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Drawing the Line

Chapter 8.
Propaganda and Protest

Political Cartoons in Iraq during the Second World War

Stefanie Wichhart, Niagara University

This chapter examines the propaganda cartoon as utilised by both the British and Iraqis in the midst of the 1941 Rashid Ali coup and subsequent British occupation of Iraq. British cartoons placed in print media, such as those drawn by the cartoonist ‘Kem’ for publication on the Arabic page of the Iraq Times, were a useful means of transmitting Allied war aims to local populations and provide a strong visual record of how Britain tried to tailor its message to Arab audiences. At the same time, cartoons protesting British intervention circulated around Baghdad, as exemplified by a May 1941 pamphlet entitled ‘The Iraqi-British War’ which included ten cartoons aimed at turning Iraqi public opinion against the Allied cause. The British and Iraqi cartoons had the same target audience and employed some of the same stereotypes but conveyed very different messages with these images. By examining cartoons used to argue opposing sides in the propaganda battle for Iraq during the Second World War, this paper demonstrates how visual images can be manipulated to serve as both propaganda and protest in wartime.

The roots of the political cartoon as an art form in the Middle East were undoubtedly European and represent growing western influence in the region during the nineteenth century. Middle Eastern cartoons represent a blend of a European artistic style with Arab culture, traditions, and icons, creating a new approach to the cartoon genre.1 As Fatma Müge Göçek observed in her study of cartoons in the Middle East: ‘This hybridity generated an additional layer of ambiguity often enabling cartoon drawings to challenge the dominant “official images” of both the West and the local government’.2 The format was successful in making this transition due to the way in which it addressed two challenges facing journalists: a largely illiterate public, and heavy censorship from both local and imperial authorities. The 1941 Rashid Ali coup, which pitted the Iraqi military against British forces and led to the British reoccupation of the country for the remainder of the Second World War, proved to be perfect subject matter for this ‘hybrid’ art form. Political cartoons served as one of many tools in the propaganda arsenal of both the British and the Iraqis during this conflict, providing a medium for Britain to spread its pro-Allied message and also, for Arab nationalists, a means of resistance and protest against this renewed western presence.3 Cartoons were an attractive option because they were easily disseminated in the established press and in pamphlet form, and their propaganda messages were easily recognisable. After discussing the historical context of this revolt, this study will examine two sets of political cartoons produced during and immediately following the coup, one Iraqi and one British, applying the six criteria that Thomas Milton Kemnitz suggested historians should use when examining cartoons as historical sources: ‘the artists, the means by which the cartoons reach the public, their language and symbols, their relation to other means of communication, their intended function, and their audience’.4 Both sets of cartoons were designed to reach the Iraqi people but with diametrically opposed messages. This case study then serves as a useful example of how political cartoons can be used as historical sources, and can be appropriated both as a means of propaganda and a means of protest.

As Roy Douglas points out in his study of political cartoons:

A good cartoon often contains an astonishing amount of information ... It tells the modern reader a great deal about the ideas and assumptions of the people for whom it was drawn: what they took for granted and what they questioned; how they visualised people who held ideas different from their own, or who lived in different countries.5

The political cartoon is inherently and blatantly subjective and often distorts the truth for the sake of humour or propaganda purposes, but it is these very characteristics that make it such a useful tool for an examination of popularly held opinions and political views, as well as stereotypes.

Due to its compact size, the cartoonist must rely on instant recognition on the part of the reader to convey a political message. As a result, the cartoonist often uses common contemporary stereotypes and caricatures to construct the cartoon, making the resulting text a rich source of information about a particular culture’s political preoccupations and conception of itself and the rest of the world. While the historian must be cautious when using cartoons as sources, for example avoiding the pitfalls of ‘the sample’ as discussed in the introduction to this volume, the self-contained nature of these cartoons also has advantages:

a cartoon, unlike a speech or a piece of writing, must be preserved in its entirety if it is preserved at all, and the historian of later times cannot ‘censor’ it in a manner which preserves some features and excludes others, in order to fit with some convenient hypothesis about the past.6

Historical Context: Britain and Iraq and the 1941 Coup

When using cartoons as historical sources, it is vital to understand the context in which they were produced. The case studies under examination here were created against the backdrop of both the Second World War and Britain’s continued imperial interest in Iraq. The wartime context is crucial because, as historian Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot observed with respect to the Egyptian experience,

in time of war the cartoon can act as a safety valve, and by ridiculing the enemy therefore make him seem less formidable; or it can build up tension and whip up sentiment into a display of aggression towards the enemy, by turning him into a symbol of evil.7

We see both tactics demonstrated in these cartoons with the British case studies taking the first approach, and the Iraqi cartoons following the second.

It was primarily due to the war that Britain took a renewed interest in Iraqi affairs, culminating in the 1941 British occupation, another step in the long history of Britain’s imperial interest in Iraq.8 Britain first occupied this area during the First World War, and received the Mandate for Iraq from the League of Nations in 1920. The 1930 Anglo-Iraqi Treaty, which came into effect in 1932, effectively ended Iraq’s period of tutelage under British control. Iraq continued to be important to British strategic interests due to its location on the overland route across the Middle East to India. Yet during the 1930s, British influence in Iraq waned as a result of the fiscal costs associated with maintaining a large British presence and British preoccupation with events in Europe.

When hostilities began in September 1939, Britain expected Iraq to declare war on Germany based on their treaty of alliance. Instead, Britain faced an increasingly hostile and pro-German Iraq during the early years of the war. Arab nationalists in Iraq took issue with some of the stipulations of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty and with Britain’s regional policy in the Middle East, in particular the situation in the Palestine Mandate, still under British control. While Britain had allowed its intelligence and propaganda networks in Iraq to atrophy in the 1930s as a cost-saving measure, Germany had taken the opportunity to expand its influence in the country. The German representatives in Iraq had a reputation for willingness to mix with the local population, whereas the British Embassy was viewed as stand-offish and isolated.9

By 1940 British authorities became increasingly convinced that Iraq was no longer adhering to the spirit of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty. In fact, Iraqi leaders began making overtures to both Germany and Italy that summer.10 The country experienced another in a long line of military coups on 1 April 1941. Iraqi soldiers, under the direction of the pro-Axis army generals, occupied government buildings, forced the Prime Minister to resign, and returned Rashid Ali to power as Prime Minister. The British thus found themselves faced with a pro-Axis government in a country that had formerly been under British control and with which they were in treaty relations. In order to test the new government, Britain began moving troops into Iraq from India to open the lines of communication, a right protected by the treaty. After extensive attempts to resolve the conflict through diplomatic channels, the Iraqi army occupied the hills surrounding the main Royal Air Force base in Iraq on 30 April 1941 and threatened to fire on any planes that left the base. Britain responded by bombing the Iraqi army unit, and the diplomatic conflict now became a military one. British and Iraqi forces battled throughout the month of May until Rashid Ali and the military leaders behind the coup fled the country and an armistice was negotiated. Britain was now, for the second time, occupying Iraq, a country with a pro-Allied but weak government, an army in disarray, the remnant of a fifth column organisation, a Shia majority and Kurdish minority with long-standing grievances, and unstable borders with a growing Axis presence in neighbouring Syria and Iran.11

