I am a big fan of Bill Mauldin, having read and re-read his book Up Front like, a million times. As a correspondent/cartoonist for Stars and Stripes during WWII, Mauldin was in a unique position to comment on--and lampoon the military because, well, he a soldier himself. He was attached to the 45th Infantry which saw action in just about every major theater of operations in Europe.
Mauldin gained noteriety by openly challenging the "spit and polish" attitudes of the military during wartime. His irreverence, as shown in the above cartoon, earned him a face to face meating with General George S. Patton, who threatened to jail him for spreading dissent until General Eisenhower intervened on his behalf. Eisenhower understood, I think, that Mauldin wasn't tearing the army down as much as he was trying to build up those who were doing the fighting. He created the characters of Willie and Joe to represent every G.I., or dogface, and their trials as fighting men in a seemingly never-ending war. His cartoons gave voices to those brave men. It also provided them with a much needed chance to laugh at themselves and their situation--as well as those who were commanding them.
I was thinking a lot about Bill Mauldin today as I was reading through a couple of blogs of servicemen serving in Iraq. As someone who vehemently opposes the war in Iraq, I find so much hope in reading the words written by these brave folks in uniform. There isn't the same kind of chest thumping, rah rah rhetoric that you hear from politicians and pundits stateside. Instead, there is an empathy and a genuine desire to create a better life for the people of Iraq. There is an awareness, a feeling of reckoning with many of them. I was thinking how each of these bloggers, in their own way, is like Bill Mauldin hunkered down with his bottle of ink and brush. They are watching and thinking and taking it all in--even as the world is on fire around them.
Just as Bill Mauldin brought a gentle humanty to G.I.s during WWII, so do these bloggers in Iraq. My hope is that some of our leaders will see that humanity too and bring them home soon.