Tag Archives: Iraq War

Videos for the Classroom: For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots

I’m kicking myself for forgetting this: all this hubbub around the beginning of the school year and I missed the premiere of an important film.

This past September, PBS aired the documentary For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots.  It chronicles the triumphs and struggles of African Americans in combat from the American Revolution to today’s struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan.  One of the main themes is the bravery and skill of these soldiers in the face of a double-standard: often, their treatment in the armed forces mirrored their second-class position back on the home front. 

As the country was born, grew and developed, so too did African American soldiers contribute in every step of the way, often thanklessly.  During the Revolution, many Blacks joined both the British and American ranks (though many more joined the British side) in the futile hope of achieving freedom.  That same hope propelled Blacks to contribute with honor in the Civil War.  In the subsequent World Wars, Blacks struggled to maintain dignity and assert their rights as citizens, even with segregated units, white officers, substandard equipment and provisions, and a hostile Jim Crow America upon their return.  Finally, Blacks are represented in massive numbers in today’s military, even as a Black president finally takes office in 2009.

Often, these types of documentaries get tedious, slow, and brutally long.  The US Army, and thanks to the folks at the Social Studies and History Teachers Blog, part of Multimedia Learning LLC, put together a shortened version of the film to be used in classrooms, each segment focusing on a specific area of history.  There are even facilitator guides for high school and college that augment the viewing with questions, project ideas and lesson plans.

Below is the shortened film in 9 segments.  These classroom-ready 3-5 minute chunks are perfect for your classrooms, along with the facilitator guides.  Let us know how you like them.

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Videos for the Classroom: Last US Combat Brigade leaves Iraq

In all the hoopla over oil spills, a mosque in downtown Manhattan, and the upcoming midterm elections, a moment in in history quietly occurred yesterday with little fanfare.

The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the last combat brigade left in Iraq, crossed the border into Kuwait yesterday, marking the official end of “combat” in the Iraqi theater.  This does not mean we won’t have troops there, but the mission is changed to a development/stabilization stage.  The actual “fighting”, at least in the eyes of the Pentagon, appears to be over.

All troops are, according to President Obama, supposed to out of Iraq by 2011.  We’ll see if that happens.  In the meantime, here’s the Associated Press video of last nights’ events.  You may want to use it in your classroom to compare it to the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.  What were the circumstances behind each withdrawal?  What was the end result?   What do you think the end result will be in Iraq?

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This day in History 6/22: The 1944 GI Bill

It can safely be said that modern American culture began on June 22, 1944.

On that date, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law P.L. 78-346, or the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights or simply the GI Bill.  This massive program, more than any other program save the interstate highway system, would shape and define postwar America.

The bill was begun under the shadow of tragedy.  In 1932, during the height of the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans marched on Washington, demanding bonuses promised to them by the government at war’s end.  The “Bonus Army” was brutally suppressed by US cavalry units—a shameful episode that Roosevelt’s cabinet did not want repeated after the next conflict.

It was important for a nation as militarized as the United States during World War II to readjust to a civilian economy as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Furthermore, returning veterans needed, if not deserved, government support in the often brutal readjustment to civilian life.

 The 1944 bill contained three important programs.  The most famous of these was its education program: the initial bill allowed returning servicemen access to a college or vocational education at no cost.  It is estimated that by 1956 (the year the 1944 bill expired) almost 8 million veterans, 51% of all returning service personnel,  took advantage of education or training programs subsidized by Washington. 

For many returning soldiers, it was the first, and only chance, to get a college or university education.  This led to an academic flowering in postwar America, creating some of the most important minds at our service.  Engineers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, judges, and even actors and directors were created thanks to the largesse of the GI Bill.

(An important note, the 1944 bill provided that the government reimburse colleges directly.  This led to universities hiking tuition bills to Washington, widely perceived as tuition fraud.  Since 1952, the education program consists of stipends paid directly to veterans for their expenses.)

Notable GI Bill beneficiaries included Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Bill Cosby, Bob Dole, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gene Hackman, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Frank McCourt, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Tito Puente, Rod Steiger, James Wright, and even former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

If the first provision provided the “glamour” of the bill, the second would broaden its influence to every family in America.  Returning veterans were entitled to low-interest, zero-down payment loans for homes and businesses—an unthinkable prospect today considering the cause of our current economic woes.  For the first time, veterans can buy a home for their families and start businesses with help from Uncle Sam.  From 1944 to 1956, 2.4 million veterans had home loans backed by the Veterans Authority (later Veterans Administration, or VA) Though many factors contributed to it, the rise of the suburbs as a middle-class bastion can be directly attributed to these programs created by the GI Bill.

The last provision is notable not for its use, but for its lack of use.  Known as the 50-20 clause, the third provision provided servicemen with $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work.  Remarkably, less than 20 percent of returning servicemen opted for this program, as most already found employment or used their GI benefits in higher education. 

Today few areas of American life aren’t touched by individuals who benefitted from the GI Bill—even though many servicemen and women today do not take full advantage of this opportunity.

