On Friday, August 28th, three Americans on vacation, an American living in France, a Frenchman, and a Briton stopped Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani from attacking 554 passengers as they travelled from Amsterdam to Paris. El-Khazzani was equipped with multiple weapons full of ammunition and appeared ready to commit mass murder. French President Francois Hollande awarded the three Americans – Airman First Class Spencer Stone, 23; Alek Scarlatos, 22, a specialist in the Oregon National Guard; and their friend Anthony Sadler, 23 - and the Briton with the Legion of Honor, the highest award given by the country of France. The heroes were praised throughout France and Europe for stopping an attack that was believed to be motivated by Islamic terrorism. “Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration,” Mr. Hollande added. “Faced with the evil of terrorism, there is a good, that of humanity. You are the incarnation of that.”
Without the quick thinking and acting of the American tourists, the Moroccan would most likely have killed and wounded scores of people. El-Khazzani emerged from the restroom on the train shirtless, with an AK-47 and other weapons. A Frenchman tackled the attacker, who shot his gun. Upon hearing the gunshot, Spencer Stone awoke his sleeping friends. The three Americans ran towards the gunman, took him to the ground, and with the help of the Briton, tied up the attacker. Stone then went to the injured man the attacker had shot in the neck, put his fingers into the bullet wounds, stopped the bleeding, and stayed there until the train arrived at the next stop and emergency professionals could take over treatment.
Speaking of the three Americans, U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley said, "When most of us would run away, Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire, saying 'Let's go.' Those words changed the fate of many."
American hero Anthony Sadler was asked if he had any advice to give someone in a similar situation.
"Do something," he said. "Hiding, or sitting back, is not going to accomplish anything. And the gunman would've been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. So I just want that lesson to be learned going forward, in times of, like, terror like that, please do something. Don't just stand by and watch."
1. What happened on a train from Amsterdam to Paris?
2. Who was the attacker?
3. Why is it believed he wanted to harm people?
4. Who were the three Americans honored by French President Hollande?
5. Do you think it was just coincidence that it was three Americans who saved everybody on the train, or are Americans more able to perform acts of heroism than others?
August 6th, 2015, marks the 70th anniversary of the world’s first use of the atomic bomb. On August 6th, 1945, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, the U.S.A. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Within 6 days, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito unconditionally surrendered to America because of “a new and most cruel bomb.” Since the dropping of these two bombs, debates have occurred over whether America was justified in its actions. Was it moral or immoral to drop atomic bombs on civilian populations? Was the entire country of Japan at war against the U.S.A. or was it just the military? How many American and Japanese deaths would have happened had America invaded Japan?
In the early years of the war, American scientists, along with German scientists who had defected from Nazi Germany, approached the American government and demanded that the U.S.A. start an atomic weapons project. These scientists knew that Germany was developing an atomic bomb, and they were afraid to have Hitler discover the weapon before Germany could be defeated. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed with the scientists, and approved of what would be called The Manhattan Project. The U.S.A. worked together with the United Kingdom and Canada to develop the atomic bomb. During the development of the weapon, Soviet spies secretly gathered intelligence over the progress of The Manhattan Project.
On May 8th, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered to allied forces, and the war in Europe was over. However, the war in Asia continued. Though Allied forces, led by the U.S.A., were winning the war against Japan by taking back islands in the Pacific, Americans were wary of an invasion of mainland Japan. Some predicted the costs of an invasion to number at least 1,000,000 American lives, and many more Japanese casualties.
During World War II, Japan operated under a medieval warrior’s mindset. Under this philosophy, honor to one’s family and country superseded all other values, including life. For example, at the Battle of Iwo Jima, of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers, only 216 were taken prisoner. Some who were taken prisoner had been knocked unconscious or were disabled. To the Japanese, a soldier who surrendered was considered less than human. Thus, when Americans surrendered to Japanese forces, they were brutally tortured. And, when Japan conquered other nations, Japanese systematically committed war atrocities. An invasion of Japan would mean an entire Japanese population fighting to the death against an Allied army led by America.
Before the U.S.A. dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, it dropped over 5 million leaflets on Japanese cities. This leaflet read:
“Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend. In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods. We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes. So, in accordance with America’s humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives. America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war. We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.”
After America bombed Hiroshima, it dropped these leaflets:
America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.
We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland. If you still have any doubt, make inquiry as to what happened to Hiroshima when just one atomic bomb fell on that city.
