I was developing a cartoon criticizing the economic policies of the various GOP Presidential candidates, but then I read this and decided the above might make a more appropriate year-ender. Before developing the economic policy cartoon, I wasted a few days trying to come up with something commenting on the recent US withdrawal from Iraq with which to end the year, but none of my ideas seemed to say much beyond the surface details of “a thing happened.” Besides, I couldn’t possibly outdo this outstanding illustration by Joel Pett, chronicling the whole blunderous enterprise, from its back-alley conception, to its ignominious conclusion, so I’m glad this specific angle was brought to my attention instead.
The very first post-withdrawal articles I read had made note of how Iraq was to be opened up as a prime market for US defense contractors, and I remember rolling my eyes as I read this, commenting to my friend online that arms sales–not “liberty” or “democracy”–were, and always had been, the ultimate purpose of the war.
But for some reason, it took the headline of the more recent article for me to make the connection between the past and the present on display in this cartoon, as well as in the post-occupation policies of the Obama Administration. Despite holding an official policy of neutrality in the Iran/Iraq conflict of the early ’80s, the Reagan Administration provided Saddam Hussien, a Sunni Muslim, with weapons and military funding under-the-table (until they were caught doing this, of course), for the express purpose of acting as a “counter” to Iran. Reagan didn’t really seem to care when Saddam began using the weapons we gave him to oppress and kill Shiites (like Nouri al-Maliki, the current US puppet in Iraq). Nobody in the US seemed to care, really, until Saddam invaded Kuwait.
A famous photograph of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam began circulating on the web shortly before the more recent Iraq invasion, and has become symbolic of the folly of giving strongman dictators guns and an expense account for the Military Industrial Complex all-you-can-eat bonanza, not to mention the irony of having those very weapons turned against the US and its allies shortly afterwards.
It has been suggested to me that this cartoon may be difficult to understand, because people aren’t likely to recognize Nouri al-Maliki on his looks alone. If history is any indicator, he just might become as recognizable to the average person as his predecessor was, in a decade or so.