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.
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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