President Ford and a womanHerb Block did not have a high opinion of either the Ford or Carter administrations, which he believed bungled international relations in the Middle East. Oil became the lynchpin of the 1970s, as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) increasingly controlled the price of oil, affecting the world’s economies and politics. Block questioned Ford’s relationship with the Middle East, citing his willingness to take advantage of countries’ increased oil wealth by selling them weapons. He feared the rise of terrorism, both by officially recognized governments and by groups attempting to undermine the existing political system. He attacked the Carter administration for its inability to take a firm stand on international issues, accusing it of lack of leadership. Although Jimmy Carter triumphed with the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, the hostage crisis in Iran (1979–1981) irrevocably marred his presidency.

Yasser Arafat

Herblock refers to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat’s 1974 speech before the United Nations (UN) by depicting him wearing the symbol of the UN on his keffiyeh and holding a machine gun. On November 10, 1975, the UN defined Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination,” granted the PLO “observer status,” and resolved that the PLO should participate in a Middle East peace solution, while rejecting an attempt by Arabs to oust Israel as a member.

[Yasser Arafat looking in mirror], 1975. Graphite, ink, opaque white, and overlays over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, November 13, 1975. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (50.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21945

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“—Or I Might Wear This One—”

Soon after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, on April 18, 1983, which killed or injured more than 100 people, Herblock produced this cartoon that identifies a host of terrorist groups whose actions had caused hundreds of deaths, mainly during the 1970s. The Islamic Jihad Organization claimed responsibility for the bombing in Beirut. Herblock brings attention here to the increasing involvement of Islamic extremists in international terrorism that became even more notable in the 1980s.

“—Or I Might Wear This One—,” 1983. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, April 20, 1983. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (51.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21946

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Qaddafi, Hussein, Assad, and Khomeini

In the 1980s, Herblock perceived the threat of the nuclear programs pursued by Middle Eastern and North African leaders. Muammar Qaddafi of Libya feared Israel, his archenemy, would obliterate him. Saddam Hussein led Iraq into the First Gulf War against Iran (1980 –1988). Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran reacted to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. During the height of the First Gulf War, the United States accused Hafez Assad of Syria of having a nuclear weapons program.

[Qaddafi, Hussein, Assad, and Khomeini each thinking of “the bomb”], 1984. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, April 20, 1984. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (52.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21947

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“It Helps Maintain a Better Balance”

In this cartoon from the mid 1970s, Herblock indicates that peace is in the balance in an arms-trade-for-oil economy.  The United States began its policy of selling arms to the Middle East in the wake of the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil embargo of 1973–74. President Ford stated it was the policy to “maintain a certain degree of military capability on all sides,” even as increased weapons sales created instability in the Middle East.

“It Helps Maintain a Better Balance,” 1975. Graphite, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, January 28, 1975. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (53.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21948

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Hostage

Here, Herblock ties oil to the Iranian hostage crisis. On November 4, 1979, an Iranian mob breached security at the American Embassy in Tehran and held sixty-six people, who quickly became known as “the hostages.” At the beginning of their 444-day imprisonment, President Carter’s administration halted Iranian oil imports, which prompted the Revolutionary Council of Iran to ban oil imports to America. Herblock later wrote, “the United States itself became hostage to the Iranian situation.”

Hostage, 1979. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, November 15, 1979. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (54.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21949

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“It Gets Into Everything”

By the late 1970s, the United States had gone from exporting oil to importing more than fifty percent of oil used to meet its domestic needs. Increasingly, that oil came from a member of OPEC. In 1979 President Carter asked Saudi Arabia to increase its exports, which it did, announcing that the additional volume was an Independence Day present. However, as Herblock interpreted the gesture, “This was not independence. . . . it was a great nation on its knees.”

“It Gets Into Everything,” 1979. Graphite, crayon, porous point pen, ink, and opaque white over blue pencil and graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, July 15, 1979. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (55.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21950

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“Who’s in Charge Here?”

President Jimmy Carter’s administration began well with passage of administrative reform plans but met congressional opposition toward other initiatives, including energy policy. Herblock created this cartoon the day after Carter delivered a strong speech in which he pledged his leadership in pursuing energy proposals. Herblock captures Carter’s frustration but also questions his leadership style. He shows Carter facing, not occupying the desk, holding a visitor’s guide, and depicts multiple images of his pounding fist, suggesting a lack of bold, confident control.

“Who’s in Charge Here?” 1979. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, July 18, 1979. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (56.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21981

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Bay of People

Fidel Castro, the long-time powerful leader of Cuba, has never been able to stifle all opposition to his political agenda in his homeland. When Castro opened the port of Mariel on April 19, 1980, Cuban exiles from Miami traveled with boats to pick up relatives during what became known as the “Mariel Boatlift.” Before he stopped the exodus, thousands of Cubans traveled safely to Florida. In this cartoon, puffing his trademark cigar, Castro angrily watches masses of refugees leave Cuban shores.

Bay of People, 1980. Graphite, porous point pen, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, May 7, 1980. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (57.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-21952

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