On September 11, 2001, 19 Al-Qaida terrorists from various countries in the Middle East and Asia hijacked four airplanes and purposefully crashed them. Two airplanes hit the “Twin Towers” in New York City, one hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and one did not reach its target of the White House because the passengers stopped the terrorist pilots. This plane crash-landed in a field in Pennsylvania. Because of the 9/11 attacks, approximately 3,000 civilians were murdered and America fully entered into the War on Terror.
The terrorists who committed these attacks were part of an international organization called Al-Qaida, a radical Islamic organization. Al-Qaida does not control a country, but its members live in many parts of the world, including the United States of America. These terrorists hate America because the United States supports Israel’s right to exist, and because America represents freedom. Israel is a Jewish country, and the Al-Qaida organization hates Jews. Osama bin Laden was the head of Al-Qaida. He demanded that the U.S.A. stop supporting Israel, and that we remove all of our soldiers from the Arabian Peninsula.
In 2001, Al-Qaida had most of its bases in Afghanistan, a country of Asia. Afghanistan was ruled by a political party called the Taliban. Like Al-Qaida, the Taliban was very extreme in its Islamic beliefs. The Taliban did not allow girls to study or women to have a job. Women had to wear a black robe called a burqa that covered their entire body. When a girl under Taliban control becomes a woman, the Taliban may agree to mutilate her body to permanently mark her as less than a man. If you had a book or a newspaper that the Taliban didn’t like, the Taliban soldiers might torture or kill you. If it was thought you were an Afghani Christian, the Taliban would execute you. If you belonged to a minority group, you could be tortured. Punishment for homosexuality or for infidelity for a married woman was execution. The Taliban and Al-Qaida worked together.
After the attacks on 9/11, President Bush demanded from the Taliban that it hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States of America. The Taliban refused, and the U.S. launched a war. The Taliban lost the war initially and the U.S. helped the Afghans establish a republic. However, after 20 years, the Taliban are back in charge of Afghanistan, and the U.S. has withdrawn all soldiers.
In 2001, Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iraq, and the world believed that he was supporting terrorists and that he had dangerous weapons. It was feared he would give terrorists a nuclear bomb or poison gas or some other weapons that the terrorists would then use against Americans. Saddam Hussein threatened the U.S., attempted to kill President George H.W. Bush in a visit to Kuwait, and had defied 16 United Nations resolutions to come clean on his making dangerous weapons. The United States Senate gave President George W. Bush authority to use force to remove Hussein, and he used it. The U.S. launched a war against Hussein, removed him, and established a republic. The Iraqi people tried and executed Hussein as a mass murderer.
President Obama became the leader of the U.S. in 2009 and continued the fight against terrorists in a different way than President Bush. He stated that he wanted the U.S.A. to lead from behind and to disengage in the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. However, he continued ordering the killing of terrorists. In 2011, he gave the order for Navy Seals to kill the leader of Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden. In 2014, Obama announced the end of active military operations in Afghanistan. From that point on, America performed more of a backup role in support of Afghan soldiers.
President Obama ordered American soldiers out of Iraq. After the American retreat from Iraq, another terrorist organization, called Daesha (or also ISIS) conquered much of Iraq and Syria. ISIS instituted Sharia Law, the same law that the Taliban ruled with in Afghanistan. Over 1 million refugees fled ISIS and immigrated, mainly to Europe. Some of these refugees are terrorists and have killed Europeans. Once it became clear that ISIS was a threat to Iraq and American interests, President Obama sent American soldiers back into Iraq.
President Trump continued the fight against terrorists in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Different from President Obama, Trump allowed the American military to fully engage the terrorists and be more aggressive. In early 2018, the United States and its allies defeated ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In 2018, ISIS held no territory, could not collect any taxes, and did not control any oil fields.
When President Trump left office in January 2021, the Taliban controlled 20% of Afghanistan. Trump made a deal with the Taliban that the United States would withdraw its soldiers by May 1, 2021, if the Taliban would not take conquer Afghanistan or harm Americans. Trump’s plan was to maintain an American presence at the military airport at Bagram Air Base, a massive military airport the Americans had built in Afghanistan, to ensure that terrorists would not threaten America from Afghanistan.
