Tag Archives: 2013

UN Response to Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

Nate Beeler’s cartoon, published in May of 2012, satirizes the role of the United Nations in preventing humanitarian crimes incited by the Syrian regime, lead by Bashar al-Assad. In this cartoon, a figure symbolizing the United Nations(UN) stands behind Assad holding a “ceasefire,” as one might hold a gun, to Assad’s head. As the man symbolizing the UN holds out the ceasefire, he yells out “BANG!” Simultaneously, Assad stands behind a young Syrian child, except instead of holding a ceasefire to the young girl’s head, he holds a real gun. Assad stands with his back to the UN, facing the little girl, while the little girl faces forward with fearful eyes.

In 2011, political uprisings began to form across Syria in opposition to Bashar al Assad’s regime and his oppressive policies, especially those regarding freedom of expression. These uprisings eventually grew in power and entered Damascus, the center of Syrian government power, where they were met with violence. For several years following 2011, these uprisings grew more vocal, even though “opposition armed forces consisted of diverse groups with varying ideology and goals,” and no one group became the clear face of the rebel movement (“Syria” 2348). After a few years of ongoing conflict between the Syrian Government and its citizens, the Islamic State(IS), an insurgent terrorist group operating in several Middle Eastern countries, began to gain power in Syria, although IS operated in opposition to both rebel forces and those aligned with Assad (2348). This exacerbated the social and political unrest that already existed in the region, and as of September 2013, more than 2 million Syrian citizens have fled the country as refugees (2348).

In the face of this growing humanitarian crisis, the United States, the European Union, and the UN have all spoken out against the conflict in this region, and the means by which it has been addressed. In 2013, in the midst of international outrage in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians (rebel and non-rebel forces alike), the United States called on the UN to try Assad before and International Criminal Court for his many war crimes, including supporting “weapon of mass destruction proliferation,” and the “August 21, 2013, chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs” (159 Cong Rec S 6298). Since 2013, the UN has responded to Assad’s war crimes by issuing several sanctions and ceasefires, as depicted in Nate Beeler’s cartoon. While Assad has in the past publicly assured the UN and the world that he will no longer employ chemical weapons, this has been disproven by continued attacks against rebel forces and innocent civilians.

These false promises mirror the false diplomatic promises made by Italy to the League of Nations and the world after the conclusion of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. In 1936, Italy promised to use their Ethiopian conquest as a means to “strengthen the league” (Knott editorial), whereas in reality, Italy undermined the powers of the League, and instead helped incite its eventual deterioration. In a similar manner, Assad publicly acknowledged sanctions from the UN, yet continued to use weapons against his people. This complete disregard for the actions taken by the UN have diminished international faith in the UN’s ability to prevent conflict, especially considering the Syrian conflict exists on a more local scale than most international conflicts. In the same way the image of the League deteriorated following the Italy’s betrayal, so too has the image of the United Nations deteriorated as a result of the conflict in Syria. In Nate Beeler’s cartoon, Assad takes on the same villainous, far-too-powerful caricature as Mussolini in John Knott’s “Drunk with Power,” except instead of drinking in celebration of his power, he stands with a gun to a child’s head while the United Nations, the protector of international welfare, stands idly by, much in the same powerless manner as Britain and France in Knott’s cartoon.

Modern day issues of security that exist within Syria have significant ties to the decisions made in the aftermath of World War II. For example, when Assad came into power in 2000, he supported a strong stance against Israel (Moubayed). Internal conflict in the Middle East is a direct result of opposition to decisions made by the United Nations regarding Israel in the late 1940s. Additionally, after WWII, Syria became a state in which government limited freedom of speech and oppressed its people. While Assad brought in a new age of leadership, and may have allowed for increased freedom of speech when compared to his father’s regime, his employment of chemical weapons is reminiscent of post World War II oppression in Syria.

Since the establishment of the League of Nations in the aftermath of WWI, many countries have held international organizations like the League of Nations, and the modern day version, the United Nations, responsible for humanitarian conflict and crises, and in some cases, these organizations have been held accountable for not doing enough to end conflict and prevent war. We must keep the past in mind as we evaluate the future of the conflict in Syria.

