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In The Thick of It: Cartoonist Matt Bors Embedded in Afghanistan

Matt Bors: Mazar to KabulThe war in Afghanistan has been a steady fixture in the news and in political cartoons over the past nine years, and with good reason. Embedded reporters have delivered thousands of images of a war-torn land, a demoralized populace, and vicious fighting directly to our television sets and computer monitors. Political cartoonist Matt Bors is accompanying Ted Rall and Steven Cloud on a trip to Afghanistan to attempt to provide a different look at the country, and maybe draw a few cartoons while he’s at it.

The Portland Mercury’s Blogtown recently interviewed Bors about his decision to fly overseas with Rall and Cloud. When asked what prompted a trip that would take him some 7,000 miles from home and to a country in the middle of an active military conflict, Bors said:

“We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost nine years and there’s no end in sight. With Obama’s surge and the insurgency both ramping up offensives this is the most important time of the war, probably the beginning of the end, really. Public support is tanking and there appears to be no way out. If there’s any time to pay attention to what’s going on over there, it’s now.”

Bors has created tons of pointed and funny political cartoons, but this trip looks like it’ll give him a chance to deliver a different kind of message. Comics have a long history of being used for journalistic purposes, in addition to being used for pure entertainment. Joe Sacco’s “Palestine” and Joe Kubert’s “Fax from Sarajevo,” among others, used the comics medium to document real events in a way that’s instantly understandable to people with even the shortest of attention spans. The combination of words and pictures leads to an easy to understand (and often more “real”) way to tell a story, and can even blast past language or educational barriers.

News reports in times of war are often subject to compromise. Reporters may find that governmental or corporate pressure sanitizes or outright prevents stories from getting through as intended. By removing himself from both the security and limitations of being an embedded journalist, Bors will have a chance to speak frankly with the locals and publish reports without worrying about clearing them with anyone else. Bors can deliver unfiltered and honest reports in a way that more established news media cannot.

This will be an exciting trip for both Bors and newshounds alike, as an unfiltered view from the ground, particularly from a cartoonist, tends to be rare. Bors has a great eye for comedy, which is part of the reason that his editorial cartoons are so good, but seeing him turn that eye toward real life and simply representing what he sees is going to be fantastic. You can follow his trip on his blog, which he plans to update throughout his trip.

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