In January, 2021, President Joe Biden took office. Biden extended the American presence in Afghanistan four months. Beginning in May, the Taliban attacked and captured key military posts and territory throughout Afghanistan. Biden did not order American troops to fight the Taliban as they took control of more of the country. Biden's decision to leave on August 31st did not involve American allies and NATO, even though they had supported the U.S. during the war. While the Afghani President in July and August warned Biden that the Taliban could take over the country quickly, Biden told him to not speak of this in public, but to give the perception that the Taliban were not threatening the Afghani government. Biden announced to reporters at this time that the Taliban could not take over the country so quickly. Biden then gave the order to abandon Bagram Air Base. American forces left at midnight, without telling the Afghani commander. The Taliban, before taking over Kabul, asked the Biden administration if he wanted to secure the city while the Americans evacuated. Biden told the Taliban they could take over the city and be in charge. On August 15, the Taliban captured Kabul. Only the airport in Kabul was controlled by the Americans.
For the last two weeks of August, the Biden Administration attempted to evacuate all Americans and its Afghani allies from the country. Biden reported there were around 11,000 Americans in the country. Throughout these two weeks, Americans and its Afghan allies had to make their way through Taliban guards to the airport. Many Americans and Afghani allies reported that the Taliban beat them and denied them to get to the airport. On August 26, a suicide attack killed 13 U.S. Marines and up to 200 Afghanis at the airport. By the end of August, all U.S. soldiers were evacuated along with 6,000 Americans, but anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand Americans were left stranded along with tens of thousands of Afghani allies in Afghanistan.
As of September 11, 2021, the Taliban controls Afghanistan and there are no more U.S. soldiers in the country. There are still an untold number of Americans and Afghan allies trying to get out. Twenty years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil, those who harbored and supported the terrorists claim victory over America in Afghanistan.
1. Who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.A?
2. Who are the Taliban?
3. How did the U.S. respond to these attacks in Afghanistan?
4. Why did the U.S. attack Iraq?
5. What happened after President Obama took U.S. soldiers out of Iraq?
6. What has happened to ISIS since President Trump began his presidency?
7. What did the Taliban do from May through August, 2021?
8. How did President Biden respond?
9. How many Americans and its Afghani allies were left behind once the American military evacuated Afghanistan?
10. Bonus Question Requiring Research: What is the Pineapple Express in Afghanistan?
On January 3, 2020, American forces killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a drone strike in Iraq. Along with Soleimani, Americans killed nine other Iranian military personnel in Iraq. Soleimani was Iran’s number one military leader in the area. In response to this, Iran launched 15 missiles aimed at American soldiers in Iraq. No American was killed, but the Pentagon reported that thirty-four Americans suffered nonimpact injuries. It is important to know the history of the area and the relations between the United States of America and Iran to understand what the current event means.
In 1921, A Persian officer, Reza Khan, orchestrated a coup of Iran, overthrew a dynasty, and took the title of Shah (king) of Iran in 1925. Reza Shah ruled until 1941, when Allied forces invaded Iran to guarantee Iranian oil would help the U.S.A., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union win World War II. The Allies replaced Reza Shah with his son, Mohammad-Reza Shah (simply known as the Shah of Iran). After World War II, the Iranian government moved against American and British interests. Iranians removed the Shah. In 1951, Iran nationalized the British-owned oil industry. Two years later, the United States and Great Britain organized a coup, overthrew the Iranian government, and placed the Shah back in power as king. Throughout his rule, the Shah of Iran instituted democratic reforms. In 1963, women gained the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This democratization of Iran upset the radical Islamic leaders of Iran. They believe that women should not have the right to vote and should be treated as second-class citizens.
The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic 1979 – 2016
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many in Iran were unhappy with the Shah of Iran and his supporters, the U.S.A. and Great Britain. The main leader of the revolution was the Islamic leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who believed that everyone requires guardianship by a leading Islamic leader. The Ayatollah was upset at the Shah’s western ties, believing the west to be evil and decadent. He did not approve that women should have the same rights as men. In 1979, massive protests throughout the country forced the Shah to leave. The Ayatollah took power, and a national vote made Iran an Islamic Republic. Iranians held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days from 1979 to 1981. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini died and the Ayatollah Khamenei replaced him as the “Supreme Leader.” Iran has a parliamentary system, but every governmental decision has to be approved and is directed by the religious leader the Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the U.S.A. is the “Great Satan,” the source of everything in the world that is evil, it officially hates Israel and seeks to destroy it, and it does not allow any freedom that goes against its strict interpretation of Islam. It publicly states its hatred for the United States and Israel, and, it openly supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, and anyone who opposes the Iranian view of the world. Ayatollah Khamenei uses every method of communication, including Twitter, to detail his plan for eliminating Israel. In Iran, women have much less rights than men, men can have four wives, and the government of Iran punishes those who do not follow the religious laws. For example, the punishment for homosexuality is execution and the punishment for adultery for women is execution.