Works Cited

Beeler, Nate. The Columbus Dispatch. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2016. <http://www.dispatch.com/content/cartoons/2012/05/beeler0531.html>.

“Syria.” Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2016. Ed. Karen Ellicott. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2016. 2342-2358. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

159 Cong Rec S 6298

Moubayed, Sami. “Syria’s New President Bashar Al-Assad: A Modern-Day Attaturk.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs XIX.9 (2000): 31. ProQuest. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

The Shrinking Royal Navy

 

A man in 17th century naval dress stands on a raft that is sinking in the middle of the sea. He wears a hat that reads, “From Nelson to Nothing in 200 Years.” As the sun sets behind him in a rowboat a sailor says, “The boy stood on the budget deck, the unrealistic commitments around his neck.”
A man in 17th century naval dress stands on a raft that is sinking in the middle of the sea. He wears a hat that reads, “From Nelson to Nothing in 200 Years.” As the sun sets behind him in a rowboat a sailor says, “The boy stood on the budget deck, the unrealistic commitments around his neck.”

 

The Shrinking Royal Navy, a political cartoon by Iain Green, was created on July 30th, 2013 in response to the news that the Royal Navy was letting go of their commitment to NATO because Great Britain’s budget could not afford it. As Horatio Nelson, a symbol of the once powerful British navy, is sinking, the sailormen of today salute him in farewell. Although the budget of the Royal Navy was continuing to weaken, Great Britain was losing control of their commitments as their ship, or raft, was going under.

The cartoon shows a man in 17th century naval dress, Horatio Nelson, standing on a raft that is sinking in the middle of the sea. The man has three medals hanging around his neck that appear to be weighing on him and a “For Sale” badge on his chest. He wears a hat that reads: “From Nelson to Nothing in 200 Years.” Behind the man, sitting in a rowboat are three faceless naval sailors. The sailor in the middle holds a small blue flag with the letters RN on it, meaning Royal Navy. The two sailors on either side are each holding their ores in attention, as the middle sailor says, “the boy stood on the budget deck, the unrealistic commitments around his neck.” Behind them, the flag of the Royal Navy called the White Ensign flies at half-mast mourning the death of the once greatest navy. In the background, many 17th century style ships line the horizon as the sun sets on them.

The commitments hanging around the naval officer’s neck are the Med, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic, the Atlantic Ocean, and NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Defence ministers have admitted the UK has been forced to pull out of key NATO naval defence groups in a sign of just how stretched the Royal Navy has become.” This quote from an article published on July 30th, 2013 in The Scotsman, Scotland’s National Newspaper, explains how the Royal Navy was no longer fulfilling their commitment to NATO in 2013. Further investigation revealed that they had been failing to provide their promised ships to the maritime group in the Mediterranean since 2010 (Maddox). The navy that once ruled the seas could no longer keep their commitments.

The Royal Navy has been around since 1660, and became recognized as the world’s dominant naval power after the Battle of Trafalgar led by Horatio Nelson on March 15th, 1805 (“Royal Navy History.”). In response to budget cuts in 1931, the Washington Post published a piece on the discontent saying, “For the first time in centuries the crew of a British fleet became recalcitrant this week on account of a reduction in pay, and put a stop to projected maneuvers” (“Britain’s Navy.”). This was not the last time that great Britain balanced the budget at the expense of the navy. In fact, the royal navy has been in a steady decline since the 1930’s (Kuehn). In 2013, when the cartoon was published, there were more admirals then ships (Gallagher). 

The Shrinking Royal Navy shows what has come of the Royal Navy since the start of the navy’s decline in 1931. John Francis Knott’s cartoon titled, “Well, I’ll Be Blowed!”  mocks the situation that Great Britain was in when their navy first started declining due to the budget cuts during the Great Depression. 

The cartoon, The Shrinking Royal Navy, pulls humor from Great Britain’s desperate pride of the navy that they used to have. It is humorous because people find the misfortune of others to be amusing as is explained by the Superiority Theory of Humor. Not only is the idea itself comedic, but the way it is portrayed. Green painted the greatest sea power sinking into the ocean as the sun sets on it’s reign. He also uses bright colors, rhyming in “deck” and “neck”, and the alliterations of “nelson” and “nothing” to make the situation seem trivial. All the way to the “For Sale” sign on his chest, mocking the cuts in the budget and with the flag at half-mast, the sailors in the background are in mourning of their precious navy.