Before using this bomb to destroy every resource of the military by which they are prolonging this useless war, we ask that you now petition the Emperor to end the war. Our president has outlined for you the thirteen consequences of an honorable surrender. We urge that you accept these consequences and begin the work of building a new, better and peace-loving Japan.
You should take steps now to cease military resistance. Otherwise, we shall resolutely employ this bomb and all our other superior weapons to promptly and forcefully end the war.”
Six days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, Emperor Hirohito unconditionally surrendered. Following World War II, the U.S.A. helped Japanese write a new Constitution, modeled after the U.S. Constitution. Japanese renounced its medieval warrior’s philosophy, and to see what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, please take a look at the attached images:
Click Here for a Five-Minute Video on this topic.
1. Who was the U.S.A. at war against in World War II?
2. Which country did America first defeat?
3. Who convinced the U.S.A. to start The Manhattan Project?
4. What are some of the questions Americans debate and discuss regarding the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan?
5. What is your opinion about the U.S.A. dropping the atomic bombs on Japan?
The way in which leaders remember the past is how they tell us their vision of the future. This is evident in how Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Barack Obama celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany. May 8th, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, or “V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day.” For Putin, V-E Day was used to enforce his vision that his country is one of strength and greatness. Putin showed his own people and the world that his nation will rise to meet any challenge with military force. For Obama, V-E Day was used to enforce his idea that the U.S.A. was grateful to be a part of a group of countries that were victorious. Obama showed Americans and the world that the U.S.A. will play a shrinking role in world events.
On May 8th, 1945, the United States of America, and countries around the world, celebrated the official end of World War II in Europe. Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered its armed forces to the Allies of World War II (United States of America, Great Britain, and The Soviet Union). World War II is the deadliest conflict in history, involved nearly 80% of the world’s population, and over 55,000,000 people were killed. The United States of America led the Allied forces fighting in Western and Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the Soviet Union conquered Germany from the East. Without America’s sacrifice and leadership, no historian has ever argued that Nazi Germany would have been defeated.
Last week in Russia, President Vladimir Putin led the celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe in Victory Day Parades throughout the country. The parade in Moscow featured over 16,000 Russian soldiers, tanks, missiles, and impressive military hardware. It was the largest military parade in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Throughout Russia, there were over 20 such parades, featuring over 80,000 soldiers and impressive weaponry.
In the United States, President Obama marked the day in comments he gave to the Air Force football team. Also, National Security Advisor Susan Rice “conveyed the gratitude of the U.S. nation to the Allied countries” at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
President Putin sees his country as a leader in the world, wants to have people forget about the horrors of communism the Soviet Union inflicted on the globe during the 20th century, and is willing to use the Russian military to conquer its neighbors. In the past few years, Russia has invaded Ukraine, killed thousands, implemented martial law on conquered people, and imposed its will on Ukrainians. Russian airplanes continually invade airspace of its neighbors, and Russia is supporting the ruthless dictator Assad of Syria, as well as supporting the terrorist regime in Iran. Meanwhile, there is no freedom of speech in Russia, as dissenting journalists are murdered.
American President Obama sees his country as one of many, “leading from behind,” wants to have people forget the U.S. leadership in great conflicts such as World War II and the Cold War, and wants the Americans to retreat. In the past few years, America has withdrawn its forces in Iraq and allowed ISIS to invade and reconquer land held by American and Iraqi forces. Obama backed down from an American threat to use military force to punish Syrian dictator Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people (Assad is still using these weapons against Syrians). The U.S.A. has lost allies in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and the President has done nothing to regain American trust in those regions.
Celebrations of V-E Day are more than just honoring those who served their country. These events are calculated to show what each country values, and how each country views itself. Putin’s Russia is an aggressive country that is eager to use its military to exert influence in the world. Putin’s Russia wants to ignore or its communist past, silence its detractors, and expand. Obama’s America is a weakened country that is embarrassed of its past and eager to retreat. Obama’s America wants to deny its role in defeating communism and expanding liberty, silence those who honor the U.S., and radically transform itself. Which of these visions prevail may determine the direction of the world for the next half century.
1. What happened on May 8th, 1945?
2. How did President Putin of Russia celebrate it?
3. How did President Obama celebrate it?
4. How does the author of this editorial think this tells us of how Putin and Obama view their own country?
5. What is your opinion of how the U.S.A. and how Russia remembered this day?
On January 7, 2015, Muslim terrorists attacked journalists in a satirical magazine in France, murdering 12. The name of the magazine is Charlie Hebdo, and Muslim terrorists had targeted the newspaper in the past because journalists had printed cartoons that ridiculed Islam and Islamic terrorists. During the attack, the killers shouted out “Allahu Akbar” which means “God is great” in Arabic, and "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.” Al Qaeda in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack. On the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, another Muslim terrorist killed a policewoman in Paris, took over a Jewish deli, took hostages, and killed four. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the French government began a nation-wide search for the terrorists. Nearly every leader around the world joined France in condemning the attack, condemning Muslim terrorists.