In the months following the Rashid Ali coup British officials both in Iraq and London reflected on its causes and potential long-term impact. From a short-term perspective, Britain had been well aware of the potential danger of a pro-Axis government coming to power in Iraq in 1940, but due to other wartime commitments simply did not have the troops available to commit to the country.12 But the real causes of Iraqi animosity towards Britain went much further back. Historian Albert Hourani, during a 1943 fact-finding mission to Iraq for the Foreign Office Research Department, concluded that Britain’s policy towards Iraq during the early war years represented ‘a failure of British publicity in the real sense: inadequate efforts had been made to convince the Iraqis that they had a permanent and positive interest in co-operating with Great Britain’.13 Officials during the ‘Second British Occupation’ were determined to avoid repeating the propaganda failure of the early war years.

Heavy propaganda offensives accompanied the military conflict throughout the month of May and in the aftermath of the coup. The Iraqi government hoped to convince the people of its legitimacy and of Axis strength while also winning the support of the Iraqi provinces and tribes. Britain hoped to inspire Iraqis to rally behind the pro-British Regent and the political leaders forced into exile, blanketing the country with propaganda pamphlets. Two examples from these propaganda campaigns will be examined below. The first is an anti-British Iraqi pamphlet circulated during the coup, and the second a series of British propaganda cartoons in Arabic that appeared in an Iraqi newspaper immediately following the events of May 1941. Both the British and Iraqi cartoons under examination were essentially propaganda tools. Their goal was simple: to convince the Iraqi people of the rightness of either the British or Iraqi cause. The subtlety and irony often found in political cartoons is notably absent from these examples due to the overwhelming importance of conveying a propaganda message. Yet despite the serious nature of the material addressed in these cartoons, they also make ample use of those most basic tools of the cartoonist: humor, caricature, and exaggeration.

The Iraqi Cartoons

The development of the political cartoon in the Middle East is closely tied with the spread of print media in the nineteenth century. The founding of official newspapers in both the Ottoman Empire and Egypt was soon followed by the establishment of the nonofficial, popular press and a format new to the region: the satirical weekly. The first Arab political cartoon appeared in an Egyptian satirical magazine in the 1880s, and the form then spread to the rest of the Arab world. By the 1920s, Iraq had its own satirical periodical that included the publication of cartoons.14

During the Rashid Ali coup the model of the Arab humour magazine was adopted to rally Iraqi support against Britain. The Iraqi case study is a 16-page pamphlet entitled ‘The Iraqi-British War’ produced during the Rashid Ali coup and preserved in the files of the British Embassy in Baghdad.15 While undated, it was the second in what was intended to be a longer series. Its stated aim was to support the cause of the Iraqi army in fighting the British occupation, and the editors promised to continue publishing this series of pamphlets every Saturday until the British were defeated. The pamphlet consists of ten single-frame political cartoons with titles, captions, and commentary, as well as an accompanying text. The front page of the pamphlet includes the purchase price, the name of the editor, and indicates that it was printed on the Baghdad presses of al Ahali, a liberal reformist political group that published a newspaper by the same name in the 1930s.

While the cartoons are unsigned and it is therefore not possible to determine the background of the artists, the editor of the pamphlet was an Iraqi named Fadhil Qasim Raji. Despite the strong anti-British sentiment of the cartoons in the pamphlet, during the British occupation that followed the coup he worked with the Iraqi Propaganda Department, which was under strict British supervision. As one British official noted, ‘He has ability which is now being utilised in the right manner-the authorities concerned feel he is the type who could be very mischievous if left idle’.16 The inclusion of this pamphlet in a British Embassy file indicates that officials were aware of local anti-British publications and made efforts to either limit or neutralise their impact.

Political cartoons lose their value to the propagandist if the message being conveyed is not easily identifiable. The cartoons featured in ‘The Iraqi-British War’ left nothing to chance: each figure is clearly labelled and each cartoon accompanied by commentary. Yet even without the captions, the overarching theme of the pamphlet would be clear to any observer: the strength of the Iraqi army and the weakness and cowardliness of the British forces. A cartoon titled ‘a strong Arab Iraq’ portrays a horse labelled ‘Iraq’, with nostrils flaring, that has just unseated a jockey wearing a jersey emblazoned with the Union Jack. The jockey, labelled ‘the English’ is rubbing his chin in amazement, while ‘the world’ looks on (Figure 8.1). In another cartoon, a large Iraqi tank labelled the ‘Iraqi army’ is chasing the British army, whose soldiers are fleeing, waving their arms in the air and shouting ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’.

Figure 8.1: ‘A strong Arab Iraq’, The Iraqi-British War, May 1941. Foreign Office (FO) 624/24.

Reprinted with permission of the British National Archives.

In another visual demonstration of Iraqi strength, the cartoonist portrays the British Ambassador, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, presenting a paper labelled ‘petition for mercy’ to an Iraqi leader. While Cornwallis is on his knees, the Iraqi leader shakes his head, while shadowy figures labelled ‘America’, ‘Egypt’, and ‘Turkey’ look on. The cartoon implies both that Iraq has the dominant position in the conflict and that the rest of the world is watching to see how the crisis would be resolved. The events of the Rashid Ali coup reveal the exaggeration inherent in these cartoons. Rashid Ali and the Iraqi generals behind the coup fled the country at the end of May 1941, with Rashid Ali eventually taking refuge in Germany. The mayor of Baghdad petitioned for peace on behalf of the country and signed an armistice with Britain and the military leaders would later be captured and returned to Iraq to be placed on trial and executed.

The Cornwallis cartoon is significant as a visual projection of Iraqi power in a time of military confrontation, but it is also a useful source for historians interested in examining the extent of British influence in Iraq after the Mandate. The frequency with which Britain’s representatives appear not just in these Iraqi cartoons, but in other cartoons in the region during this period, demonstrates the real visible presence of British influence. Political cartoonists rely on the use of imagery that is immediately recognisable to their audience; a cartoon that cannot be deciphered loses all of its potential impact. The average American today would be hard-pressed to identify any foreign diplomatic representative by sight in a contemporary political cartoon, but the frequency with which images of British representatives appear in Arab political cartoons during the war, even in overtly propagandistic pamphlets like ‘The Iraqi-British War’ which were aimed at the general public, indicates that these images were indeed recognisable. These personal attacks and representations of British officials were a frequent source of contention between the British Embassies and local governments during the war and a cause for the imposition of censorship restrictions. This was true not just of Iraq: the British Ambassador to Egypt in this period, Sir Miles Lampson and the British Minister in Iran, Sir Reader Bullard, were also criticised through the medium of political cartoons.17

Although published in 1941, some of the cartoons have contemporary resonance, most notably the cartooned titled ‘John Bull dies after his intestines are cut’ (Figure 8.2). A commentary on the importance of Iraqi oil to the British and Britain’s vulnerability to sabotage of the oil lines, it portrays John Bull, the quintessential British symbol, as a giant. His intestines are visible and are labelled ‘the Iraqi oil pipeline’. The figure representing ‘the Iraqi army’ has just used his sword to sever the line, and ‘Iraqi oil’ is flowing to the ground, cutting John Bull off from its source and rendering him weak. According to the cartoon, Iraq, by seizing control of its natural resources, in this case oil, could bring the British to their knees. In fact, while the Iraq Petroleum Company was a vital British interest in Iraq, the oil of neighbouring Iran was of far more strategic importance. Iraq was valuable to Britain during the early 1940s not so much for its own oil reserves, but for the role its RAF garrisons played in defending Iranian oil and the refinery at Abadan.

