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Military Denounces Newspaper for Cartoon

ROBERT BURNS, The Associated Press

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Thursday, February 2, 2006; 6:54 PM

WASHINGTON -- Military leaders angrily denounced as "beyond tasteless" a Washington Post editorial cartoon featuring a likeness of a severely wounded soldier and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as an attending doctor who says, "I'm listing your condition as `battle hardened.'"

The cartoon by Post artist Tom Toles appeared in Sunday's newspaper.

It reflected the view of some that Bush administration officials do not recognize that U.S. forces are being worn out by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last month, in response to a Pentagon-commissioned report that said the Army was stretched so thin that it had become a "thin green line," Rumsfeld said the war-fighting experience had made U.S. troops "battle hardened" _ stronger rather than weaker.

In a letter to the Post signed by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., the vice chairman, as well as the chiefs of the four military services, they blasted the cartoon as "a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation and as a result have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds."

"We believe you owe the men and women and their families who so selflessly serve our country the decency to not make light of their tremendous physical sacrifices," they wrote, while adding that the newspaper is "free to address any topic, including the state of readiness of today's armed forces."

"Using the likeness of a service member who has lost his arms and legs in war as the central theme of a cartoon is beyond tasteless," they wrote.

Asked about the matter Thursday during an appearance before journalists at the National Press Club, Rumsfeld said he had not been aware of the service chiefs' letter, but he defended their right to express their view.

He recalled that editorial cartoonists had made "vicious" attacks on President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II and had published "perfectly terrible" cartoons about President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War.

"That's the way it is here," Rumsfeld said. "It comes with the territory, I guess is all I can say."

In an article in Thursday's edition of the Post, Toles said, "I certainly never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on, or a derogatory comment on, the service or sacrifice of American soldiers."

Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said, "While I certainly can understand the strong feelings, I took it to be a cartoon about the state of the Army and not one intended to demean wounded soldiers."

__

On the Net:

Tom Toles: http://www.ucomics.com/tomtoles/2006/01/29/


:: Article nr. 20260 sent on 03-feb-2006 21:38 ECT

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Link: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/02/AR2006020201814_pf.html



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