Once the world’s greatest naval force, Great Britain’s sea power is not what it once was without the resources needed to fulfill their commitments and stay afloat. But as the sun is setting on the British sea power, the beauty of what once was shines reflected on the water.

 

Works Cited

“Britain’s Navy.” The Washington Post (1923-1954) Sep 17, Washington, D.C., 1931. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/150090962?accountid=7118. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

Gallagher, Nicholas M. “When Britain Really Ruled the Waves.” The American Interest. The American Interest LLC, 14 Nov. 2014. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.the-american-interest.com/2014/11/14/when-britain-really-ruled-the-waves/.

Green, Iain. “The Shrinking of the Royal Navy.” Cagle.com, edited by Daryl Cagle, Cagle Cartoons, 4 Aug. 2013, www.cagle.com/iain-green/2013/08/the-shrinking-british-royal-navy. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. Cartoon.

Kuehn, John T. “The Decline and Fall of British Sea Power May Not Be Over.” War on the Rocks. War on the Rocks, 05 Dec. 2015. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://warontherocks.com/2015/12/the-decline-and-fall-of-british-sea-power-may-not-be-over/.

Maddox, David. “Royal Navy Pulls out of Nato Commitments.” The Scotsman. Johnson Publishing, 30 July 2013. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/royal-navy-pulls-out-of-nato-commitments-1-3020604.

“Royal Navy History.” Royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy, 2014. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/features/history-timeline.

Business in Texas

contemp-cartoon
Jack Ohman mocks the policy of lax business regulations which caused the recent West Texas Explosion

 

                Business in Texas, published in the Sacramento Bee, is a political cartoon by Jack Ohman that satirizes the believed benefits of attracting future business to Texas with the promise of limited government regulation. The cartoon depicts a figure without eyes who is Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, advocating that “business is booming in Texas” with a backdrop promise of “low taxes and low regs”. In the next panel an explosion takes place right next to Perry which alludes to the factory explosion which took place in West, Texas. Due to promises of low taxes and low regulation, Perry aims to attract potential businesses to Texas to increase the economic prosperity of Texas yet there are unforeseen consequences with the promise of low regulations.

The West Fertilizer Company was one of many businesses that came to Texas due to the lack of regulation. During this time, Governor Perry, pandered to many different companies on how Texas lowered government intervention and regulation which would be perfect for businesses to foster and grow. Attributed in the cartoon as a man with no eyes, Perry seems to be a man who has turned a blind eye towards the consequences of setting such low regulations. Furthermore, Perry’s stature of a small head with a huge body is a familiar symbol of corporate greed or greed in general. Wanting to promote economic prosperity in Texas, Perry will do anything to attract more votes to win reelection. Attracted to this “ideal” situation many businesses set up shop in Texas with the mindset of gaining huge economic profits by cutting corners and dodging usually strict business regulations.

The West Fertilizer Company had already been established in West Texas in 1962 but with the new Governor Perry inspections turned from yearly checks to none. The West Fertilizer Company had problems dating back to 2006 when a citizen filed an ammonia smell complaint (Fernandez) and later the company was fined $7,600 due to failure to file risk management and violations on how it stored anhydrous ammonia. Most recently, in 2011, the facility was fined $5250 after a safety inspection.

The explosion occurred on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. The sheer magnitude of the explosion was equivalent to a 2.1 magnitude earthquake and had the force of 10 tons of TNT. The play on words “business is BOOMing in Texas” alludes to the fact that just because business is growing doesn’t mean it is in a healthy way. Ohman, criticizes businesses and the government for allowing these businesses to indulge in such dangerous practices without considering that they could be endangering human lives. At least 15 people died that day and around 160-200 people were injured– most were first responders and firefighters. The blast had flattened homes within a five-block radius (Meyer). The fire that started the explosion was claimed by the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to be arson. Yet there have been many previous cases of burglary due to lax security since ammonia was a key component of methamphetamine.