Figure 8.2: ‘John Bull dies after his intestines are cut’, The Iraqi-British War, May 1941. FO624/24.

Reprinted with permission of the British National Archives.

Zionism and the status of Palestine are recurring themes in this pamphlet, reflecting the important place that this question held in Iraqi politics.18 The Iraqi government under Rashid Ali’s leadership saw their own struggle against British influence as closely tied to that of Palestinian-Arabs. Both Iraq and Palestine had been awarded to Britain as Mandates after the Great War, and while Iraq received independence in 1932, Palestine was still under British control throughout the Second World War. The presence in Iraq of the Mufti of Jerusalem, a Palestinian-Arab leader who fled the Mandate during the uprising of 1936–39, brought the Palestine issue to the forefront of the Iraqi public’s mind. Rashid Ali made Iraqi cooperation with the Allied war effort and a declaration of war conditional on British concessions in Palestine. The strength of anti-Zionist sentiment in Iraq was revealed in the days immediately following the end of the coup when, in early June 1941, the Jewish quarters of Baghdad were looted and experienced widespread anti-Jewish violence.

Fadhil Qasim Raji’s anti-British pamphlet tapped into this sentiment, tying British policy in Iraq to its policies in Palestine and the Zionist cause.19 One cartoon includes a snake, labelled ‘Zionism’, and a fox, labelled ‘the English’, fleeing from a dominating male figure, ‘the Arab nation’. Another cartoon, with strong anti-Semitic undertones, portrays ‘the Zionist’ as a bent old man with a long beard and money pouring from his pockets. The importance of the Palestine issue is highlighted in the last image in the pamphlet, titled ‘God is great, the English must be prepared for the women of Palestine’. While the other cartoons are classic caricatures, this one takes the form of a heroic painting, and portrays a group of women bearing weapons and a white flag. The women pictured range from young, westernised women to older veiled women and they carry a wide array of weapons: handguns, bayonets, clubs, mallets, and swords, reflecting the populist nature of the movement. The accompanying text describes the continual rallies and demonstrations organised by the women in Palestine. This image would have reminded Iraqi readers of the Great Revolt in Palestine from 1936–1939, still fresh in their memories.

Despite its short duration and ultimate failure, the Rashid Ali coup has an important place in the historical memory of Iraq. The executed army officers were viewed as martyrs to the Iraqi and Arab nationalist causes in the popular mind and the 1941 coup and uprising were glorified as a revolutionary movement against British imperial designs in Iraqi textbooks.20 While the Iraqi cartoons examined here, with their projection of Iraqi military power and British weakness, do not correspond to the historical record of what happened in May 1941, they do reflect the way in which this conflict has entered Iraqi history, as a valiant stand by Iraqi Arab nationalists against British imperial power. As Albert Hourani explained, based on his extensive interviews in Iraq in 1943, the Rashid Ali coup in the eyes of many Iraqis:

was the moment for which all their lives had been a preparation; the moment when the Arabs, relying on their own strength and upon foreign aid for which apparently they were not to give anything in return, would seize from a dying Britain the independence which she had withheld ... some of them felt a mystical exaltation, the child of decisiveness and of unity, such as they had never before experienced. ‘In those few weeks’ one of my friends told me, ‘I I [sic] knew what an independent Arab State meant.’21

The Brisish Cartoons

Before the 1941 Rashid Ali coup, British propaganda efforts in Iraq were primarily defensive, taking the form of counter-propaganda: challenging the damaging assertions made on the popular German and Italian Arabiclanguage radio broadcasts.22 They often found that their efforts fell flat. British officials in Iraq argued that the failure of British propaganda in the early war years was due, not to lack of effort on their part, but the fact that they were operating in a particularly hostile environment. British policy in Palestine was exploited by anti-British forces and used as a reason for lack of cooperation; the presence of large numbers of Syrian and Palestinian teachers in the country allowed anti-British propaganda to be spread effectively in schools; the Prime Minister, Rashid Ali, was himself hostile to Britain’s presence and Germany had the advantage of an extensive propaganda apparatus developed during the inter-war years. Even worse, the severe setbacks faced by the Allies in the early months of the war had convinced the Iraqis that Germany would be victorious. Officials recognised that the two things that could swing Iraq to the side of the Allies were spectacular war victories and a resolution of the Palestine issue, neither of which could be controlled by diplomats in Baghdad. As one British official observed in 1943, Britain faced ‘two very serious handicaps’ in the Middle East:

we have not sufficient strength in this area to convince inhabitants that despite our reverses elsewhere we will without question be able to hold up any German thrust in this direction. Secondly, we ... can do nothing to reassure the Arabs that their worst fears about Palestine are not founded. Consequently, we are forced to temporary and make-do expedients.23

British officials in London, however, responded by pointing to the weakness of the Embassy’s propaganda efforts, its lack of contact with the local community, and its inability to think creatively about propaganda and public relations. Two British propaganda cartoons circulated in Iraq in 1940 highlighted the tension between British propriety and propaganda objectives. Each cartoon had four pictures of an animal on a sheet of paper that, when folded along the dotted lines, revealed a new image: four jackals when folded were transformed into Mussolini’s face, while four pigs became Hitler’s face.24 The choice of animals was highly significant, as both jackals and pigs are considered to be unclean animals in Islam, and so the implication that the artist hoped to convey in turning the two Axis leaders into these animals would not have been lost on the Iraqi public. However, the British Embassy deprecated this type of humour. The Ambassador, Sir Basil Newton, felt that these cartoons might be popular but they were beneath the dignity of the Embassy: ‘Whatever the standards of Iraqis themselves may be they seem to appreciate and be influenced by the maintenance of a certain level of institutions which they respect – such as this Embassy’. A Ministry of Information official challenged the Ambassador’s ‘“pre-war” standpoint’ on this issue. Unwilling to withdraw a series of cartoons that proved to be highly popular with Iraqis, he proposed distributing the images through ‘other channels’, dissociating them from the Embassy.25 These simple images spoke volumes because they drew on local religious tradition that resonated across class and sectarian lines and they presented Britain’s propaganda message in a novel format, but at a cost to the Embassy’s perceived prestige.

