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Claiming moral equivalence - or worse - between terrorist tactics, US policy is about as far from the truth as you can get

By Jeff Emanuel

Jun 29, 2006

Georgia's Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) has never been a major voice for conservatism, nor has it been a supporter of America in the War on Terror. Public Editor Angela Tuck has acknowledged the "newspaper's constant drumbeat against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration," which has long been wearing on readers, and which has likely been a contributor to its dwindling subscriber base. However, the editorial page response to the recent torture and murder of two American soldiers, led by cartoonist Mike Luckovich, crossed the line of decency in the opinion of many Atlantans and Americans.

On Tuesday, June 20, Americans received the horrible news that missing Army Privates First Class Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker had been recovered—but also that they had been tortured, murdered, and mutilated so far beyond recognition that DNA tests were required for positive identification of the soldiers. Any American with a heart grieved for these young men who gave their lives for their country, and thoughts and prayers went out to their families from across the nation.

Two days later - Thursday, June 22 - the AJC dedicated a large portion of the two-page spread in its three-page editorial section to relatively evenhanded focus on the situation in Iraq. At the bottom of the right-hand page were two columns with fairly positive stances on the situation in Iraq (full disclosure: one of these was authored by me). Prominently displayed in the middle of the left-hand page, co-located with a balanced selection of letters to the editor (one opposing the war, one supporting the troops, and one decrying the terrorists' actions), were three-by-two inch portraits of the two murdered ("slaughtered," in the words of the terrorists) soldiers.

Directly above these photographs of the tortured and slain soldiers, though, was the paper's big mistake: the choice of editorial cartoons. The caricature, composed as always by AJC staff cartoonist Mike Luckovich and entitled "Pot to the Kettle" (it has since been archived under the title "The Book on Torture"), featured two characters wearing hoods. One of these figures was labeled "Al-Qaeda," and wielded a machete. The other, whose shirt featured an American flag, was reading aloud to the terrorist from a book labeled "Torture Etiquette."

The hinting at moral equivalence between the US and bloodthirsty terrorists inherent in this cartoon is revolting enough on the surface. However, conservative blog points out that what the AJC is actually communicating through this is that "the United States is the instructor, teaching the terrorist how to torture."

Regardless of the intended message, Luckovich is guilty of a gross lack of judgment. While he may not have known that his creation would be appearing directly above pictures of the slain soldiers, he did make the decision to publish the cartoon - two days after they were recovered, after having been mutilated while alive, beheaded, and then desecrated. This is, of course, a literal depiction of what happened to them; it is not the all-too-common, incredibly dysphemistic "torture" via solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, et cetera which the Left is wont use as an example when likening America to her enemy. With this full knowledge, and with real American boys having suffered real torture at the hands of our enemies, Luckovich chose to create and publish a cartoon showing the US instructing a machete-wielding terrorist on the best use of torture. That much, at least, is entirely his fault.

The response to this was both immediate and overwhelming. The AJC received hundreds of letters decrying the cartoon and its placement (although, to be fair, they also received their share praising Luckovich for his candor, and thanking him for being "our conscience"). Angela Tuck, the Public Editor, was forced to write a Saturday column entitled "Luckovich's torture cartoon prompts a backlash," in which she addressed the issue by saying that the "symbolism clearly overshadowed the intent" of the cartoon, calling it "ill-timed," and saying that it was "meant to criticize U.S. military leaders for allowing torture tactics, such as Guantanamo Bay."

An automobile dealership that advertises in the AJC took out a full-page advertisement immediately in front of the editorial page, which it used to condemn the cartoon (and its placement) as "offensive" and "unacceptable."

The advertisement went on to say:

We have signed an agreement, which we intend to honor, to advertise with them into the future. However, this event has changed the way we view the relationship. For now, we have chosen to spend our ad dollars to let you know that we do not agree with the editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and that we are proud of our country along with the men and women who serve us all.
The ad closed, "We wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families of Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca. [This company] and our country owe you a deep debt of gratitude for your sacrifice."

Regardless of intent, Atlanta's major newspaper has been interpreted by many as having fired another shot in the mainstream media's seemingly unending battle to blur the moral line between America and the brutal, barbaric enemy we are facing. Fortunately, the majority of Americans know the truth, regardless of real or perceived attempts at obfuscation: America DOES NOT torture prisoners, and America DOES NOT target civilians; no nation in history has been more of a global force for good than America, and most of her citizens both recognize that fact and take great pride in it.

As July 4, our Independence Day, approaches, it is absolutely vital that this be recognized: As long as Americans remain patriotic and committed to this greatest, most free, and most benevolent nation; as long as Americans avoid the siren call of the lionizing they would receive from media in exchange for the easy act of falsely condemning their nation; as long as Americans continue to believe in the ideals which our country represents and which our soldiers fight and die for; as long Americans continue to follow their principles and to hold fast to the truth, we will be able to continue fighting the good fight for the protection of our nation and for the freedom of peoples elsewhere and, God willing, we shall prevail.

Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran, studies Classics at the University of Georgia. He is also a contributing editor for conservative web log, and is a columnist for the Athens, GA Banner-Herald newspaper.

Copyright © 2006

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