Picasso277Back in September, 2001, I published this cartoon in The Union. It had been lying around my studio for several months, because at the time it didn’t seem to fit anything that was currently happening in the world. Three days after it ran the planes crashed into the twin towers, the pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. It kind of freaked me out, like some kind of prescient warning of what was to come. A few years later, I was having dinner with Utah Phillips at the annual Marching Presidents dinner and told him about it. He laughed and said, “Don’t put that kind of guilt on yourself.”

Of course, he was right. It was just a coincidence. But its timeless message comes back to haunt us on occasion. Recall that Colin Powell had the same painting covered at the UN when he called for the invasion of Iraq just a few years later.

And now we find ourselves debating whether to bomb another nation. The message still strikes true, although it can be argued that the Assad regime is the party that “did it”. And our partner in “peace” is a homophobic thug who condones suppressing the free expression of his country’s journalists and artists, not to mention the arms he sends to Syria to kill their people by more acceptable methods.

It really is a case of whodunit, and in the end it may be more of who did nothing to prevent it.

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23 Responses to Whodunit?

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    I happen to agree whole-heartedly with Sen. McCain, who’s position has always been one of attack now; worry about the consequences later. Churchill was wrong when he described a prisoner of war as merely someone who goes from “I will kill you” to one who says “Please don’t kill me”. There is a long tradition of exalting those who have fallen victim to their own ineptitude in battle.

    In McCain’s case, it was three multi-million dollar jets he destroyed in his training, his “hot shot” action aboard the USS Forrestal, (the most catastrophic on-board fire in US Naval history), his loss of a fourth jet in actual combat, and his subsequent internment as an enemy combatant. History heralds such unwavering devotion to cause of liberty. One can easily recall the exploits of Maximus McCainicus in the war against the insurgent Goths, in which he destroyed numerous chariots in training and lost his last one in the battle of Fucalea, himself being captured by the enemy forces of evil, ultimately to be freed and return as the up-most authority on combat strategy and the reasons for it. I can’t begin to count how many veterans of wars throughout history have followed that very path to positions of power and authority in past civilizations.

    No, my friends, we MUST act, and act now. Liberty is born of fire, and we’ve got the gas can. We must strike down those programs which benefit our sick and elderly and take away our hard earned tax dollars from the waging of the just wars we support in every corner of the globe. Our President is right: we are NOT the world’s police; but we must step up and sacrifice our blood and treasure whenever those of such singular experience tell us the time is ripe for action.

    This announcement has been brought to you by the Raytheon family of fine weaponry, and their Kay Street affiliates.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Senator: I can’t vote against the wishes of 90% of my constituents.

      Lobbyist: Well, our people have run the numbers, and given that your next election is 3 years away, and the unlikely-hood of a worthy opponent in your district, we think the 1.6 million we’re offering for your vote is a fair deal.

      Senator: But my numbers are better if I vote the way my constituents want.

      Lobbyist: Not if we back your primary opponent. So, what do ya’ say? Deal?

      Senator: I say, thank you, Citizens United!

  2. Interesting tale Bob, but how do you come down on ‘bomb or not, and under what conditions’? BTW, do you have a link for “Recall that Colin Powell had the same painting covered at the UN when he called for the invasion of Iraq just a few years later.” I wasn’t aware that Powell could determine the disposition of any paintings at the UN.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      He was following the precedent set by John Ashcroft when he covered the breasts of Lady Justice. Pretty gutsy, when you figure it was one boob vs two.

      And I doubt that Powell worried about what painting was hanging in the hall way when he was about to lie to every being on the planet, which he has numerous times admitted to doing.

    • rl crabb says:

      The failure to act lies squarely at the feet of the UN, which was created as a means to deter war after the devastation of WWII. The Soviet Union was the main obstacle for most of our lifetime, because their philosophy required violent revolution and intimidation to achieve global domination. After their demise, the Chinese (and even the new Russian ‘republic’) have stood in the door, aided and abetted by dictators and regional factions. The US was not much better, fomenting coups in Iran, Chile, and others in an attempt to counter the Soviets.
      And while our foreign policy today is far from perfect, we have learned something from our past mistakes. Bush 41 managed to rally the UN to stop Saddam from occupying Kuwait. The big mistake was leaving the job half done. Clinton intervened in Yugoslavia, but failed in Rwanda. Bush 43 made the right call on Afghanistan, and tried to clean up Daddy’s mess in Iraq. (I still believe that Iraq would be better off as three independent nations rather than the quagmire of competing factions it is today.)
      You can argue that we have no responsibility to be the world’s policeman, and I would agree to some extent. In a just world we would have the help of all freedom-loving nations. Imagine that there really was a United Nations that would not stand for genocide and injustice. If such a force existed, the purveyors of mass murder would not dare to inflict these atrocities on their people or their neighbors.
      As for the Powell/Guernica connection, here’s one link. There are plenty of others.


      • Chris Peterson says:

        I believe in the structure, if not the methods, of the UN. We have long since past the time when a few select nations have the ability to hold sway over the rest of humanity. Our own democratic system gives us all a voice, theoretically, and to give only one or two nations the ability to halt what all others view as a moral imperative is outdated, to say the least. Everyone, (save a few like Egypt, N. Korea, Israel), have signed and ratified the treaty against the use of chemical weapons, and it is therefore demanded of that treaty that all nations who signed it, act. The President needs to be calling out those who do not, and not once again asking American tax payers to foot the bill, or the resulting consequences.
        So, I agree with your statement, Bob.