After the cessation of hostilities at the end of May 1941 Britain took a more proactive approach and launched a new propaganda initiative aimed at winning Iraqi support for the Allied cause. The military occupation and heavy wartime censorship allowed Britain to place propaganda materials and exercise greater control over the local press. The new propaganda campaign made use of all available avenues for disseminating the British wartime message: cinema vans, posters and displays, school materials, reading rooms, pamphlets, ‘Enlightenment Bureaux’ in provincial towns as well as established media, such as radio broadcasts and the Iraqi press.26 New techniques were accompanied by fresh personnel to supplement the meagre publicity staff of the Embassy.

Britain’s propaganda experts faced a number of challenges in formulating a campaign for Iraq and the Middle East. Should propaganda be directed and overseen from London, or should the ‘men on the spot’, British propaganda experts based locally with regional knowledge, make these decisions? Could propaganda policy be determined for the entire Middle East as a region, or was it necessary to consider local sensibilities and traditions? Within the Middle East, images and propaganda lines that resonated in one country might be ineffective in another. As one British propaganda official in Baghdad noted: ‘I find many differences of demand, even in Middle East, e.g. I have to tone down the scurrilities which Egypt finds successful, and our stuff is rather too respectable for Egypt, although Aden, Jerusalem and Damascus like it’.27 British propaganda directives and campaigns in the Middle East were driven by a strong sense of national stereotypes and therefore serve as a valuable source for studying Orientalist constructions of the region.

Stewart Perowne, who led the British Publicity Section in Iraq after the 1941 coup summed up the main themes of British propaganda efforts as ‘first sympathy, and second power’.28 Both proved difficult to convey to the Iraqi public. The projection of power required wartime successes, notably lacking in the early years of the war. Attempts at garnering Arab sympathy for the Allied cause often failed, partly as a result of the long history of British and French imperial intervention in the Middle East. British propaganda experts were horrified to find that propaganda lines that were successful at home often had the opposite effect in the Middle East. Film footage that portrayed the heroism of Londoners in the midst of the Blitz, in which German planes reduced much of London to rubble, were viewed in the Arab world as proof of German strength and superiority rather than British bravery. As the British Ambassador to Iraq, Sir Basil Newton, complained in 1940 with reference to the Battle of Britain:

If London says that Britain has won a great victory, the cue is taken from Berlin to pass the word round that the battle was only an affair of outposts with no effect on the real course of the war and that anyhow it profits the British little to have emptied Sidi Barrani if London and Coventry are laid in ruins by German bombers.29

The cultural divide between the propaganda producers and consumers was evident.

Propaganda cartoons promised to be a potential tool in bridging this gap. One British military intelligence officer in Iraq noted that ‘cartoons serve to drive facts home in an effective manner (at the same time tickling the sense of humour, which is certainly not lacking in the Arab world)’ and suggested that they provide more cartoons for local papers.30 The Iraq Times was the chosen vehicle for the dissemination of pro-Allied cartoons. The only daily English-language newspaper in Iraq during the Second World War, the Iraq Times had a circulation of 1,500-2,000 copies at the beginning of the war, and it consisted of 3 pages in English and a fourth page which reproduced the front page in Arabic. The British Embassy described the paper’s readership on the eve of the war as ‘the British community, non-Arabic speaking foreigners, and many cultured Iraqis’, noting that the paper’s editor ‘claims that he has as many Iraqi readers as British’.31 It was valued as ‘the most reliable press medium of the British point of view in this country’. While a privately-owned newspaper, after the Rashid Ali coup the British Embassy and military authorities in Iraq took a greater interest in its content, using it for propaganda purposes. The British Embassy provided leading articles and features, with the Ambassador himself taking ‘a personal interest’ in the content of the editorials. From 1943 until the end of the war Army Public Relations had direct control of the newspaper’s content and worked in close collaboration with the Embassy Public Relations section.32 The Iraq Times was in essence a mouthpiece for British propaganda.

The choice of the Iraq Times as a vehicle for transmitting propaganda is indicative of the target audience. The aim was not the Iraqi masses, but the local elite and what was often described as the ‘effendis’, the newly-emergent westernised middle class.33 Sterwart Perowne, in his role as director of BBC Arabic programming in the late 1930s, stated that this sector of the Arab population was the target due to the influence that they held over the rest of the population. Reaching them would, in effect, reach the Arab world.34 Yet even given the relatively limited size of the literate population that would purchase a newspaper such as the Iraq Times, its impact would be much greater. As Marilyn Booth noted in her study of colloquial Arabic poetry in Egyptian newspapers,

the outreach of the press must be seen in an oral, communal context. A newspaper’s actual circulation was greater than its paid circulation ... it is not hard to imagine how much more effective a satirical newspaper would have been – with its mockery of official language, criticism through verbal caricature, and often dramatic form – when read out loud to friends and neighbours, for here was something to be savoured in company.35

Just as broadcast propaganda was aimed at the crowds gathered at cafes rather than private household audiences, propaganda cartoons were expected to be consumed and shared in a public context.

In the months following the Rashid Ali coup, the Arabic page of the Iraq Times printed a series of political cartoons by Kimon Evan Marengo, a cartoonist for the British Ministry of Information who used a penname drawn from his initials: ‘Kem’. A British citizen who was born into the Greek community in Alexandria, Egypt, Kem’s background placed him in a unique position to interpret British propaganda directives for an Arab audience and effectively bridge the gap between the two cultures, one of the most formidable challenges facing the producers of overseas propaganda. During the war he drew over 3,000 cartoons in his position as an ‘official cartoonist’ within the Political Warfare Executive as head of the ‘Kem unit’. He was also active in the production of propaganda for France and North Africa, having studied and worked as a cartoonist in Paris before the war.36

A self-described ‘Political Commentator’ rather than cartoonist, Kem viewed his mandate as extending beyond the mere creation of propaganda cartoons, to the general exasperation of British officials in the Middle East.37 After a visit to Egypt during which he presented his own interpretation of Egyptian politics to British Embassy staff, one Foreign Office official lamented ‘I am afraid I haven’t the slightest confidence in Kem’s judgment. He is an excellent cartoonist, and should stick to drawing’.38 Yet Kem’s critique of British propaganda efforts in Egypt was prescient in singling out the negative effect that British tolerance of corruption was having on the propaganda campaign. He noted that most British propaganda experts in Egypt did not speak nor read Arabic, limiting their effectiveness and hampering their ability to maintain close personal ties with the Egyptian population, so crucial for the effective dissemination of propaganda.39

The series of Kem cartoons under examination appeared in the Iraq Times between July and November 1941 and therefore can be considered part of the first wave of post-coup British propaganda. In addition to their place in the Iraq Times, the Propaganda section at the Embassy compiled a monthly booklet containing the best Kem cartoons and printed 5,000 copies which were distributed throughout the Arab world.40 Given their wide dissemination throughout the Middle East, the cartoons addressed broad themes relating to the war effort, rather than local issues in Iraq.

