Sunday, September 02, 2007

And that's how we're gonna straighten out the Middle East

Opus is a syndicated comic strip that runs in many American newspapers. The comic is based on Opus, an anthropogenized penguin, and is often based on a political theme (like Doonesbury).

Today's edition of the strip offers a very accurate and insightful commentary on the US' policy in Iraq. Here it is [click image to enlarge]:

 // Click picture to enlarge

Without wanting to take away attention from the message of this cartoon, there is an interesting affair behind its publication. The Opus website claims that this edition of the strip has been withheld from publication by a number of newspapers across the country, including the strip's home paper, The Washington Post. Apparently, editors at the newspapers were upset with the portrayal of Lola a.k.a "Fatima Struggle", a woman who decides to become a strict Muslim. Fox News rightly points out that Washington Post felt no qualms about printing a story in the strip poking fun at the late Rev Jerry Falwell (a very successful fundamentalist Christian evangelist).

Other newspaper carried the strip, but with editions. My local newspaper edited the word "middle east" in the last panel to read "world". The strip you see above is the unedited version downloaded from, which might be the only place where the original strip has been published.

Coming back to the central idea of today's strip: Whatever the reasons for newspapers blocking/editing the strip might be, this affair only serves to starkly highlight the fact that most of them have completely failed to identify the lack of sincerity on the Iraqis' part (an attitude that the Fatima portrays), instead choosing to underplay it. Taking a cue from the administration, much of the mainstream media continues to treat Iraqi leaders as errant schoolboys rather than independent-minded individuals whose vision for their country is vastly different than America's.

Like Opus' Fatima, Nouri Al-Maliki may say "Got it!" to America's pep-talk, but has no desire to don the yellow polka dot bikini. Maliki is no Allawi, and it is unlikely that Iraqis will ever vote in another Allawi. The sooner American come to terms with this, the better off they will be.

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