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They are not amused.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but that won't stop people from drawing their swords if the pen is used to create an inflammatory editorial cartoon.

Cartoonists' power to provoke outrage is on display at home and abroad this week. On the home front, the nation's top military brass accuse Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles of a "callous depiction" of soldiers who "have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds." Abroad, fury is mounting over what many Muslims believe are blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The unusually harsh criticism from the Joint Chiefs was directed at a cartoon depicting a heavily bandaged patient in a hospital bed. The patient's medical chart was labeled "U.S. Army." At bedside stood Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, dressed as a doctor, saying: ``I'm listing your condition as `battle hardened.' '' The Register-Guard published the cartoon on Tuesday.

A pointed letter to The Post signed by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said, "While you or some of your readers may not agree with the war or its conduct, we believe you owe the men and women and their families who so selflessly serve our country the decency to not make light of their tremendous physical sacrifices."

Noble and appropriate sentiments, shared by the editors of The Post and The Register-Guard. The problem is, the generals apparently didn't get the cartoon.

Toles, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, was using the bandaged figure to represent the institution of the U.S. Army, as the patient chart clearly signaled. More to the point: The cartoon is based on Rumsfeld's remarks last week. In rejecting warnings by a Pentagon-sponsored study that the Iraq war risks "breaking" the Army, he said the U.S. military is "battle hardened."

In the manner of all effective editorial cartoons, Toles used a simple visual analogy to make his point. The doctor (Rumsfeld) issues a diagnosis (``battle hardened'') at odds with the obvious condition of his patient (the Army, the subject of the report - not individual soldiers).

The meaning of the cartoon is so clear that it suggests the criticism from the Joint Chiefs was motivated by something other than righteous indignation over insensitivity toward the troops. These commanders have more important things to do than combat unflattering cartoons.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Joint Chiefs protest Toles editorial cartoon
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 4, 2006
Next Article:An insult to Islam.

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