Uncle Dubbya's Jihad Jamboree - Ron Callari and Jack Pittman

Oh its so very easy to get bored of the endless invective directed at the Bush White House. By turns bilious and sniggering; its all so very superior isn`t it? It's just so boring and obvious. Thomas Frank's What`s The Matter With Kansas? showed recently that the Republicans have a key weapon to solidify their groundswell of working-class supporters whilst simultaneously screwing them into the ground. And that weapon is the haughty, condescending tone adopted by the Democrat opposition.

Thing is, some things look easy and obvious because they are. That doesn`t change because boring East Coast Liberals say so as well. The frightening thing in US political discourse now is not that Michael Moore may have got the odd fact wrong, but that Bush and his merry men are every bit as corrupt, venal, greedy, lying, nepotistic, mass-murdering, feather-nesting, back-handing, ignorant, bigoted, cowardly and hypocritical as even their most annoying critics say they are. This is the most self-serving, shameless government in government in history. And that`s saying something.

Uncle Dubbya's Jihad Jamboree is an exploration of the first Bush term taken month by month in single-panel cartoon strip form with its "Kid Millennium" character, a sardonic baby worldly-wise beyond its seven months, drawn by artist Jack Pittman, with the scripts and a side-order of analysis provided by Ron Callari.

The tone taken is very much one of anti-Bush critique somewhat equidistant between the Democrat centre and the Moore-ish left. While Calari's observations are necessarily brief they are well paced and cogent, occasionally highlighting facts in the well-worn narrative of the road to war that have skipped this Brit's radar for one (for instance the bizarre modern day "Duck and Cover" of the Bush government recommending citizens stockpile duct-tape at the height of the 2001 anthrax scare.).

Written humour is a very subjective thing, political cartoons even more-so. While witty enough these were a long way from laugh-out-loud territory for me (the best for my money sees Bush waving away a tonne of official reports -real ones, all named- condemning his administration's various murderous mendacities with the phrase "You can`t believe everything you read." Kid Millennium replies "What about half?") On the other hand the tone manages to bypass the off-putting sanctminiousness which can bedevil satirical endeavours of this kind and indeed the Democrat camp in general, and the quality of the artwork is a cut above the average. Callari also recognises what many liberals miss; Bush`s verbal clumsiness and general low-wattage brightness are actually an advantage in America, they endear him to the masses in a way Nixon couldn`t have dreamt of.

This book was printed just prior to November 2004, and amidst its cynicism is forlorn hope, tragic with hindsight, of the alternative Kerry might possibly deliver. We all know what came next.

This book is no great satirical masterpiece, and the absence of Bush`s "re"-election places it firmly in the past. But it is an attractive and accessible coffee table encapsulation of a very unhappy period in US, and indeed world history. I dread to think what a comic book capturing the next administration's antics will look like four years down the line.

[First published in Spike Magazine, 2005] Back