Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Civil Wars Are Neither

It’s official. Iraq is in a civil war. Despite Tony Snow’s objections, civil wars can happen without one side looking like a group of Gettysburg re-enactors. Civil wars happen whenever two or more sides openly conflict for control. Nieman Watch lists six different criteria for a civil war and fifty conflicts over the last sixty years that meet the test. The Los Angeles Times, NBC, and the New York Times have all started using the phrase ‘civil war’ to describe the conflict and unrest in Iraq, but Doonesbury made the call 18 months in advance.

(click to enlarge)

As always, Garry Trudeau was ahead of the curve. This comic appeared February 20, 2004 and immediately struck me as prescient. I’ve been waiting for the rest of the mainstream media to catch up. Trudeau is one of the favorite whipping boys of those who see a liberal bias on the funny pages. When the strip started, B.D. was the dim-witted right-wing strawman.

Trudeau is reliably lefty, but he is also poignantly sympathetic to our armed services, particularly those that have been injured in service to our country. If you have not read Gene Weingarten’s hagiography of Trudeau when it ran in the Washington Post Magazine, you owe it to yourself to learn how dedicated Trudeau has been in bringing verisimilitude to his portrayal of amputee vet B.D.

Thanks to the miracle of comics time dilation, B.D. has fought in three wars, coached college football, married a ditzy starlet, and now struggles with PTSD. He has become one of the most subtly layered characters to ever appear in graphic form. Garry Trudeau has proven that if he can mock our ill-advised adventurism while still supporting our uniformed heroes, anyone can.


Anonymous said...

I love Gene Weingarten, but I missed that article. Thanks, I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the recent strips with BD in the "ethics" class. I remember as the war in Iraq got underway that a couple of my students were very gung-ho about the war. Not that they had the slightest intention of actually joining the military - they were just happy to see "America" kick ass. ("America" in this case being some other poor sucker who gets killed or maimed.) Pissed me off mightily: if you support a war and are of the right age to fight it, you should do so. Otherwise, you're "supporting" the war only insofar as it doesn't affect you. (This means you, Jenna and Barbie!)

Your Mother said...

I have always enjoyed Trudeau. One of my history teachers had a whole collection of old political comics he'd saved over the years. I loved it and wouldn't mind starting my own.

On a side note, I stole your "blatent comment whoring" phrase but if you want me to put it back I will.

Anonymous said...

BD's growth from strawman to human being has been interesting, although rather slow. It really only began 10 or 15 years ago. Before that he only became a more sophisticated strawman. (A role which has been taken over by Mark's soon to be ex-boyfriend Chase). It probably tells us something about Trudeau's own maturation.

That list is fascinating, but I note that something like half of the conflicts are wars of independence against a colonial power. That calls for a different category. Also, the Korean War was flat out an invasion by another power. North and South Korea were, as they are now, two separate state entities.

yellojkt said...

Despite the trademark, the use of "blatant comment whoring" is available license free. Please spread this meme far and wide.