Since Iran became a theocratic dictatorship, the United States has tried to isolate Iran and work with allies to confront the country. Still, Iran has been successful in sponsoring, arming, and cooperating with terrorists. For a complete list of their decades of murder and terror, simply conduct an internet search with the phrase “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism.”
The Obama Administration and the Iran Nuclear Deal
President Obama thought that the best way to change Iran was not to isolate Iran but to remove all sanctions against the country and to look the other way if Iran sponsored terror. President Obama believed that Iran would eventually join other nations if it were treated as if it were a peaceful country. During the Obama administration, American cooperation with Iran continued even though Iran kept funding and coordinating terrorist acts against Americans and its allies. In the fall of 2015, the Obama administration orchestrated what is called the Iran Nuclear Deal between the U.S.A., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and Germany.
The Agreement between the Six Countries and Iran
President Trump ran for office decrying the Iran Nuclear Deal as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” He argued that the deal gave Iran money to sponsor more terror, did not hinder Iran from building nuclear weapons, endangered Americans and its allies, and allowed the failing Iranian dictatorship to withstand criticism at home. Iran had indeed continued to sponsor terror, and the U.S. could not get Iran to change its ways. In May of 2018, the United States of America officially withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. In 2019, Iran announced it had exceeded the limits to its stockpile of low enriched uranium and began enriching uranium to a higher concentration. It also, essentially, withdrew from the deal.
Qasem Soleimani and Attacks on Americans
Since 1998, Iranian General Qasem Soleimani had been actively involve in planning, directing, and implementing the killing of Americans and its allies in Iraq, as well as actively supporting terrorist organizations in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He was commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was responsible for killing 608 American soldiers during the Iraq War, as well as injuring over 1,000 Americans. He abetted genocide in Syria in support of Bashar Assad, and he aided the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon with military hardware and training that went into use attacking innocent Israelis. Soleimani was Iran’s number one military commander operating in foreign countries. In late December, 2019, Soleimani-backed Iranian militias killed an American contractor and wounded American soldiers in Iraq. Also in December, Soleimani-supported terrorists attacked the American embassy in Iraq. At the time of his killing in Iraq, Soleimani was actively planning to kill more Americans and its allies in the region.
On January 3, 2020, American forces killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a drone strike in Iraq. Along with Soleimani, Americans killed nine other Iranian military personnel in Iraq. President Trump defended the attack by arguing that anybody who kills Americans will be met by force.
Political Unrest in Iran
In response to America’s attack against Soleimani, Iran launched missiles at American military sites in Iraq. At about the same time, the Iranians mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that had just taken off from the Baghdad Airport, killing all passengers on board. Most of the passengers were Iranian citizens. Initially claiming the jet crashed on its own, the Iranian military then admitted its error. In response, thousands of Iranians protested, demanding that the Ayatollah Khamenei step down from terror. The protesters were met with Iranian police action, including being fired upon, beaten, and arrested.
The Trump Policy Regarding Iran
President Trump has warned Iran that if any Americans are harmed due to an Iranian strike, the United States would respond militarily. He tweeted, ““Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites...some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” The 52 sites are supposed to refer to the 52 Americans held hostage in 1979-1980. It appears that the fifteen missiles Iran launched against the Americans did not meet President Trump’s criteria for military retaliation as the missiles did not directly hit Americans. Trump did announce that America would impose “powerful sanctions” against Iran until it changed its ways.
When President Trump became United States President in January 2016, ISIS (also known as the Islamic State and DAESH) controlled roughly 1/3 of Iraq and 1/3 of Syria. By the end of November, 2017, the U.S. and its allies had defeated ISIS. ISIS no longer controls any territory. While ISIS still exists as an Islamic terrorist organization, it is now unable to collect any taxes or terrorize entire towns. The defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is a monumental success in the war on terror and it has a stabilizing effect on peace throughout the world.
ISIS has its roots in the early 2000s, when many of its founding members were part of the al Qaeda organization, once led by Osama bin Laden. In 2013, Islamic terrorists reorganized into what they called “ISIS,” or, the Islamic State in Syria. The enemies of ISIS call them DAESH, which is an acronym for ISIS but also a derogatory term in Arabic. After President Obama pulled American troops out of Iraq, ISIS took over large areas of Iraq and Syria. Initially calling ISIS the “J.V.” of terrorist groups, President Obama was forced to send back American soldiers into Iraq to take back the land American soldiers had previously won.