        (The use of chemical weapons by Hussein is our moral dilemma, since every nation on Earth knows that we’re the ones who gave them to him, to fight off the Iranians.)

      • Your Slate citation states that it was UN “officials” who decided to cover the Guernica wall hanging in preparation for a press conference.

        Imagining a powerful UN standing for sweetness and light, and having the absolute power to vanquish bad guys anywhere in the world is a pretty scary proposition when the realities of our multicultural world are factored in. Just look who the UN has sitting on and leading its human rights commission.

        • rl crabb says:

          Your response is pretty much what I expected, George, given that you believe that the United States alone should devote its own precious resources to policing the world as we see fit. The reality is that the United Nitwits is a largely ineffective body unable or unwilling to enforce much of anything, much less the Agenda 21 straw man the right wheels out to scare the natives whenever some new impediment to property rights appears on the horizon. ( I don’t like a lot of that either, but I would put the blame on our own elected rulers rather than the blue helmets.)
          I’m talking about what the UN is supposed to stand for, not the corrupt body that sends terse letters of condemnation to aggressors and profits from oil-for-food scams. In the case of Syria, Obama had the right idea, he was just too naive in believing the free world would back him up.

          • rl crabb says:

            As for the tapestry, I doubt that Powell objected to having it covered while he tried to sell Dubya’s snake oil. About the only thing the Iraq war accomplished was removing a big thorn from Iran’s western front.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Except that there are responsible news outlets that are reporting there is evidence Assad was ordering chemical weapons not be used…

            The supposed good guys in Syria are the ones beheading POWs and supporting al-Qaida.

            The true surprise is that a Russian dictator is doing a better job of impersonating a rational god-fearing democrat than the duly elected POTUS is.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Let’s also remember (and put where the blame is due) that Dubya’s snake oil was from the mouth of Clinton appointee (and Democrat) head of the CIA, George Tenet, who, when challenged by Dubya on the depth of the evidence on WMD in Iraq replied, “don’t worry, it’s a slam dunk”.

            “The president, unimpressed by the presentation of satellite photographs and intercepts, pressed Tenet and [CIA director] McLaughlin, saying their information would not “convince Joe Public” and asking Tenet, “This is the best we’ve got?” Woodward reports.

            According to Woodward, Tenet reassured the president that “it’s a slam dunk case” that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

            In his CBS interview, Woodward said he “asked the president about this, and he said it was very important to have the CIA director, ‘slam-dunk’ is as I interpreted it, a sure thing, guaranteed.””

  3. San French says:

    We are by nature a warring species prone to kick ass and rule over others. Rodney King may have been one of the 20th centuries great philosophers. Too bad he loved getting high more than anything else…and that we viewed him as a fool more than anything else.
    It saddens me deeply that ‘Mr. Smith Goes To Washington’ was just a Hollywood fairy tale.
    For me, keeping up with the details of today’s world is both exhausting and depressing.
    But I do it almost obsessively and daily and my reward seems to be that occasionally I get a wave of powerlessness that borders on depression. But just occasionally.
    Lucky for me there’s pirate’s bay and netflix to break things up a tad:-).
    Peace to the World.

    • Judith Lowry says:


      Mr. Smith was ot a dream, it was an ideal, still worth pursuing.
      Take heart.
      The history of civilization has perpetually consisted of bands of marauders and everybody else either fleeing, getting killed or being enslaved.
      Yet then, there is the beauty of mankind’s finer aspirations and accomplishments.
      Everyone gets the global blues at times.
      When I feel unsettled husband advises me, “Lay off the Yahoo News!”
      But it also helps simply to find a way to help.
      Studies indicate that having purpose is primary human need.
      Just doing what you can do is fine, and that is all you can do.
      Maybe find something uplifting and immerse yourself in it for even a little while.
      Listening to “Bolero” only takes fourteen minutes and boy, can it ever motivate a morning!
      Motown music can do that as well, one finds.)
      Take a break from the media noise and go help clean up a river, mentor a youth, or assist an elder.
      Every time you do something like that you will be reminded of how valuable you are and how good, and what power you have to make change.

      • San French says:

        Thank you Judith for the kind and inspiring words. I didn’t want to go on and on, but I do ‘act locally and think globally’ for at this point in my life, it’s all I’m able to do. I sign the petitions I believe in, write the letters that I feel need to be written (and sent) and take my cloth bags to SPD:-). It really is all good. And like I said, there’s always a book to break up the untold hours I spend in front of a screen these days. I read a lot.
        And much of getting older is a retrospect of the life you’ve lived so far. If I only knew then what I know now…
        But honestly, I really don’t wring my hands anymore. I look for the humor in all things…probably why I come here to RL’s site daily.
        I do know that you champion the very worthwhile and I admire that immensely and take lesson from it.
        Thanks again for the feedback.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        As the Dalai Lama said:
        “In a world of 6 billion humans, the troublemakers are but a handful.”

        Why people continue to follow their lead is a mystery to me. It’s the old line- what if they had a war and nobody came?

        “War is just organized murder”.- unknown

  4. Greg Goodknight says:

    RL, just so the thought isn’t lost… you did a beautiful job of Crabbing the Picasso!

    I think it was Picasso who once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” You stole that one fair and square.

    • Judith Lowry says:

      That’s a good quote.
      I have also heard that Picasso said that it is alright for an artist to steal from any other artist he wants, except himself.
      (Or herself, as the case may be)

      Bob, very nice piece.
      Reverent really.

      • Michael Anderson says:

        More P. quotes:

        “God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things.”

        And…”Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

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