Subsequent expansion of veterans’ benefits were enacted in 1952, 1966, 1984, and 2008.  Korean War and Vietnam veterans made even more use of their GI benefits: roughly 72% of Vietnam vets used education benefits under the GI Bill.  From 1940 until the end of the military draft in 1973, as many as one third of the population (when both veterans and their dependents are taken into account) could potentially have benefited from the programs created by the expansion of veterans’ benefits.

In 2008, Congress enacted a Post 9/11 GI Bill designed for veterans serving after September 11, 2001.  The new program greatly expanded previous endeavors, especially in regards to education.  It provides free education to any public college in the state that a veteran resides.  Furthermore, housing stipends and $1000 yearly allowances for books are available, among other benefits.

Even for a fiscal conservative like me, the GI Bill was, and continues to be, an important element not just for American education and economics, but also as a measure of our values.  Many naysayers simply don’t see this.

Some opponents of these bills use the same argument for welfare reform.  Handouts induce indolence, laziness, and dependence on government benefits.  Programs should be designed for a “hand-up”, not a “handout.”  If this were other populations, I would agree to an extent. 

This is not any other population.  Veterans, especially those who’ve seen heavy combat, are not bums on the street looking for spare change.  Believe me, they worked for those benefits.

For centuries, the battlefield soldier was cannon fodder, often literally.  After the smoke cleared and the army disbanded, a veteran had no options other than to pick up the pieces of his life.  Often, the long absence and horrors of combat were so unbearable that a former soldier could never function in society as he did before—and no one was there to help.

Yet here, we saw things differently.  I have yet to see another country devote so much of its public funds to the support and readjustment of its former defenders. 

The United States, for better or worse, is a country derived from the blood of its veterans.  It was borne in the fires of the Revolution.  It was baptized in the slaughter of the Civil War.  It achieved manhood on the battlefields of two world wars.  It suffered, often needlessly, in far-flung places such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

The GI Bill, and its subsequent revisions, was a remarkable step in our history.  It spurred generations towards a remarkable transformation from militarism to domestic tranquility.  Even more importantly, it demonstrated that our soldiers will never simply be considered fodder for enemy guns.

A soldier, thanks to the GI Bill, can serve his/her country just as much in peace as they can in war.

For today’s veterans, take a look at the Veterans Administration’s website about the GI Bill for further information about benefits and applying.

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This Day in History 3/19: The birth of the Iraq War

 

Collage of images taken by U.S. military in Ir...

Image via Wikipedia

Today we celebrate two things that really do not go together.  First, a happy birthday to a regular to the Neighborhood–and my little sister–PhDini, who’s blog Diagnosis Cuckoo can be clicked to your right.   Please read it; it’s just as informative and witty as my Neighborhood, only in a nicer setting.  Hopefully, all that sunny LA weather isn’t going to your head, sis.

 

Second, a less than happy birthday to the Iraq War, which began on March 19, at 9:34 PM Eastern (technically 5:34 AM March 20, in Baghdad).  At last count, 4,259 American soldiers have died and at least 31,000 wounded in the 6 years of occupation in Iraq.  With President Obama’s withdrawal program and re-focus on Afghanistan, it looks like we may see at least a partial ending to this mess.

I come to this anniversary almost on my knees in confession.  In the beginning, I was as gung-ho as any neo-con for the war, without thinking through (a) whether our intelligence was correct, or (b) what the subsequent occupation would look like.  Iraq had bought uranium cakes prior to our 1990 tussle, that we know.  But we now also know that the Departments of State and Defense had both informed then-President Bush either falsely or in an incomplete fashion.  Like the Keystone Kops breaking into the wrong house, Bush and the Bush-ites stormed in with half the info.  Next time, we should be electing Yalies that actually went to class.

Even though I am angry that I was lied to by my President, especially a President from my political party, I am even angrier about the slipshod conduct of this war.  How could the post-war occupation be so thoroughly mismanaged?  How were our supply lines so slow and badly run that our men and women lacked basic supplies in the field?  Why are our soldiers begging for things they should have as standard-issue?  Why were we so ill-prepared for urban warfare and local insurgencies?

I felt for the guy that called out Dick Cheney about the lack of armor on patrol vehicles–if that is the state of military affairs, we are a piss-poor excuse for a global hegemonic power.  Communities should not have to raise money to provide Kevlar vests to their local boys at the front.  There is no need to farm out military tasks to Blackwater or other civilian companies that operate not only outside of military discipline, but outside the code of military ethics.  Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines operate under a sense of duty and honor which I respect.  These companies have no parameters and no honor–they’re no better than the Mafia.

There is some good to come out of this.  Iraq is no longer under the thumb of Saddam Hussein, even though he was our guy until he got greedy and started messing with his neighbors not named Iran.  It looks like at least a skeleton of a functioning democracy is in place.  Iraqi forces are slowing replacing our GIs, even in the tough areas–though we currently are having a dickens of a time in Mosul (Hey Kurds!  Little help?)  My worry is whether or not Iraq can stand up on its own against a resurgent Iran and an Israel itching to fight someone.

I know it’s a morbid post today, but it is timely.  Hopefully, I only have to celebrate my sister’s birthday next year.

Thanks, and to all our men and women at the front: be safe, and get home soon.

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