Historian Valerie Holman notes in her study of Kem that ‘his chosen weapon was ridicule rather than vilification, and many of his cartoons during the Second World War show the follies and foibles of the Axis leader’.41 The main characters in this series of 23 cartoons are Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. The aim of the cartoons was to emphasise Fascist oppression of subject populations and to ridicule the German and Italian leaders. The first series of Kem cartoons bears the title ‘Adolf and his donkey Benito’ and portrays Mussolini as a beast of burden, beholden to Hitler. Another series, titled ‘Rome 1941’, emphasises the hardships facing the Italian people under Fascist control. From the perspective of the British propaganda directives, these themes were useful for dissemination in the Middle East. Under Axis plans of action, the Arab world fell under Italy’s domain, and therefore it was particularly important to challenge the idea of Italian strength in the Middle East and North Africa. In the immediate aftermath of the Rashid Ali coup, Britain faced an extensive fifth column in the country that supported German intervention, and therefore it was imperative to warn the Iraqi people of the dangers and hardships they would face under Axis control, using the Italian experience as a lesson.

Hitler and Mussolini take many forms throughout this series of cartoons, all of which attack and parody the personalities of the Axis leaders. Mussolini is most frequently portrayed as wounded, holding his arm in a sling, walking with crutches, covered with bandages. He also takes the form of a donkey, a genie, a clown, and a monkey. The underlying message is clear: Italy was weak and merely a German tool. The emphasis on Hitler in the Kem cartoons reflects the British belief that a formidable personality cult had developed around the German leader in the Middle East. Albert Hourani recounted a number of anecdotes to this effect:

When Rommel advanced upon Alamein the Arabs in the Hauran refused to pay their debts, because Hitler would soon be there and then there would be no more debts. (In the same way the peasants in certain Egyptian villages met to plan the redistribution of the land among themselves when the Germans should arrive) ... the Arabs invested in Hitler with all the legendary splendour of the early Islamic conquerors ... In Syria they gave him an Arabic name ‘Abu Ali’; some of the Shi’i peasants in Southern Lebanon even said that his mother was a Shi’i.42

Kem consistently portrayed Hitler in human form, with the notable exception of two cartoons where he is shown as a demon in hell holding conversations with the devil. Titled ‘Hitler, enemy of God and man’, both cartoons address the war casualties that resulted from Hitler’s campaigns.43

The principle themes of the Kem cartoons: Allied strength and the oppressive nature of Axis rule closely reflected British propaganda directives. The cartoons translated the arguments being made in newspaper articles, whispering campaigns, and public displays into pictorial form. A propaganda directive for the Middle East issued shortly after the Kem cartoons focused primarily on the negative aspects of Axis rule in an attempt to cure the Arabs of their misconceptions regarding Axis intentions. British propagandists were instructed to inform the Arabs that, despite their declarations of support for the Arab cause, Hitler placed them near the bottom of his racial hierarchy in Mein Kampf.44 This theme is alluded to in the sole cartoon in the series that portrays an Arab character. Hitler assures an Arab, visibly identifiable by his tarboosh and carrying suitcases emblazoned with swastikas and stuffed full of weapons, that Arabs in the ‘New Order’ will be treated better than mere slaves, they will be slaves of the ‘first degree’ (Figure 8.3).45

Figure 8.3: Iraq Times, 1 October 1941, Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division.

The British propaganda directive also emphasised the oppressive nature of Axis rule in Romania, Hungary, Italy, and Greece and urged propagandists to ask, ‘would Hitler treat Arabs any better?’ The British drew on the importance of Islam to the Middle East and the prominent role of the family in Arab culture. Thus, propagandists should emphasise Nazi suppression of religion and ‘Subordination of all family ties to the interests of Nazi state’. Nazi encouragement of family members, including children, to serve as informants against their own relatives would have appalled an Arab audience. The directive also responded to the popular impression that Germany was more attractive as an ally because it had not been actively involved in seizing land in the region by pointing out the oppression and destruction wrought by German control in parts of Africa.46

The Kem cartoons echoed these themes, particularly in the series entitled ‘Rome 1941’. In one scene two Italians find themselves being followed by a man in a trench coat, whom the first man identifies as a member of the fascist secret police. The second points out that the fascist was himself being tailed by a member of the Nazi secret police, a large menacing figure in uniform.47 Two cartoons portray German exploitation of Italy during the war. A peasant family looks downcast as a Nazi official leaves in a truck filled with all their possessions while announcing ‘These things belong to Hitler!’ The official leaves them with a picture of the German leader to display in their house (Figure 8.4). In another cartoon, an Italian peasant couple, finding themselves in a similar situation, ruefully note that the previous year the Germans confiscated their crops, while this year they confiscated their possessions.48 The message to the Iraqi audience was clear: this was the fate that awaited them if they fell under Nazi occupation, the fate they narrowly escaped in 1941 when Britain occupied the country instead and expelled Rashid Ali and the pro-Axis army officers.

Figure 8.4: Iraq Times, 6 October 1941, Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division.

Figure 8.5: Iraq Times, 5 August 1941, Library of Congress, Serial and Government Publications Division.

The British believed that the Iraqis had been seduced by German propaganda that emphasised German power and might as well as Germany’s spectacular early war victories. The best way to fight this sentiment was to demonstrate Britain’s own power. The Kem cartoons portray the Axis powers under attack: a wounded figure labelled ‘Fascism in 1941’ with his ankle attached to a ball and chain bearing a swastika, flees torpedoes, swords, arrows, stones, and humorously, a flying shoe. Another shows Axis leaders as small mice, facing a large wall covered with the Union Jack. Behind the wall sits a large cheese wheel labelled ‘world domination’. The mouse representing Hitler comments, ‘yes, but the cheese behind this iron wall ...’, implying that the prize was worth the effort.49

In order to portray British strength, the cartoonist Kem drew on the potential for American involvement in the war to turn the tide in favour of the Allies particularly after Congress passed the Lend-Lease bill in March 1941. An August 1941 cartoon portrays a large, muscular fist slamming the ground, startling Hitler and Mussolini, with an accompanying caption: ‘Everyone will now know the meaning of American aid’ (see Figure 8.5).50 A cartoon that appeared a month later depicts Hitler and Mussolini as cavemen, with long hairy arms and clubs facing guns with the Union Jack in the background and, off in the distance, the towering figure of Uncle Sam, carrying a large sack labelled ‘Aid for Britain’. Hitler observes ‘This person gets closer every day Mussolini’.51 British propagandists made full use of the infusion of American assistance once the United States officially entered the war. The January 1942 propaganda directive provides figures for the number of tanks and planes that Roosevelt promised in a speech to Congress and then describes them in terms that could be appreciated by the general public: the 60,000 planes promised for 1942 alone ‘placed head to tail along the road would cover 750 miles’. The directive then suggests that propaganda officials translate these figures into local terms, for example comparing it to the distance from Baghdad to Basra.52