The Classical Historian had reported the devastation ISIS had caused, not only in the Middle East but in the world. In “Syrian Refugee Crisis,” we reported that of the over 1,000,000 refugees fleeing Syria, many were in fact Islamic terrorists pretending to be refugees. In November, 2015, ISIS killed 130 people and wounded 413 in Paris, France. It was the worst attack in France since World War II. In December of 2015, two members of ISIS, an American-born Syed Farook and his Pakistani wife murdered 14 and wounded 21 in the barbarous attack on Americans in San Bernardino, California at a holiday party. On New Year’s Eve, 2015, in Cologne, Germany, over 600 German women were assaulted by Muslim immigrants from Syria. It is unknown if any of the immigrants were ISIS. In March, 2016, ISIS killed over 30 and wounded up to 230 in coordinated attacks in Brussels Belgium. Of course, there have been countless other terrorist attacks and it is impossible to list them all.
When President Trump campaigned for the Presidency, he promised that he would wage war against Muslim terrorists differently than President Obama had. Trump declared that his administration would clearly state that the terrorists were Islamic fundamentalists, and that naming clearly who the enemy was would help in the fight. President Obama’s administration refused to state that ISIS was an Islamic fundamentalist organization. Trump also stated that he would change the rules American soldiers fought under, so that they could more easily attack and defeat the terrorists. Rules of engaging the enemy has been changed, according to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, though because these rules are classified, it is impossible to know exactly how they were changed.
Though ISIS remains a threat to the Middle East and to the world, their threat has been greatly diminished by the policies of the Trump administration. ISIS no longer holds any territory, is unable to terrorize large communities, and collect taxes. ISIS and other radical Muslim terrorist groups exist, but they appear to be a much lesser threat than just a few years ago.
By John De Gree
Fidel Castro, Cuba and the United States of America
On November 25th, 2016, one of the world’s brutal dictators, Fidel Castro, died. Fidel Castro led Cuba as its Communist dictator since 1959. During his 57-year rule, Castro was responsible for the murder, torture, and imprisonment of tens of thousands. Castro’s regime did not allow basic civil rights in Cuba such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. In addition, Castro did not allow Cubans to travel outside of the island and ordered his navy to kill those trying to leave by boat. Under Castro, the Cuban navy sank ships and used fire hoses to drown Cubans in the Caribbean Sea trying to escape island by boat.
Cuba, 1492 – 1895
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, and Spain quickly colonized much of North and South America. For the next four hundred years, Spain ruled Cuba. As Spanish colonies in the New World revolted in the early 1800s and countries such as Mexico gained independence, Cuba remained loyal. In the mid to late 1800s, Cubans wanted independence from Spain and fought for many years. In the Ten Years’ War (1868-78) Cubans struggled to break away, but Spain kept control of the island.
The United States of America and Cuba, 1895-1959
During the Second War for Independence (1895-98) the United States entered the war on the side of the Cubans, fighting what Americans call the Spanish-American War. The United States defeated Spain, and at the Treaty of Paris it was decided that Spain would surrender Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The Americans gave Cuba its independence in 1901, but the U.S. insisted on the right to have a permanent naval base on Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), and claimed the right to militarily intervene in Cuban affairs should there be unrest. Over the next 60 years, the U.S.A. militarily intervened in Cuba on numerous occasions.
Cubans suffered under military dictatorships, and at times, the United States supported Cuban leaders who were undemocratic. Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) seized power militarily in 1933, was elected Cuban President in 1940, and he made himself rich through his connections as the Cuban President. In 1944, he left office and lived in Florida. While Batista was in Florida, Cuba became unstable and corruption was rampant. The American government supported Batista’s return to power in 1952, and for the next seven years he led Cuba as dictator. Batista did not tolerate anyone going against him, controlled the media, and arrested, tortured and executed those who he believed were Communists. It is not known how many he killed, and the number historians give ranges from 1,000 to 20,000 Cubans.
Cuba, 1959 – Present Day
In 1959, Communist Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro overthrew Batista. The Castro government nationalized (took over) all foreign owned businesses, and eventually took over all businesses owned by Cubans, as well. Communists believe that only the government should own property, and they do not trust businesspeople. Communists are also against religion, and anyone wanting to pray to God in Cuba is punished. In the first few years of the Castro regime, the Cuban government terrorized those who did not obey. Tens of thousands of Cubans were tortured and executed because they did not want to follow the Castro regime. Che Guevara, Castro’s chief enforcer, in response to questions about Castro's firing squads, said, "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
For the next few years, the U.S.A. tried to get Cuba back into its sphere of influence, but failed. In 1961, President Kennedy approved of a plan to support a group of Cubans to invade Cuba and conquer Castro. Called “The Bay of Pigs Invasion”, it failed miserably. In 1962, America realized that the Soviet Union was building a network of nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. After a U.S. naval blockade, the Soviet weapons were withdrawn, and the U.S. promised to never invade Cuba, again. From 1962 on, Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union, America’s enemy throughout most of the second half of the 1900s. The Soviet Union gave Cuba money, food, and a great amount of support.
Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union
In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and could no longer give Cuba subsidies. As a result, Cubans suffer greatly from a lack of food and basic necessities. After 50 years of Communist rule, Cuba has become a poor country run by a government that only cares about itself. The Castro brothers are much older now, but they remain rich, as the average Cuban suffers. Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and some have been executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught faces grave danger.
President Obama has changed the United States policy towards Cuba from starving the Castro government to recognizing it as legitimate. President Obama thinks that increased American tourism and business will open up Cuba. Other Americans, like Senator Marco Rubio, argue that doing business with Cuba means helping the Castros stay in power. All foreign money spent in Cuba goes straight to the Communist leaders, so more American business means a richer Communist regime.
The death of Fidel Castro has been met with diverse reactions from leaders in North America.
President Obama wrote, "Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him," in a White House statement.
President-Elect Donald Trump wrote, "The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation."
It is unclear if the death of Fidel Castro will have a great impact on the lives of Cubans. His brother, 85 year old Raul Castro, is currently the Communist leader of Cuba, and he has so far followed his brother Fidel’s model of repressive leadership.
Interesting Questions You Can Discuss With Your Students and Kids:
40th Anniversary of the Death of Mao Zedong
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Mao Zedong. Mao lived from 1893-1976 and is the founder of the People’s Republic of China. From the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 until Mao’s death in 1976, he ruled as the country’s autocrat, or dictator. Mao established communism in China, and is responsible for the murder of 48 – 78 million Chinese. Historians think that Mao is the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world, in terms of number of people killed. As China is the most populous country on Earth, and as Communists are against the ideals of the United States of America, it is important to understand the history of Mao.
Mao grew up in one of the wealthiest families in rural China, was an avid reader, and was interested in politics. When Mao was a young man, Chinese rebels fought the emperor and attempted to change the government of China. China had been ruled by an emperor for centuries, and the rebels wanted to establish a republic. Mao joined the rebel army as a soldier. The leader of the rebels was SunYat-sen. Sun Yat-sen established the Republic of China in 1912. Unfortunately, the Republic of China had many problems and didn’t resemble the United States Republic.
Mao Zedong spent the next few years studying philosophers and history and forming his political philosophy. Mao thought he was smarter than others, and that because of this he believed he didn’t have to follow a moral code. He thought that if his actions produced what he thought was good, it didn’t matter if his actions were bad. His father didn’t respect Mao’s intellectual pursuits and stopped paying for Mao’s schooling.
After graduation, Mao moved to Beijing to work and continue studying under a professor he respected and became active in politics. Mao worked in the university library, and increasingly became interested in the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marx and Engels had written about communism. According to Communists, everyone should have the same amount of money, receive everything they need, and everyone should serve the state over their family. Communists hated religion, because religious people love God over the state. In 1917, the Communist Party took over in Russia, and Mao started to imagine the same thing happening in China. The Communists in Russia believed that they could do anything they wanted, even murder people, in order to get what they wanted. Russian Communists outlawed religion and murdered tens of millions of people.
Mao Zedong became the leader of the Communist Party of China until his death in 1976. From the 1920s until about 1949, the Communists fought various groups in China for control. On October 1, 1949, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China. Throughout this time, Mao attempted to force China to become the country he imagined. The Communist Chinese outlawed religion, private property, freedom of speech, the right to vote, and other liberties. In order to change China into what he wanted, Mao was involved in the murder of 48 million to 78 million Chinese. We are not exactly sure of the number he killed because of problems involved in record-keeping.
During the Korean War (1950-1953), the Communist North Korea fought the free South Korea, a republic. The United States of America supported the South and China supported the North. At times, Americans were fighting Chinese in Korea. Mao Zedong attempted to establish Communism throughout Korea. In 1953, the war ended with North Korea remaining Communist, and South Korea remaining a free republic. Today, American soldiers still guard South Korea from invasion by North Korea.