In the investigation that followed, The West Texas Company was found to have mismanaged their resources, failed to report the contents of the facility, failed to take preventable measures against fire, and the inability of state and local regulatory agencies. The 270 tons of ammonium that were contained in the facility was well over the 400-pound regulation and required the plant to report it to the Department of Homeland Security, yet the plant did report it to the Department of State Health Services. Due to the lack of communication between these two agencies and a report filed that “there was no risk of a fire or an explosion” by the plant, the State didn’t deem the plant a risk. Furthermore, the last full safety inspection was conducted in 1985 (Propublica) – 27 years before the explosion. Governor Rick Perry’s low regulation also allowed homes and schools to be built literally blocks away from these sites due to outdated haphazard zoning policies. In the cartoon, Governor Perry doesn’t seem to be surprised but is rather unfazed at the explosion in the background. Ohman seems to be claiming that Governor Perry knew something like this would happen, almost expecting it, and yet he doesn’t seem to care much even though at least 15 Texas citizens perished.  Furthermore, the proximity of the blast in the cartoon may allude to the fact that these dangerous facilities could be right next to where you live and you never know when you will become a headline.

The issues illustrated in Business in Texas are very similar to those depicted in the political cartoon Spring Comes to East Texas by John Knott, a political cartoonist who worked at the Dallas Morning News. Published on the first day of spring in 1937, Knott’s cartoon portrays a lone figure, deemed to be Persephone, staring forlornly at a backdrop of an innumerable number of graves under a darkening sky.

In 2011 an explosion that rocked West Texas was like the one that devastated New London Texas. In 1937, New London was in a time of economic prosperity very similar to the one being experienced in Texas in the late 21st century due to an influx of businesses. Yet both cartoons portray a type of disaster that befell these two communities. In Business in Texas the tragedy is quite clear, the explosion caused by lax regulations and a blind eye towards those consequences eventually resulted in a factory explosion that killed at least 15 people. Failure to report the amount of possible explosives and disregarding the unforeseen yet possible consequences, the West Texas Plant put everyone around them in danger. On the other hand, in Spring Comes to East Texas, Knott illustrates a picture of death and finality yet includes a deeper symbolic meaning with the picture of Persephone. Persephone, who represents spring and life, is present, yet around her lacks life and the coming of spring. Knott’s portrayal of this scene points a finger at the board members who decided to cut costs and in the end caused the deaths of 294 children and teachers which has put even spring on hold to mourn for this tragedy. Just like the West Texas Plant, the board of directors disregarded the possibility of a gas leak, which could have very likely happened, and continued to proceed as if the lives of the people in their school were insignificant compared to the costs of paying for actual natural gas.

The irony in these two cartoons is that even in present day Texas, 80 some years after the incident, businesses are still cutting corners and reaping the benefits. It seems that throughout this period no one has learned that the cost of letting businesses do whatever they want is too high of a risk. Many people still believe that “businesses can come down here and do pretty much what they want to do, that is the Texas way” (NY Times). Almost a whole decade spanning these two incidents, nothing much has changed which is a worrying trend that history may be waiting to repeat itself again.

Works Cited:

Fernandez, Manny. “Lax Oversight Cited as Factor in Deadly Blast at Texas Plant.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/us/lack-of-oversight-and-regulations-blamed-in-texas-chemical-explosion.html>.

Urbina, Ian, Manny Fernandez, and John Schwartz. “After Plant Explosion, Texas Remains Wary of Regulation.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 May 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/us/after-plant-explosion-texas-remains-wary-of-regulation.html>.

Fernandez, Manny. “Fire That Left 15 Dead at Texas Fertilizer Plant Is Ruled Intentional.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 May 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/12/us/texas-fertilizer-plant-explosion.html>.

Meyer, Theodoric. “What Went Wrong in West, Texas — and Where Were the Regulators?” ProPublica. N.p., 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <https://www.propublica.org/article/what-went-wrong-in-west-texas-and-where-were-the-regulators>.

Ohman, Jack. “Rick Perry ‘explosion’ Cartoon Published to Make a Point.” Sacbee. Sacramento Bee, 25 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorial-cartoons/jack-ohman/article2577318.html>.

Ohman, Jack. “Business in Texas.” Sacramento Bee 25 Apr. 2013: n. pag. Print.