Creator of ‘Why?’ Cartoon on 2,000th U.S. Death in Iraq Reflects on the 3,000th

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By: Dave Astor

One of the most memorable editorial cartoons of recent years was an October 2005 drawing in which Mike Luckovich marked the 2,000th American death in Iraq by hand-writing all their names in a big “WHY?”

Is Luckovich, who won a 2006 Pulitzer Prize partly because of that cartoon, planning a drawing to mark this past weekend’s tragic news that the 3,000th U.S. soldier has died?

It’s still possible, but by no means definite, that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Creators Syndicate cartoonist will reference the 3,000th death — perhaps in a drawing he’ll do today for publication tomorrow. Luckovich said he hadn’t already done such a cartoon partly because he was off for the holidays and partly because there has been so much other news, including Saddam Hussein’s execution.

“If I do a cartoon on the 3,000 deaths, it’ll be much more low-key than the October 2005 one,” added Luckovich, when contacted this morning by E&P.

The cartoonist didn’t yet know the exact approach he might take with a such a drawing, but he remains strongly opposed to the Iraq War.

“I’m still wondering why we’re there,” he said. “What’s the point, other than the execution of a bad dictator? The war has been going on for almost four years! It’s so sad, and it seems to me so unnecessary.”

Luckovich and other cartoonists — including Mike Peters of The Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and King Features Syndicate — have met wounded American soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. During his April and November 2006 visits, Luckovich talked with soldiers, thanked them for their service, and drew cartoons and caricatures for them.

“We never discuss politics,” he said. “But it’s so frustrating to see these young kids so terribly injured in a war that didn’t need to happen and was based on falsehoods. It’s depressing, but at the same time [the soldiers’ courage is] uplifting. One may disagree with the war, but one has to respect the soldiers putting their lives on the line.”

Luckovich did his Jan. 3 cartoon on the Saddam Hussein hanging. The drawing illustrates how the execution, and the controversy surrounding it, has harmed America’s image even more. Luckovich shows a TV image of an upside-down Uncle Sam, his foot caught in a rope, next to a sign reading “Saddam execution.” One TV viewer says to another: “How’d the White House manage that??”

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