Today, over 1.357 billion people are Chinese, and China is still officially a Communist country. In 2016, Chinese enjoy more liberties than when Mao ruled. There are also not the mass murders that existed under Mao. Still, the Communist Party in China has control over all elements of life, Chinese do not get to vote for their leaders, and they are not able to speak or write against the government. Next month marks the 40th year anniversary of the death of one of the most influential persons of the 20th century.
Great Discussion Questions to Ask Your Kids
On March 22, 2016, Islamic terrorists from the organization Islamic State (also known as DAESH) killed over 30 and wounded up to 230 in coordinated attacks in Brussels, Belgium, at the international airport and a subway station. Shortly after the attacks, Islamic State’s news agency claimed responsibility. Belgian authorities think suicide bombers attacked the airport at 8 a.m. and a third suicide bomber hit a subway station at 9 a.m. Authorities are looking into the possibility of attackers who are on the run.
Days before this attack, Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects in the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris, had been captured in Brussels. Authorities believe that fighters in Abdeslam’s terrorist cell believed they were going to be caught soon, and this is why they may have attacked.
A terrorist cell is a group of terrorists who plan attacks together. Each cell member knows each other and protects each other at all times. It is also possible that the terrorist cell members’ families hide and protect the terrorists from the authorities. What is common in a cell is that only one or two of the cell members have information regarding the wider terrorist organization. A terrorist cell is organized this way so that if one or two of the cell members are captured, it is possible the authorities can not discover information about the larger terrorist organization.
World leaders of the west denounced the attacks. French President Francois Hollande was quick to denounce the attackers and signal that this was not just an attack against Belgium, but against all of Europe. Hollande stated, “Terrorism has struck Belgium, but it was Europe that was targeted and everyone is affected.” President Barack Obama, in Cuba, stated, “This is yet another reminder that the world must unite” to counter terrorist groups.
The Paris terrorist attacks in 2015 placed Brussels as a center of Islamic radicalism in Europe. In November 2015, Islamic State terrorists attacked in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds. The attacks were carried out by Belgian nationals and planned in Belgium. Since those attacks, Belgian authorities have arrested over a dozen suspects.
Brussels, Belgium is an important city in international affairs and is a center for western political organizations. It is the home of the European Union (EU). The European Union is the economic union of European countries. Brussels is also the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO is the military alliance of Western Europe, Turkey, the United States and Canada. After World War II, the United States of America led the effort to form NATO and it provides the majority of NATO’s budget and military might.
Navy Seal Earns Medal of Honor
On Monday, February 29th, 2016, Navy SEAL Edward Byers received the Medal of Honor award. President Obama awarded Mr. Byers the highest honor a U.S. soldier can receive for his role in rescuing an American civilian held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The United States has been fighting the terrorist organization called the Taliban since 2001.
Medal of Honor
The United States Medal of Honor is the highest military honor an American can earn. It is awarded for acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. The Medal of Honor award was created during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Congress determines who wins the award, and the President gives the award in the name of Congress. There have been 3,513 Medals of Honor awarded to the country’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. Nearly half of them were awarded to Civil War combatants. Fourteen men have received two Medals of Honor for two separate actions.
In 1963, Congress required that all Medal of Honor recipients had “distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” And, the following three circumstances must be met:
Navy SEAL Edward Byers
Navy SEAL Edward Byers helped rescue American hostage Dilip Joseph, a doctor, husband and father of four, from the Taliban, who held him hostage in Afghanistan. Byers was part of Navy SEAL Team Six that entered the room where Joseph was held. The first SEAL entered the room and was shot and killed by a terrorist with an AK-47. Byers then entered the room, engaged a guard in a firefight and tackled and subdued another guard. After Joseph identified himself as American, Byers leaped across the room and flung himself on top of Joseph, protecting Joseph from the bullets with his own body. While protecting Joseph, Byers fought another terrorist and pinned him up against the wall. Byers is one of 11 living recipients of the Medal of Honor from the war in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015, two Islamic terrorists attacked unarmed Americans at a County Regional Center for the disabled in San Bernardino, California. Fourteen were killed and 21 wounded. The two attackers, U.S.-born Syed Farook and Pakistani national Tashfeed Malik, were married and had a six month old baby. Before the attack, Malik had pledged allegiance to Islamic State and Farook had shared his pro-Islamic State sympathies with his father. This was the largest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11/2001.