The close coordination between Britain’s propaganda directives for Iraq and the themes depicted in Kem’s work reflects the fact that Kem was, during the war years, a quintessential cartoon propagandist. While the cartoons discussed here were directed towards an Iraqi and, in a more general sense, an Arab audience, he soon turned his attention to another country in the region presenting propaganda challenges to Britain: Iran. In a powerful example of the intersection of Orientalist knowledge of the East and British official propaganda, Kem drafted a series of six images reinterpreting the classic epic Persian poem, the Shahnameh of Firdowsi, for the war period, with Hitler as the central character. A comparison of these Persian images issued first as a booklet and then as postcards, with the cartoons appearing in the Iraq Times, reflects the breadth and versatility of Kem’s abilities as a cartoonist.53

Cartoons can be problematic historical sources. In using the ‘Iraqi-British War’ cartoons, one faces a lack of information on the background of the artists and, with respect to both the British and Iraqi cartoons, one has no sense of their reception. Were they successful in achieving the basic aim of propaganda, defined by Philip Taylor as ‘calculated intent on the part of one person or group of people to persuade others to think or behave in a certain way?’54 One can only speculate on the impact based on indirect evidence. While the cause that the cartoons in the ‘Iraqi-British War’ espoused was ultimately a failure, the way in which the events of the Rashid Ali coup have been memorialised in Iraqi history suggests that the idea of a strong Iraq standing up to an imperial Britain resonated with the Iraqi population.

Kemnitz notes that the impact of the messages carried by propaganda cartoons is closely tied to their relationship to messages being spread by other media.55 British propaganda cartoons, then, must be appreciated in conjunction with official propaganda directives, broadcast and film productions, ‘whispering campaigns’, and newspaper articles. From this perspective, the Kem cartoons emerge as part of a closely coordinated campaign of propaganda and persuasion in Iraq. While Iraq supported the Allies for the remainder of the war, reflecting a short-term propaganda victory, the ongoing tension between the British and Iraqi nationalists in the post-war period, culminating in the protests surrounding the Portsmouth Treaty negotiations in 1948, indicates that these campaigns were unsuccessful in the long run in winning the support and sympathy of Iraqis.

A third-party perspective – that of the United States Legation in Baghdad – can also be useful in assessing the impact of these campaigns. As the American presence in Iraq grew after 1943, the Legation kept close tabs on what it described as ‘Britain’s control apparatus’ in Iraq, including its propaganda efforts.56 Loy Henderson, the American Minister to Baghdad, was skeptical of the efficacy of these exertions, noting in 1944: ‘I doubt that the somewhat too obvious British efforts to obtain popularity here are meeting with success or increasing Iraqi respect for Great Britain’.57 The Iraqis themselves were certainly not unaware of Britain’s propaganda activities. A representative article appeared in the Iraqi Arabic newspaper al Zaman in October 1942. The article describes the various means by which the British tried to influence Iraqi public opinion after the 1941 coup, such as establishing new departments of the Embassy, publishing exquisite magazines and newspapers, and distributing them to coffee shops and clubs throughout the country. It warns the British Publicity Section not to fall into the same trap as the Axis propaganda bureaus in Iraq and in particular attacks the British military liaison officers in the provinces, making clear that Iraqis are not fooled as to the real purpose of their presence.58 The Kem cartoons, printed in a newspaper known to be published under the auspices of British authorities, would have been obvious works of propaganda to the reading public. The question then arises, if propaganda is recognised as such, does it immediately lose all value as a means of influencing public opinion?

If cartoons serve to ‘mirror’ how a society views itself, propaganda cartoons serve to ‘mirror’ both how one society hopes to present itself to a foreign audience, and how it views the very society it is addressing. A successful political cartoon requires that the cartoonist know the target audience; this is an added challenge when the target audience is thousands of miles away. The British propaganda cartoons are a reflection of British perceptions of Iraqi culture and values, and of the messages that would be meaningful to the Iraqi people as envisioned in London. The Iraqi cartoons present an idealised picture of Iraqi strength and unity during the Rashid Ali coup, an episode that in reality proved disastrous to the Iraqi army and led to the thing Arab nationalist Iraqis most opposed: a second British military occupation. These cartoons, then, serve as rich historical sources for a critical moment in both Iraqi and British imperial history at a crucial point during the Second World War. There was a lot at stake politically and militarily behind these images.


1    Historian Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot, for example, in her study of the political cartoon in Egypt, explores the ways in which this new European art form took the Egyptian ‘nukta’, or ‘verbal cartoon’, and turned it into a pictoral form: ‘the verbal antecedents of the cartoon and the caricature are entirely indigenous, but to put them into a pictorial expression was an alien importation.’ (Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot, 1971, ‘The Cartoon in Egypt’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 13 (1): 7).

2    Fatma Müge Göçek, 1998, ‘Political Cartoons as a Site of Representation and Resistance in the Middle East’, in Fatma Müge Göçek, editor. Political Cartoons in the Middle East, Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers: 7. Göçek’s edited volume is one of the most useful sources for the study of cartoons in the Middle East and includes numerous reproductions of cartoons from the region, although Iraq does not serve as one of the case studies.

3    Göçek, ‘Political Cartoons’: 7–8.

4    Thomas Milton Kemnitz, 1973, ‘The Cartoon as a Historical Source’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 4 (1): 86.

5    Roy Douglas, 1993, ‘Great Nation Still Enchained’: The Cartoonists’ Vision of Empire 1848–1914, New York: Routledge: vii.

6    Douglas, ‘Great Nations Still Enchained’: viii.

7    Marsot, ‘The Cartoon in Egypt’: 2.

8    There are a number of indispensable general works on Iraq in this period: Book I of Hanna Batatu’s 1978 classic, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton: Princeton University Press), provides an in-depth look at the social structure of Iraq and is especially valuable for this time period. Chapter 3 of D. K. Fieldhouse, 2006, Western Imperialism in the Middle East 1914–1958, Oxford: Oxford University Press, provides a useful, concise overview of British policy in Iraq from the beginning of the Mandate through the 1958 revolution. Daniel Silverfarb’s two volume study of British indirect rule in Iraq is also useful: Daniel Silverfarb, 1986, Britain’s Informal Empire in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1929–1941, New York: Oxford University Press; Daniel Silverfarb, 1994, The Twilight of British Ascendancy in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1941–1950, New York: St. Martin’s Press. For the Mandate period, see: Peter Sluglett, 2007, Britain in Iraq: Contriving King and Country, London: I.B. Tauris.

9    For German activities in Iraq, see: Reeva Simon, 2004, Iraq Between Two World Wars: The Militarist Origins of Tyranny, updated edition, New York: Columbia University Press: 31–40.

