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Secret Service targets pro-Bush editorial cartoon

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Officials See Threat in Bush Newspaper Cartoon

Mon July 21, 2003 08:51 PM ET

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Secret Service is studying a pro-Bush cartoon in the Los Angeles Times, showing the president with a gun to his head, as a possible threat, U.S. officials said on Monday.

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez said the drawing, which ran in Sunday's paper, was only meant to call attention to the unjust "political assassination" of Bush over his Iraq policy.

The cartoon, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from the Vietnam War, depicts Bush with his hands behind his back as a man labeled "Politics" prepares to shoot him in the head. The background of the drawing is a cityscape labeled "Iraq."

"We're aware of the image and we're in the process of determining what action if any can be taken," John Gill, Secret Service spokesman, said.

An official who asked not to be named said: "The Secret Service does take threats against all of their protectees very seriously and they have an obligation to look into any threat that's made against any of their protectees." The official did not elaborate.

The 1968 photograph on which the cartoon is based showed the instant before South Vietnam's national police commander pulled the trigger in a summary execution of a Vietcong prisoner on the streets of Saigon.

The brutality of the image was credited by many with helping to turn U.S. public opinion against the war.

In a statement issued through the newspaper, Ramirez said that he used the image because it represented to him the "political assassination" of Bush.

"President Bush is the target, metaphorically speaking, of a political assassination because of 16 words that he uttered in the State of the Union," he said, referring to the controversy over Bush's accusation that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa.

The White House later disavowed that statement, saying it was based on faulty documents. Critics of Bush have accused him of hyping intelligence to build a case for war in Iraq.

"Those with political motivations are using the uranium story as a method to attack the president," Ramirez said.

A spokesman for the Times said the cartoon represented the cartoonist's opinion and not that of the paper.

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