Cartoonists Ted Rall and Matt Bors — the artist on my new graphic novel — are in Afghanistan to chronicle the plight of everyday Afghans in a series of quickie comics. In Tajikistan, Ted spoke to U.N. Dispatch about the trip.
UND: Why are you doing this?
Ted: I’ve been interested in Afghanistan for 20 years. I went there for the first time in 1999. After the invasion in 2001, my interest in the country deepened. I have been watching the occupation and its progress – or lack of progress.
I am frustrated by the war reporting we get. I wanted to see the situation for myself, and find out how Afghans see things. Logistically, in terms of this particular trip, I have a book contract for a book on Afghanistan, and this is research for that book.
In a bigger sense, I think our responsibility as Americans is to look seriously at the country we’re occupying.
Matt: Ted asked me to come. And I have never been out of the U.S. as an adult. The Afghanistan war has been going on for nine years, which is my entire adult life. I wanted to see the situation for myself instead of watching it on the news. I am helping pay for this occupation; I wanted to see it up close.
UND: Do you think that your reports from the field will be different because you are cartoonists? Does reporting in a graphic form convey information differently?
Ted: I think cartoons are effective in unique way. They are less precise than photos and more precise than words. I have read a lot of graphic journalism — Joe Sacco, Guy Delisle — and it conveys a very strong sense of place.
Matt: I am not planning on breaking any news. I am planning on opinion and narrative pieces. I am not trying to break hard news or be an objective journalist. As a cartoonist, the experience of being on the ground yourself is invaluable. At the same time, filing from the ground isn’t really done in editorial cartoons. Most editorial cartoonists do the USO tour if they visit war zones.