10  For Iraqi overtures to the Axis powers, see: Majid Khadduri, 1963, ‘General Nuri’s Flirtations with the Axis Powers’, Middle East Journal, 16 (3): 328–336; and Lukasz Hirszowicz, 1966, The Third Reich and the Arab East, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul: chapter 5.

11  For a detailed account of the 1941 Rashid Ali coup, see: Simon, Iraq Between Two World Wars: chapter 6; Geoffrey Warner, 1974, Iraq and Syria 1941, London: Davis-Poynter; Walid Muhammad Sa’id A’zami,1987, Intifadat Rashid ‘Ali al-Kilani wa-al-harb al-’Iraqiyah al-Baritaniyah, 1941 [The Rashid Ali al-Kilani Uprising and the Iraqi-British War, 1941], Baghdad, s.n.; and Mahmud al-Durra, 1969, Al Harb al-Iraqiya al-Britaniya [The Iraqi-British War], Beirut: Dar at-Tali’a li-’t-Tiba’a wa-’n-Nasr.

12  As Churchill explained to the House of Commons: ‘we have known only too well what was going on in Iraq, and as long ago as last May, a year ago, the Foreign Office began to ask for troops to be sent there to guard the line of communications. We had not the troops’. Extract from House of Commons debate, 7 May 1941, FO371/27068. All FO [Foreign Office] references are to documents held at the British National Archives in Kew.

13  Albert Hourani, ‘Great Britain and Arab Nationalism’, June 1943, FO371/34958.

14  For the early history of political cartoons in the Middle East, see: Göçek, ‘Political Cartoons’; and Marsot, ‘The Cartoon in Egypt’. Chapter 3 of: Khalid Kishtainy, 1985, Arab Political Humour, London: Quartet Books: 69–99, provides an interesting sampling of the content of both Egyptian and Iraqi satirical newspapers. See also: chapter 3 of Kazim Shamhud Tahir, 2003, Fann al-karikatir: lamahat ‘an bidayatihi wa-hadirihi, ‘Arabiyan wa-’alamiyan [The Art of the Cartoon: Glimpses of its Beginnings and its Current State among the Arabs and Worldwide], Spain: Dar Alwah.

15  The pamphlet is available in file: FO624/24 at the British National Archives in Kew. Four of the sixteen pages are missing.

16  Memorandum, Edmonds to Holt, 29 June 1941, FO624/24.

17  For example, in January 1940 Sir Miles Lampson, the British Ambassador to Egypt, exchanged a series of sharply worded letters with the Egyptian Prime Minister, Ali Maher, protesting against political cartoons appearing in the Egyptian press that were critical of the Embassy and Lampson himself. See FO 371/24623.

18  For the importance of the Palestine issue to Iraq, see: Michael Eppel, 1994, The Palestine Conflict in the History of Modern Iraq: The Dynamics of Involvement 1928–1948, Ilford, Essex: Frank Cass.

19  As Tahir notes in his work on Arabic political cartoons, one of their main functions is to comment on the situation in the Arab world and the status in Palestine in particular, making this a common recurring theme (Tahir, Fann al-karikatir: 10).

20  For the importance of 1941 to Iraqi history, see: Simon, Iraq Between Two World Wars: 155–158; and Eric Davis, 2005, Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq, Berkeley: University of California Press: 71. Simon notes that Saddam Hussein was raised by an uncle who had fought on the Iraqi side during the coup and who was interned by the British. This event had a formative influence on the future Iraqi leader and led him to place great importance on its role in Iraqi history (Simon, Iraq Between Two World Wars: 157–158).

21  Albert Hourani, ‘Great Britain and Arab Nationalism’, June 1943, FO371/34958.

22   Philip Taylor, 1981, The Projection of Britain: British Overseas Publicity and Propaganda 1919–1939, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, provides useful background on British attitudes to overseas propaganda. While focused on the inter-war years, these attitudes persisted among British officials in Iraq until the influx of new personnel that followed the Rashid Ali coup. For a useful summary of the broadcast propaganda lines taken by the Axis powers, see an article produced soon after the war: Seth Arsenian, 1948, ‘War Time Propaganda in the Middle East’, The Middle East Journal, 2: 417–429.

23  Minute by Caccia, 14 March 1942, FO 371/31349.

24  The two cartoons are preserved in file FO371/31349.

25  Newton to Seymour, 20 February 1941; and Minute by Rushbrook Williams, 20 March 1941, FO371/27101.

26  ‘Overseas Planning Committee. Plan of Propaganda for Iraq’, 25 February 1943, FO371/35014.

27  Minute by Main to Holt, 17 April 1940, FO624/20/353.

28  Minute by Perowne, 2 September 1941, FO624/24/482.

29  Newton to Eden, 30 December 1940, FO624/18.

30  Squadron Leader Marsack, Air Liaison Officer, Mosul, 13 May 1940, FO624/18.

31  Newton to Halifax, 12 October 1939, FO371/23218.

32  Thompson for Cornwallis to Eden, 7 Feb. 1945, FO371/45302.

33  For the effendiyya in Iraq, see Michael Eppel, 1998, ‘The Elite, the Effendiyya, and the Growth of Nationalism and Pan-Arabism in Hashemite Iraq, 1921–1958’, International Journal of Middle East Studies: 30: 227–250.

34  Quoted in: Taylor, Projection of Britain: 213. Taylor also notes that British overseas propaganda in general aimed at this educated audience rather than a mass audience (Taylor, Projection of Britain: 3).

35  Marilyn Booth, 1992, ‘Colloquial Arabic Poetry, Politics, and the Press in Modern Egypt’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 24 (3): 423.

36  Valerie Holman provides an accessible introduction to Kem’s life and work in Valerie Holman, 2002, ‘Kem’s Cartoons in the Second World War’, History Today 52 (3): 21–27. A collection of Kem’s work is held at the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent. Examples of his work aimed at a Middle Eastern audience can be found in the pages of the Iraq Times and in Holman’s article. Five of his wartime cartoons commenting on the situation in France can be found in Lt. Col. Pierre Tissier, 1942, I Worked With Laval, With Five Cartoons by Kem, London: George G. Harrap. There is also a published collection of Kem’s wartime cartoons: ‘Kem’, 1944, Lines of Attack: Some Wartime Cartoons, London: Alliance Press Limited. Unfortunately this is a rare work, although the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. does have a copy.

37  Scrivener to Shone, 12 October 1943, FO624/24.

38  Minute by Scrivener, 7 October 1943, FO624/24.

39  Kem, ‘Observed Results of Policy and Propaganda in Egypt’, draft report, undated [1943], FO624/24.

40  For example, in a February 1943 report on propaganda activities in Iraq the section noted that of the copies made, 1,500 were distributed in Iraq, some for free and some were sold, while 600 went to Saudi Arabia and Oman and the rest to Aden, Jerusalem and Cairo (‘Overseas Planning Committee. Plan of Propaganda for Iraq’. 25 February 1943, FO371/35014).