Syed Farook was an employee at the Regional Center he attacked and therefore knew the layout of the complex and his victims well. On the morning of the attack, Farook was at a training session that was followed by a holiday party and lunch. At 10:30, he left the party. At 10:59, Farook returned to the party with Malik. Both wore non-armored black tactical outfits, ski masks, and were armed with semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles, and pipe bombs. Within the next three to four minutes, the attackers shot and killed 14 and wounded 21. They left an explosive in the room and drove off in their black SUV. The explosive did not detonate.
Within minutes, police and medical professionals responded to the emergency. Because of the quick response, many of those injured were saved. Over the next three to four hours, police searched for the couple who perpetrated the act. Somebody reported a suspicious black SUV parked outside a home in Redlands. During the police response, the couple drove away, back to San Bernardino. Police chased them, engaged the couple in a gunfight, and killed Syed Farook and Tafsheen Malik.
Syed Farook was born and raised in the United States of America, and it is believed his wife, Tafsheen Malik, was born and raised in Pakistan. Authorities think they met two years ago, through an online dating service. Syed Farook married Tafsheen Malik when he visited Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Both were Muslim, and both strongly favored the ideology of Islamic State. Islamic State has declared war against the United States of America and Israel and targets civilians.
Authorities are investigating if the attackers were directed by a foreign terrorist organization. On the morning of the attack, Malik pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Farook’s father has reported that his son spoke strongly in favor of Islamic State. The attackers destroyed or hid all digital history, such as their cell phones and hard drives to their computers, to make it difficult for authorities to find answers.
The couple lived in Redlands, California, with Farook’s mom and their 6 month-old baby. They were prepared for an assault that had perhaps many targets. In and around their vehicle were found over 1,400 rounds for their rifles, and over 200 rounds for their handguns. At their home were more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition and twelve pipe bombs. Farook’s mother claims she had no idea of the plan to attack nor of the large amounts of weapons found in the house she lived in. Farook’s family also states they knew nothing of the attack nor of the couple’s intention to kill others.
All of the victims were employees who worked at the Regional Center that was geared towards helping the disabled. Some had fled countries where their lives were in danger because of oppressive governments. Tin Nguyen, 31, had fled Vietnam when she was 8, attended Adams Elementary, McFadden Intermediate, and Santa Ana Valley in Santa Ana, California, and later earned her college degree from Cal State Fullerton. Tin was engaged to be married. Classmate Phi Luong said of Tin, “She just had that personality, you know, that goodness about her.” Nguyen had become the sole provider for her mother and older brother and had bought the home for her family. One victim, 45-year-old male Shannon Johnson, placed his body in between 27-year-old Denise Peraza and the attackers, saying to the young woman, “I got you.” Johnson was killed and Peraza survived.
The American Response
As reported earlier, the San Bernardino police responded immediately to the terrorist attack, and eventually killed the two assailants. The federal government, however, has made no immediate change in the American response to terror because of the San Bernardino attacks. Immediately after the attacks, President Obama issued a statement explaining that gun violence was too common in America and called for stricter gun laws. After the FBI confirmed that this was an act of terror, President Obama gave a speech to the country on Sunday, December 6th. During the speech, President Obama reviewed how the federal government was combatting terrorism, he chastised Congress for not creating stricter gun control laws, and he warned Americans not to act in a discriminatory way against Muslims.
Obama and the Nuclear Agreement with Iran
Recently, President Obama announced that the governments of the U.S.A., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and Germany have made an agreement with Iran regarding Iran’s development of nuclear bombs. According to President Obama, this agreement will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear bombs, it will bring Iran into the world community of decent countries, and it will help the Iranian people. According to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, this agreement will hasten (make quicker) Iran’s development of nuclear bombs, allow Iran to build its conventional weapons, strengthen the Iranian government that wants to annihilate Israel and kill Americans, and make the Middle East and the world a much more dangerous place.
A History of Iran and Israel, from Ancient Times to Present
It is too challenging to present the history of Iran and Israel, from ancient times to present, in one article. To let the past inform the present, please see these Classical Historian articles: Iran and Obama, and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict I, II, and III. Since its inception, modern Iran has been the world’s greatest state sponsor of terror, is actively planning and carrying out the killing of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has called for the destruction of Israel and America. Because of Iran’s activities, various countries have joined together to stop Iran by freezing Iranian assets, not selling weapons to Iran, and by doing everything possible to keep Iran from having a nuclear bomb. President Obama does not like this approach, and wants to be friendly with Iran, hoping that Iran will change its behavior.
The Agreement between the Six Countries and Iran
In the deal, there are a number of understandings between the six countries and Iran.
