What do Americans know of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the longest running military action in U.S. history and a quagmire of mountain-dwelling Taliban insurgents, murdered civilians on all sides, industrious longtime opium farmers and traders and all of it pooling on some level into the ungovernable 5000-mile international Waziristan frontier? Newspapers don’t tell us much and TV news tells us less than nothing. Rolling Stone got at a sloppy general to talk, though, and Wikileaks got at and released a cache of more than 90,000 battle and intelligence reports. Now come the cartoon guys, Matt Bors and Ted Ralls and Steven Cloud, who in the coming months will deliver real news from the ground there, and not just because they’re great storytellers. They have also adopted an anachronistic approach to their subject: They’re going to do journalism. Crazy!
The Washington Post writes about the plan nostalgically:
“In matters such as war, I don’t think you could do anything but gain greater insight from going yourself and talking to the people it directly affects.”
Bors says he’s eager to embrace that culture shock. And he notes that he won’t be going with the USO, as the National Cartoonists Society has done during the Iraq war. His travel agent is not the U.S. government, but rather fellow alt-political cartoonist Ted Rall, author of “To Afghanistan and Back.”
Bors, Rall and fellow cartoonist Steven Cloud will spend roughly a month in Afghanistan, traveling as independent reporters. “We are traveling totally independently,” Rall says… “Embedded reporting is [expletive]. And immoral. It endangers real reporters. No permissions, just visas. It wasn’t easy … but we did it ourselves.”
“We didn’t go through any military channels,” Bors says. “This trip is entirely funded from our own money, readers, clients and mainly Ted’s extraordinary success in raising $25,000 from kickstarter.com. We will be unembedded and not traveling with any other journalists.
“As for visas, we simply applied as journalists and went through the arduous process of dealing with the bureaucracies of the ex-Soviet Central Asian countries. We have Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen, Afghan [visas] and an incredibly hard to get Iranian visa. That’s the country we are exiting through.”
Bors recently illustrated the David Axe graphic novel “War Is Boring.” Ted Rall most recently published the Anti-America Manifesto and will be cartoon-blogging the Afghan story. Steven Cloud authors Boy on a Stick and Slither.