41  Holman, ‘Kem’s Cartoons in the Second World War’: 22.

42  Albert Hourani, ‘Great Britain and Arab Nationalism’, June 1943, FO371/34958.

43  Iraq Times, 11 September 1941; and 10 October 1941.

44  Cairo, Director of Propaganda, Middle East to FO, 7 January 1942, FO371/31341.

45  Iraq Times, 1 October 1941.

46  Cairo, Director of Propaganda, Middle East to FO, 7 Jan. 1942, FO371/31341.

47  Iraq Times, 14 August 1941.

48  Iraq Times, 6 October 1941; and 4 November 1941.

49  Iraq Times, 3 July 1941; and 6 August 1941.

50  Iraq Times, August 1941.

51  Iraq Times, 5 August 1941; and 20 September 1941.

52  Cairo, Director of Propaganda, Middle East to FO, 7 Jan. 1942, FO371/31341.

53  The Shahnameh cartoons are reproduced and interpreted in Holman, ‘Kem’s Cartoons in the Second World War’.

54  Taylor, Projection of Britain: 1.

55  Kemnitz, ‘The Cartoon as a Historical Source’: 92.

56  See for example: Richard Gnade, ‘British Controls in Iraq’, 25 February 1944, enclosed in: Henderson to Sec of State, ‘Machinery by which Great Britain Maintains Control over, or Exerts Influence in, Various Phases of Iraqi National Life’, 13 March 1944. Classified General Records, 1936–1961, of the U.S. Embassy and Legation, Baghdad, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, MD. This extensive report aims to explain all dimensions of what the American Legation in Baghdad called ; ‘Britain’s control apparatus’ in Iraq to the State Department.

57  Henderson, ‘Certain First Impressions Regarding Baghdad and Iraq’, enclosed in Henderson to Murray, 20 January 1944. Classified General Records, 1936–1961 of the U.S. Embassy and Legation, Baghdad, NARA.

58  Al Zaman, 31 October 1942, reprinted in ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Hasani, 1965, Tarikh al-wizarat al-‘Iraqiyah [History of the Governments of Iraq], 5, Sayda: Matba’at al-’Irfan: 110–111. Al Zaman, like other Iraqi wartime newspapers facing newsprint rationing, had a circulation of under 2,000. Its main readership was wealthy merchants. Archie Roosevelt [American Military Attache, Baghdad], ‘An Outline of the Press in Iraq’, 17 August 1944, RG84, NARA.

Primary Sources

Arsenian, Seth, 1948, ‘War Time Propaganda in the Middle East’, The Middle East Journal, 2: 417–429.

Classified General Records, 1936–1961, of the United States Embassy and Legation, Baghdad, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, various items.

Iraq Times, various editions.

‘Kem’, 1944, Lines of Attack: Some War-Time Cartoons, London: Alliance Press Limited.

Unpublished papers of the Office of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs [United Kingdom] archives, Kew (abbreviated to FO with holding number), various items.

Secondary Sources

al-Durra, Mahmud, 1969, Al Harb al-Iraqiya al-Britaniya, Beirut: Dar at-Tali’a li-’t-Tiba’a wa-’n-Nasr.

al-Hasani, ‘Abd al-Razzaq, 1965, Tarikh al-wizarat al-’Iraqiyah, Volume 5, Sayda: Matba’at al-’Irfan: 110–111.

A’zami, Walid Muhammad Sa’id, 1987, Intifadat Rashid ‘Ali al-Kilani wa-al-harb al-’Iraqiyah al-Baritaniyah, 1941, Baghdad, s.n.

Batatu, Hanna, 1978, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Booth, Marilyn, 1992, ‘Colloquial Arabic Poetry, Politics, and the Press in Modern Egypt’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 24 (3): 419–440.

Davis, Eric, 2005, Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Douglas, Roy, 1993, ‘Great Nation Still Enchained’: The Cartoonists’ Vision of Empire 1848–1914, New York: Routledge.

Eppel, Michael, 1994, The Palestine Conflict in the History of Modern Iraq: The Dynamics of Involvement 1928–1948, Ilford, Essex: Frank Cass.

Eppel, Michael, 1998, ‘The Elite, the Effendiyya, and the Growth of Nationalism and Pan-Arabism in Hashemite Iraq, 1921–1958’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 30: 227–250.

Fieldhouse, D. K., 2006, Western Imperialism in the Middle East 1914–1958, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Göçek, Fatma Müge, 1998a, ‘Political Cartoons as a Site of Representation and Resistance in the Middle East’, in Göçek, Fatma Müge, editor. Political Cartoons in the Middle East, Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers: 7–8.

Göçek, Fatma Müge, 1998b, editor. Political Cartoons in the Middle East, Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers.

Hirszowicz, Lukasz, 1966, The Third Reich and the Arab East, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Holman, Valerie, 2002, ‘Kem’s Cartoons in the Second World War’, History Today, 52 (3): 21–27.

Kemnitz, Thomas Milton, 1973, ‘The Cartoon as a Historical Source’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 4 (1): 81–93.

Khadduri, Majid, 1963, ‘General Nuri’s Flirtations with the Axis Powers’, Middle East Journal, 16 (3): 328–336.

Kishtainy, Khalid, 1985, Arab Political Humour, London: Quartet Books.

Marsot, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid, 1971, ‘The Cartoon in Egypt’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 13 (1): 2–15.

Silverfarb, Daniel, 1986, Britain’s Informal Empire in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1929–1941, New York: Oxford University Press.

Silverfarb, Daniel, 1994, The Twilight of British Ascendancy in the Middle East: A Case Study of Iraq, 1941–1950, New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Simon, Reeva, 2004, Iraq Between Two World Wars: The Militarist Origins of Tyranny, updated edition, New York: Columbia University Press.

Sluglett, Peter, 2007, Britain in Iraq: Contriving King and Country, London: I.B. Tauris.

Tahir, Kazim Shamhud, 2003, Fann al-karikatir: lamahat ‘an bidayatihi wa-hadirihi, ‘Arabiyan wa-‘alamiyan, Amman: al-Tab’ah.

Taylor, Philip, 1981, The Projection of Britain: British Overseas Publicity and Propaganda 1919–1939, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tissier, Lt. Col. Pierre, 1942, I Worked with Laval, With Five Cartoons By Kem, London: George G. Harrap.

Warner, Geoffrey, 1974, Iraq and Syria 1941, London: Davis-Poynter.


Cite this chapter as: Wichhart, Stefanie. 2009. ‘Propaganda and protest: Political cartoons in Iraq during the Second World War’. Drawing the Line: Using Cartoons as Historical Evidence, edited by Scully, Richard; Quartly, Marian. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 8.1 to 8.21.

© Copyright 2009 Stefanie Wichhart

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Drawing the Line

   by Richard Scully, Marian Quartly