Correction to This Article
An article about Garry Trudeau in the Oct. 22 Magazine said that John Mitchell, attorney general in the Nixon administration, had not yet been indicted when a character in Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip declared him "Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!" He had been indicted, but not yet on charges related to the Watergate break-in.

Doonesbury's War

So, that's what he looks like: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau in his New York studio, with the art of David Levinthal in the background.
So, that's what he looks like: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau in his New York studio, with the art of David Levinthal in the background. (Michael Williamson - Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, October 22, 2006

IN THE BANQUET ROOM WERE MEN WHO WERE BLIND, men with burns, men with gouges, men missing an arm, men missing a leg, men missing an arm and a leg, men missing an arm and both legs, men missing parts of their faces, and a cartoonist from the funny pages.

We were just a few blocks from the White House, at Fran O'Brien's Steak House. Fran's was hosting a night out for casualties of the current war, visiting from their hospital wards.

It's hard to know what to say to a grievously injured person, and it's easy to be wrong . You could do what I did, for example. Scrounging for the positive, I cheerfully informed a young man who had lost both legs and his left forearm that at least he's lucky he's a righty. Then he wordlessly showed me his right hand, which is missing fingertips and has limited motion -- an articulated claw. That shut things right up, for both of us, and it would have stayed that way, except the cartoonist showed up.

Garry Trudeau, the creator of "Doonesbury," hunkered right down in front of the soldier, eye to eye, introduced himself and proceeded to ignore every single diplomatic nicety.

"So, when were you hit?" he asked.

"October 23."

Trudeau pivoted his body. "So you took the blast on, what . . . this side?"

"Yeah."

Brian Anderson, 25, was in shorts, a look favored by most of the amputees, who tend to wear their new prostheses like combat medals. His legs are metal and plastic, blue and knobby at the knee, shin poles culminating abruptly in sneakers.

Trudeau surveyed Brian's intact arm. "You've got dots."

"Yeah." Dots are soldier-speak for little beads of shrapnel buried under the skin. Sometimes they take a lifetime to work their way back to the surface. At this, Brian became fully engaged and animated, smiling and talking about the improvised explosive device that took his vehicle out; about his rescue; his recovery; his plans for the future. Trudeau, it turned out, had given him what he needed.

("In these soldiers' minds," Trudeau will explain afterward, "their whole identity, who they are right now, is what happened to them. They want to tell the story, they want to be asked about it, and you're honoring them by listening. The more they revisit it, the less power it has over them.")


CONTINUED     1                 >

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