Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 26, 1963, Frederick Theodore “Ted” Rall is a cartoonist and syndicated columnist whose work is distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. His cartoons appear in approximately 100 American publications, and his columns appear in about 40. He also regularly posts opinion pieces on his website, Rall.com.
From 1981-84, Rall studied physics at Columbia University, where he contributed cartoons to the campus newspapers. He was expelled from the university after his junior year, for academic and disciplinary reasons. But he returned to Columbia a few years later and graduated (in 1991) with a B.A. degree in history.
Rall condemned America’s military interventions of the 1980s—in Panama, Grenada, and Somalia—as “foolish,” “dumb,” “lame,” and “immoral.” He has also approvingly cited The Guardian‘s assertion that “during the 1980s, the U.S. used bases in Honduras to train and arm the Contras, Nicaraguan paramilitaries who became known for their atrocities in their war against the [Marxist] Sandinista government in neighbouring Nicaragua.”
In the 1990s and 2000s, Rall opposed U.S. sanctions against Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Serbia. He even impugned President Bill Clinton for demonstrating “excessive military power and arrogance” when—in retaliation for the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa—he ordered the American military to fire a few cruise missiles into some empty tents where he thought Osama bin Laden might be hiding.
Also in the 1990s and 2000s, Rall supported Haiti’s then-president, the Marxist Jean-Bertrand Aristide. “We twice [1991 and 2004] deposed the populist and popular democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide,” the cartoonist recalls. Rall even advocated the deployment of U.S. troops to protect Aristide.
Rall has described America’s post-9/11 invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as “retaliation against people who had nothing to do with it,” and has adamantly asserted that President George W. Bush should be “warming a prison cell” as punishment for having led the U.S. to war in those places. The attack on Afghanistan, says Rall, was an act of “genocide” perpetrated mainly to clear the way for the U.S. to build an oil pipeline through the region.
The proper U.S. response to 9/11, says Rall, would have been to send massive amounts of charity and aid to Afghanistan, the nation whose ruling Taliban government had provided a safe haven for bin Laden and his terrorist training camps: “If we were determined to occupy Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, it ought to have been with construction equipment, not tanks. Even if the Taliban had come to power, it would have been hard for them to talk smack about the U.S. in a nation covered with road signs that read: ‘Unconditional Gift of the People of the United States to the People of Afghanistan.’”
Not long after 9/11, Rall’s infamous “Terror Widows” cartoon portrayed American women who had lost their husbands in the attacks as money-grubbing media hounds who were thrilled about the financial compensation they received via lawsuits against the airlines whose planes had been hijacked by the terrorists.
Throughout the Iraq War, Rall’s contempt for President Bush—who he said “stole a presidential election” and “capitalized on a nation’s grief, confusion and anger to extort a political blank check payable in young American blood”—was profound. “My theory,” the cartoonist said in a 2003 interview, “is that essentially, people don’t like to think they’re living in a country that’s led by an evil, dictatorial madman. But they are, they are living in Nazi Germany, in Stalinist Russia.”
On another occasion, Rall depicted Bush as a tyrant who was even more detestable than Saddam Hussein: “Saddam Hussein, influenced by fascism, ordered the deaths of tens of thousands of people, fought two disastrous wars, turned his nation into an international pariah and ruined his country’s economy. In other words, his record is identical to George W. Bush’s. As we saw at his ‘arraignment’ before a U.S.-picked Iraqi puppet tribunal last week, however, there is a difference between the two men. Hussein is much smarter, funnier and more erudite than Bush. When Saddam pointed out that Bush was the real criminal, who could argue? He even managed to defend the invasion of Kuwait! So why not swap them out? We get Saddam Hussein as our president; the Iraqis get Bush. Consider the benefits: we get gargantuan statues and a leader capable of using language—think how fast he’ll solve the Palestinian issue—and they get, well, the guy who’s really in charge anyway.”
In January 2004, Rall compared Bush unfavorably to Adolf Hitler: “Lately we’re being told that it’s either (a) inappropriate or (b) untrue to refer to Bush’s illegitimate junta as Nazi, neo-Nazi, or neofascist. Because, you know, you’re not necessarily a Nazi just because you seize power like one, take advantage of a national Reichstag Fire-like tragedy like one, build concentration and death camps like one, start unprovoked wars like one, Red-bait your liberal opponents like one or create a national security apparatus that behaves like something a Nazi would create and even has a Nazi-sounding name…. Of course there are differences [between the Bush administration and Hitler]. Hitler, for example, was legally elected…. I’ll be happy to stop comparing Bush to Hitler when he stops acting like him.”
In November 2003, Rall wrote a faux recruitment ad for the “Iraqi resistance forces” who were engaged in a brutal guerrilla war against American troops. This “ad” said that “we must continue to kill them [U.S. GIs] until the last one has gone home to America”; condemned “the brutal and oppressive jackboot of the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority”; lamented that “because we destroyed our weapons of mass destruction, we were unable to defend ourselves against the American invasion,” leaving “guerrilla warfare” as “our only option”; predicted that as “casualties and expenditures rise,” “it will only be a matter of time before the U.S. occupation forces become demoralized” and “the American public will pressure their leaders to withdraw their harried troops from our country”; and depicted U.S. soldiers as mostly “oppressed members of America’s vast underclass” who were unwittingly “being used as pawns in Dick Cheney’s cynical oil war.” “If someone you know is considering taking a job with the Americans,” Rall’s “ad” instructed, “tell him that he is engaging in treason and encourage him to seek honest work instead. If he refuses, you must kill him as a warning to other weak-minded individuals.”
As the Iraq War was increasingly becoming a quagmire, Rall wrote in April 2004: “Sooner or later, one way or another, we’re leaving—as defeated and bankrupt and demoralized as we were when we fled Saigon. The only question now is: how many more people are we going to kill before we cut and run?”
