Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 12/14/05

Artist's Statement

This may be the stupidest, most insane cartoon I have ever drawn. As soon as I drew the title I knew it was destined for some sort of greatness. "I [heart] SADDAM" is one of those phrases, like my friend Mike's immortal "Babies Are Assholes," that is exhilarating to write or say out loud just because it's a sentiment so taboo, so absolutely forbidden, that it would never even occur to most people even to think it, much less say it out loud. Everyone, left and right, before going on with whatever their opinion of the war in Iraq is, must first genuflect to the conventional wisdom that Saddam was a "bad guy," “a brutal dictator,” and you have to admit it's better that he's out of power. There's some ineradicably perverse and childish part of me that takes a devilish glee in standing up and saying, "Aw, I don't know--I kind of like his beard!"

Saying these things is a major part of my job, I feel. Because anything that absolutely everybody across the political spectrum agrees on, from NPR to Fox News, that nobody would ever dare doubt or challenge—“America is the greatest country on Earth,” “our troops are heroes,” “Americans love freedom,”—is a lie. Mythology, propaganda, call it what you want, but it’s not a fact. And once the lies are exposed they’re always so obvious in retrospect--it reminds me of the giddy freedom I felt when I realized of course there was no God, or that I didn't have to take math past tenth grade if I didn't want to.

Which is not to say that Saddam wasn’t a brutal dictator. Just that that’s beside the point, and that anyone in our government who pretends to care that he was a brutal dictator is a hypocrite. He was our brutal dictator for decades—Donald Rumsfeld was shaking hands with him back in ‘83. That has nothing to do with why we invaded Iraq. And it’s certainly not a given that Iraqis are better off without him. Are the ones we killed better off? The country is a shambles and things in it keep exploding. Now political prisoners are being tortured by Americans instead of Saddam. I know, I know, we did build that soccer stadium. That’s very nice.

There is something pathetic and silly about Saddam now that he no longer has any power. Now that he can’t have anybody’s whole family tortured and executed he’s a harmless, blustering buffoon. I worry that Hitler, who was considered absurd and clownish in the ‘30’s, may have successfully immortalized his image as some sort of superhuman monster by committing suicide, when if he’d been brought to trial he would have been seen for what he was—just another dumb sputtering bigot with his brain half-eaten by syphilis. There’s something about the offices of power that automatically, and amorally, confer authority to whomever who holds them and blind us to the kind of person they actually are, the person we’d all see them for if they were stripped of those trappings. The Pope, for example: all his dingbat beliefs are given the weight of holy writ by his position, but if he was just some sweet doddering old neighbor of yours who happened to believe that abortion, homosexuality, and all contraception were sins, and had only admitted in recent decades that Galileo was right after all, you’d write him off as a harmless fruitcake.

Thanks to Megan for encouraging me to go with this idea, to Isabelle for arguing for “Swimsuit Issue” over “my memoirs,” and to Boyd for suggesting “douche” in lieu of either “maroon” or “dick,” and the Darth Vader shirt. Special thanks to a woman I only see about once a year, who indirectly inspired the last panel here with our hilarious conversation about an imaginary sitcom called Hello, Dalai!, about a regular joe sharing an apartment with the Dalai Lama, whose hit catch-phrase would be “You’re not the boss of me, Dalai Lama!”

Correction: my fan Dede wrote last week to correct my spelling of Palestinian--for the second time, no less. I am appropriately abashed. Dede also pointed out that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the main reason the entire Arab world hates the United States, so I might want to take an interest in it. I am aware of this but cannot revise my official position. As I told Dede, they can kill me, but they can’t make me care.


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