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"Why?", Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer-Winning Political Cartoonist (1 of 4) | by Tony Fischer Photography
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"Why?", Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer-Winning Political Cartoonist (1 of 4)

On October 26, 2005, cartoonist Mike Luckovich marked the tragic milestone of 2,000 American servicemen and women killed in Iraq by hand-writing the name of each one in his Wednesday editorial cartoon. Together, their names spell out the question: WHY?


"I was trying to think of a way to make the point that this whole war is such a waste," said Luckovich, of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creators Syndicate. "But I also wanted to honor the troops I believe our government wrongly sent to Iraq."


Luckovich told E&P that he spent 12 or 13 hours this past weekend writing in most of the names -- roughly in the order of when the soldiers died. The Journal-Constitution's publisher and various editors were also involved in the effort -- checking that all 2,000 names were there, looking for spelling errors, doing a test printing to see if the names would be readable in the paper, and, when it looked like the names might not be readable, giving permission for the cartoon to be published much larger than Luckovich's drawings usually appear in the Journal-Constitution.


"It was such a great experience to see everyone working on this," said Luckovich, who didn't leave the office until about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night.Luckovich, a Pulitzer Prize winner, added that the 150 newspapers who get his work via Creators were asked if they could run the Wednesday cartoon bigger than usual. He's not sure how many were able to do so.


Reader reaction? An online poll at showed that 1,043 approved of the cartoon and 440 didn't, as of early Wednesday afternoon. This roughly 70%-30% positive-negative ratio also held true for the approximately 200 comments Luckovich received via phone and e-mail. The total of 1,600-plus responses is much more than Luckovich usually gets.


One fan was "a woman who told me she opened the paper and began to cry when she saw the cartoon," said Luckovich, who got the deceased soldiers' names from One critic, added Luckovich, was a man who said the sacrifice of the soldiers helped "keep me free to do the cartoon."


The cartoon has been a major subject Wednesday on Luckovich's blog, which he launched just a couple of weeks ago.


Luckovich concluded that doing the cartoon was an "emotional" experience. "Two-thousand is a lot of people," he said. "It's easy to lose focus on the sacrifice each of these soldiers made. And I saw a lot of diversity -- many, many Hispanic Americans, as well as African Americans, Native Americans, and women."




About the cartoonist:


Luchovich has won two Pulitzer Prize Awards (1995 and 2006). He has been the editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1989. He also won the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Journalism in 1994. He is nationally syndicated.


Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Joel Pett is the editorial cartoonist at the Lexington (Massachusetts) Herald-Leader and also contributes regularly to USA Today. He demonstrated (with humor) his style at the Presidential Cartoonist Forum in the Kennedy Center on President's Day, 2009.


I took this shot at the Political Cartoonist Event on President's Day, 2009, JFK Library in Boston and is part of my photojournalism course at the New School, New York City.

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Taken on February 16, 2009