1. The six governments will lift all economic sanctions against Iran.
2. Iran promises to not build a nuclear bomb. If it is believed that it is breaking this promise, there is a 24 day waiting period before all seven governments of the deal can investigate and decide if inspections can be made in Iran. Iran retains the power to deny those inspections. After ten years, no inspections are allowed.
3. The deal is supposed to give the world at least one year’s notice that Iran is seeking a bomb. After ten years, no notice is needed.
4. $100 Billion of Iranian assets that have been frozen by governments around the world will be released to the Iranian government.
5. After five years, Iran will be allowed to purchase as many conventional weapons as it wants to. However, Russia has announced an arms sale to Iran that takes effect immediately. This means, that countries can now sell conventional weapons to Iran.
Arguments Against the Treaty
1. Iran can continue to fund terrorist organizations, and it can use the $100 billion to do so.
2. Iran can now buy conventional weapons that will be given to terrorist groups.
3. Iran did not have to agree to stop trying to kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has killed over 1500 Americans in these two countries.
4. Iran is holding four Americans hostage.
5. Dictator Assad of Syria, who President Obama threatened because Assad used chemical weapons, receives Iranian support. Assad loves the deal.
6. Iran calls America the “Great Satan” and believes the U.S.A. is the source of earthly evil.
What is a Treaty and What is Not a Treaty?
In the U.S. Constitution, the President is given the power to negotiate all treaties. A treaty is an agreement between two countries. For a treaty to have the force of law in the United States of America, 60 senators must approve the treaty. Many say that this deal between the six countries and Iran is a treaty, because of its great change from past American-Iranian relations. However, the Obama administration calls this deal a “non-binding agreement” with a “capacity for enforcement.” Because the President says it’s not a treaty, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution giving it 60 days to review the deal. If Congress rejects the deal, the President can veto their rejection. If this happens, Congress can override his veto, but Congress needs a 2/3 majority of both houses to do so. It is challenging to have 2/3 of Congress agree to something.
1. What does President Obama say the nuclear deal with Iran will do?
2. What does Prime Minister Netanyahu say the nuclear deal with Iran will do?
3. What does the U.S. get from this deal?
4. What does Iran get from this deal?
5. What is your opinion of the arrangement?
For a video teaching about the Iran Nuclear Deal, go HERE.
Ever since the Syrian Civil War began in March of 2011, Syrians have been trying to escape the Syrian military dictator Basher al-Assad, the Islamic terrorist organization ISIS forces fighting Assad, and various other military groups trying to take over Syria. According to the United States Agency for International Development, four million have fled the country, 12 million need humanitarian assistance, and over 7 million people are displaced within Syria. It is believed over 220,000 Syrians have died in the war. Germany has invited Syrians to immigrate, and partly because of this, hundreds of thousands of Syrians are risking their lives, walking across dangerous areas of Asia, overcrowding small boats to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and storming countries on the path to Germany.
Baher al-Assad has ruled Syria as president since July 2000. His father, Hafez al-Assad, ruled Syria from 1970-2000. Assad is a brutal dictator and does not allow any dissent among his people. Torture and murder are some of the tools of Assad. He also controls a large stockpile of chemical weapons. In March of 2011, Syrian rebels rose up against him. Initially, the Obama administration supported the overthrow of Assad, although President Obama would not give or sell weapons to help the rebels. Issuing Assad a threat, President Obama warned Assad at a news conference in Stockholm on September 4, 2013,
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
The international community believed that this red line meant that if Assad were to use chemical weapons against the Syrian rebels, Obama would authorize use of United States forces to attack. Chemical weapons are dangerous because they kill everyone, not just soldiers. After it was proven that Assad did use chemical weapons, President Obama stated that he did not make a red line for Assad to cross, and he did not intend to use American weapons and forces against Assad. Since then, the Civil War has become worse, and Russian military has come to the aid of the dictator Assad.
There are various militaries fighting in Syria. One is the military force of Assad. Fighting against them is the Syrian rebels, who wish to oust Assad. Fighting against both of these is the Islamic terrorist organization ISIS. ISIS wants to create a country in the Middle East. After it became clear the U.S.A. was not going to get involved, Russian President Putin has sent military weapons and soldiers to support Assad. Putin has made Russia an authoritarian country, where journalists are not allowed to write or report anything against him.
1. What and who are Syrian refugees escaping from?
2. Where are many trying to emigrate?
3. What did everyone think President Obama meant when he talked about a red line?
4. Who is ISIS?
5. In your opinion, should the U.S.A. encourage Syrian refugees to come to America? Why or why not?
For Video Links to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, go HERE.
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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