - a wall you knew or should have known was there all along - and then want to cry to me about how your head hurts?

    All I'm doing is laughing at you, fool.