In a cartoon he published the following month, Rall implied that former professional football player Pat Tillman was an “idiot” for having given up a lucrative sports career in order to enlist in the U.S. Army to fight in Afghanistan, where he ultimately was killed on April 22, 2004. The cartoon depicted Tillman saying to an Army recruiter, “Never mind the fine print. Will I get to kill Arabs?” Moreover, it described Tillman as a mere “cog in a low-rent occupation army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources.”
In a May 4, 2004 op-ed titled “An Army of Scum: Or, We’re Looking for a Few Good Homosexual Rapists,” Rall wrote the following about the prisoner-abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib detention center in Iraq: “Now it’s official: American troops occupying Iraq have become virtually indistinguishable from the SS. Like the Germans during World War II, they cordon off and bomb civilian villages to retaliate for guerrilla attacks on their convoys. Like the blackshirts who terrorized Europe, America’s victims disappear into hellish prisons ruled by sadists and murderers. The U.S. military is short just one item to achieve moral parity with the Nazis: gas chambers…. Don’t be fooled by military apologists who insist that these American SS are nothing more than a few bad apples…. It’s like the Rodney King video: cops beat up blacks every day, but there usually isn’t a camera around. Abu Ghraib, you can bet your bottom dollar, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Our military is structurally corrupt.”
In a cartoon he published two months later, Rall depicted then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as an inmate at a “racial re-education camp,” where she referred to herself as a “house nigga” and as George W. Bush’s “beard”—i.e., a decoy whose purpose was to conceal the president’s racism.
Rall greatly admired Venezuela’s Communist president, the late Hugo Chavez. In April 2006, Rall asserted that “people’s lives are improving” in that country, thanks to their “democratically elected populist president” whose “successful socialism” used the nation’s “oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty.”
In June 2004, shortly after the death of former President Ronald Reagan, Rall wrote a column titled “Reagan’s Shameful Legacy,” in which he said:
“Reagan’s quack economists trashed scholarships and turned welfare recipients into homeless people and refused to do anything about the AIDS epidemic, all so they could fund extravagant tax cuts for a tiny sliver of the ultra-rich. Their supply-side sales pitch, that the rich would buy so much stuff from everybody else that the economy would boom and government coffers would fill up, never panned out. The Reagan boom lasted just three years and created only low-wage jobs. When the ’80s were over, we were buried in the depths of recession and a trillion bucks in debt. Poverty grew, cities decayed, crime rose. It took over a decade to dig out.”
Rall also dismissed as a “myth,” the notion that Reagan had led America to victory in the Cold War, crediting him only with having “elevated unjustifiable military action to an art.” He accused Reagan of promoting “Christianist (the radical-right equivalent of Islamist) depictions of foes as ‘evil.’” And he derided Reagan as “the scum of the earth” and “an idiot” who was surely “turning crispy brown” in “hell” as a result of his alleged wrongdoings.
On October 22, 2007, Rall published a cartoon depicting those who enlisted in the U.S. military as buffoons. “Over time,” siad the cartoon, “… the endless war in Iraq began to play a role in natural selection. Only idiots signed up; only idiots died. Back home, the average I.Q. soared.”
In 2010 Rall published a book titled The Anti-American Manifesto, which openly called for a violent revolution aimed at completely “destroying the system” of an American nation that had been thoroughly corrupted by such detestable constituencies as “Christian fundamentalists,” “millennial end-of-the-worlders,” “neo-Nazi racists,” “rural black-helicopter Michigan Militia types,” “gun nuts,” and “right-wing Republicans.” “In the past,” wrote Rall, “they formed groups like the John Birch Society and the Aryan Nations. Now the hard Right has a postmodern, decentralized non-organization organization called the Tea Party.”
In the book’s first chapter, titled “Kill the Zombie Empire,” Rall wrote: “A war is coming. At stake: our lives, the planet, freedom, living. The government, the corporations, and the extreme right are prepared to coalesce into an Axis of Evil. Are you going to fight back? Will you do whatever it takes, including take up arms?… I want you to see that revolt is a good idea, and that it has never been more necessary.” Acknowledging that whatever might follow such an uprising could be temporarily horrific—much as “the Terror followed the French Revolution” and “Stalin’s purges followed the Russian Revolution”—Rall maintained that “we must [nevertheless] take the chance” because “no meaningful political change has ever taken place without violence or the credible threat of violence.” “Without violence,” he claimed, “the powerful will never stop exploiting the weak.”
Throughout The Anti-American Manifesto, Rall’s most frequently cited examples of positive resistance were the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front, and al-Qaeda. The author also expressed admiration for such groups as Weatherman, the Black Panther Party, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Red Army Faction, the National Liberation Front, and the 18th-century French revolutionaries who beheaded their enemies.
In July 2014—a time when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America were pouring illegally into the United States via the nation’s porous southern border—Rall asserted that the U.S—as penance for its “decades of … support for oppressive, corrupt right-wing dictatorships” in that region—had a moral obligation to let the newcomers stay. “Talk about brass!” he wrote. “The United States does it everything it can to screw up Central America—and then acts surprised when desperate people show up at its front gate trying to escape the (U.S.-caused) carnage. Letting the kids stay—along with their families—is less than the least we could do.”
Rall despises capitalism, claiming that “unfairness isn’t an unfortunate side effect of this particular economic system,” but rather, “it’s a core feature.” “Capitalism without unfairness and built-in inequality isn’t capitalism,” he elaborates. “It’s socialism.” And “the ticket to solving income inequality,” says Rall, consists of “redistribution of income [and] wealth,” preferably by “Communists … who have been pushing for and thinking about it forever.”
For additional information on Ted Rall, click here.