This Week’s Cartoon: “Nation Stunned By Display of Competence”

The killing of Bin Laden after ten years of bloody bungling made me think of  a conversation I had with a housemate of mine right after 9/11 — it may have been the night of the attacks. We were talking about what the U.S. should do. I said it would be cool of us to not respond dramatically; that instead, we should send in special teams to take down the perpetrators one by one. There would be no televised bombings to invite cycles of retribution — just quiet ninja-like justice. My housemate, a right-leaning Navy vet, favored more of a “wipe-Afghanistan-off-the-map” approach. Well, we know how that went.

I find myself  giving my cartoons Onion-esque titles lately. Not that they have a monopoly on fake newspaper headlines, but I don’t want to overdo it. With this one, it felt necessary.


  • James

    Jenn–No, we _don’t_ know how that went. Last I checked, Afghanistan is still on the map because rather than unleashing the flaming sword of vengeance, we decided it was a good idea to “nation build.” Which, incidentally, is not only expensive, but tends to end poorly. Punitive, straight up Carthage-style retribution that began at the Indian border in the east and terminated when the local started screaming in Farsi? That would have been cheap…and effective. Instead, we half-a**ed Afghanistan then proceeded to invade Iraq (Hello, what part of “Saddam is deterred (due to his being sane), its his crazy, woodchipper feeding sons that may be a problem…” and “ISI is in bed with the terrorist and will eventually think giving them a nuke is a good idea…” was unclear?)

    That being said, it sickens me that when Obama did display guts and competence in ordering the raid our current political climate immediately f*cked up the occasion. I personally didn’t care how many times he said “I”, how the story changed, or all the other idiocy that both sides immediately descended into. I personally think the announcement of “Osama bin Laden sleeps with the fishes…” is still my highlight of the last two weeks…and after 10 years it should be savored. Instead, the United States came off looking like the gang that could shoot straight (yay!) but is still a no-go at the Information Warfare test event.

  • Jen Sorensen

    I didn’t mean to imply the U.S. literally proceeded to wipe Afghanistan off the map, but rather that my wish for a smart, low-key response was not what happened at all. (See: Iraq, shock and awe). True, we still don’t know the ending yet.

  • Tom

    What is this meme about “how many times he said “I”? I’ve noticed this before, along with “he uses a teleprompter at speeches!” George Bush said “I” had an accountability moment and “I” have plitical capital, but I don’t recall anybody complaining about how many times he used the pronoun “I.”

    Maybe we should have elected Bob Dole after all, because Bob Dole would refer to Bob Dole as Bob Dole.

    Anyway: I was originally going to say “Why pick on the 21st Century? The 20th Century was a nonstop party of bungling from the Titanic disaster, through the massacre of European manhood in Flanders Fields, through Prohibition, through…well, you get the idea.” That’s actually one of teh fun things about history, the bungles that showed that folks then were just like us.

    About the ninja idea: Yes, I said back in 2001 that you don’t fight terrorists with tanks and bombers. To me the ideal, if we had had an intelligence service that had intelligence instead of sucking up to the president by saying that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were “a slam-dunk,” would be to have found him, abducted him, and then arrange for his strangled body to be found in a hotel room in Lahore dressed in lingerie and surrounded by gay porn. Try and make a defiant legend out of THAT!

  • Bill

    James, I have a feeling that I may not be the first one to think that you are a lunatic. By your Carthaginian logic, everyone in the United States should be wiped out as implied partners in the American government’s terrorist acts against people in Guatamala, Vietnam, and all over the world over the last couple of hundred years. But far be it from me to interfere with your highlight savoring. Savor away!

  • Jeb

    You’re asking for the Israeli style revenge cycle. This, also, you may note has not panned out especially well.

  • James

    Jen–I was partially poking fun, but even Iraq demonstrates that the Boomer Generation puts on the clothes of their parents (i.e., the Greatest Generation) but strangely they never can seem to get their hands out of the sleeves or the shoes to fit right. While I do _not_ (and never have) agreed with Iraq, I think part of the subsequent problems we had with the population was because our government expected the “brown people” to not embrace concepts like pride, nationalism, or anger. Therefore, a really good pyrotechnic show that, quite frankly, wasn’t much worse than Operation Desert Fox was expected to cow the good people of Iraq why we went about upsetting the only society they’d known for thirty years. Ummmm…no.

    I am fond of saying that one should not often resort to violence, but when one does it should be done so with great vigor. I think someone attempting to decapitate our government and shatter our financial sector is the kind of thing that should be responded to in a manner that makes the next group of individuals think twice about it. You will also note (and it’s been pointed out in sources beyond Wiki) that Black September was never able to conduct the planning and coordination necessary for another Munich due to Mossad’s actions. Ironically, I would submit that if you substitute “ninjas” for “Mossad agents” you’re basically arguing against the targeted assassinations that our very fair host is advocating. So you’re basically saying that people should…what, turn the other cheek when assaulted? I hear the guy most famous for advocating that course of action got crucified…

    Bill, if you’re expecting me to say, “By Jove, you’re right, the millions of peoples we’ve utterly f*cked in the last 200+ years would be utterly justified in visiting hellfire upon using my logic, ergo I must change my ways…” then I’ve got some bad news for you: A. I am in utter agreement that if the Cherokee, Creek, Crow, Sioux, Iroquois, Guatamelans, Vietnamese, Japanese, and/or Germans got the capability to lay waste to the United States they would be justified in doing so but also that B. if they had gotten the capability to do so before we would have, then they totally would have and not lost any sleep about it. Therefore, do unto others before they do unto you, and do it three times as hard so you’ve got a head start.

    Lastly, the problem with the assassination idea is they’re allegedly illegal without executive order. Namely because the CIA seemed to have a marked inability to kill certain people (see Castro, Fidel) and, therefore, regularly embarrassed the United States government. Personally, I think a troupe of well-trained assassins capable of everything from “tragic thing, that heart attack” to “it was like the last 10 minutes of the Godfather crossed with Rambo and the last half of Akira” is a must have for any modern great power, but I doubt we’ll ever have a public discussion of that ideal in Congress or the Pentagon.

  • Tommes the Pommes

    Well, forgive for saying that, but at the same time how come that some news journalists couldn’t differentiate the spelling of Obama and Osama? (cf., although, yes I WAS wondering why Obama could report his own passing away…

    B.t.w. some people here in Germany still think that it was NOT correct to kill Bin Laden. Notbecause it was not just, no because some say it is not ok to kill people. Didn’t know we Germans are so well educated concerning ethics in killing…

  • Jen Sorensen

    Should we have captured Osama and put him on trial? I don’t know. I’m sort of ambivalent, although I would seriously dread *that* media spectacle, which would surely be exploited ad nauseum by cable news. But there are serious issues with assassinations, absolutely, and it could become a slippery slope.

    I appreciate your more cautious perspective, Tommes. It’s preferable to jingoistic yeehaw-ing.

  • Bill

    Well, dang, James, I kind of WAS hoping you would say “by Jove”! And you did! Thanks!

  • Bill Freese

    Of course, we could have responded to violence with something other than violence. You know, like a Christian country would. No? Sorry. What as I thinking?

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.