Satire is the use of humor to make fun of someone, ideas, or beliefs, and is a protected form of speech in free countries like France and the United States of America. It is a kind of humor that is often used by political commentators to show how the other side is wrong, and has a long history in American politics. It was used by American founding father Benjamin Franklin to show how King George III and Great Britain were wrong. Charlie Chaplin used satire to show how dangerous the German chancellor Adolf Hitler was, right before Hitler caused World War II. Charlie Hebdo used satire to make fun of all religious groups, including Catholics, Jews, and Muslims, and to make fun of politics, especially in France.
Journalists of Charlie Hebdo have published cartoons ridiculing Islam and have been the target of Islamic terror for many years. In 2005, Charlie Hebdo republished Danish cartoons ridiculing Islam and Mohammed. In response to the cartoons, Muslims rioted throughout the world, killing 50. In 2011, Islamic terrorists firebombed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, after its journalists released a cartoon ridiculing Mohammed and Islam (It is against the rules of Islam to depict the image of Mohammed). In response to threats to his life, Charlie Hebdo editor, Stephane Charbonnier had stated, “I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees.” Mr. Charbonnier was one of the men killed by terrorists in the attack on the magazine.
In response to the attack, the French government mobilized over 90,000 soldiers and policemen and conducted a manhunt, aiming to hunt down the attackers. One of the three who is believed to have attacked the magazine is reported to have turned himself in, although it is still unclear if he was involved. The other two attackers took over a printing press north of Paris and were killed by French authorities. French stormed the deli, as well, killing the Muslim terrorist, but unfortunately, four more innocents were murdered.
Over this past weekend, January 9th through the 12th, world leaders joined millions of French to march in Paris and throughout France in the name of liberty and defiance against the Islamic terrorists. Leaders have proclaimed outrage against Islamic terrorism. Among the marchers were heads of state of France, German, Great Britain, Israel, Russia’s foreign minister, and leaders from at least 35 other countries. The Obama administration, however, did not send a high ranking official from the U.S.A. Instead, it sent the ambassador to France. The Obama administration has also not called the attackers Muslim terrorists. It is unclear why the U.S.A. stands alone in not naming the attackers Muslim terrorists.
Below is an image of a cartoon that enraged the Islamic terrorists. They were angry because in the religion of Islam, Muhammad should not be depicted in picture. Also, this cartoon pokes fun at the terrorists. In the cartoon, Muhammad is being executed by an Islamic terrorist. Muhammad says, “I am the Prophet, you fool!” The terrorist proclaims, “Shut up, you infidel!” What do you think the cartoonist is saying?
1. What is Charlie Hebdo?
2. What happened against journalists at Charlie Hebdo?
3. What happened at a Jewish deli in Paris?
4. What did world leaders do to condemn the Islamic terrorists?
5. What did President Obama not do that leaders from 40 other countries did in France?
Iran and the Obama Administration
Every spring, 8th grade students from the middle school I teach at, MacArthur Intermediate School in Santa Ana, California, take a field trip to The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. This amazing museum teaches the importance of tolerance, a history of World War II, and the Holocaust. Upon learning of the atrocities the Nazis committed against 6 million Jews and 5 million others, students always ask, “How could this have happened?” What they mean is, how did the hateful Nazis take over a country, publicly state their goals, successfully implement their murderous plan on the Jews and others, and, how could the world have stood by and let it happen? Unbelievably, the U.S.A. and the world today is letting a similar event occur, and the American administration is actually aiding the perpetrators in their actions. The silence of the media and many of our leaders is a source of great sadness and disbelief.
A Brief History
From Ancient Times to 1925
In ancient history, there was no country of Iran but Persia, an empire of great size and importance. Ancient Persia encompassed the area from Egypt in the west to India in the East, from the Caucuses in the north to the Persian Gulf in the South. Persia competed with ancient Greece and Rome for power and in the Medieval Ages was conquered by Muslims and became part of various Caliphates. A Caliphate is an Islamic government ruled by a caliph, a man in charge of both the political order and religion. In the 1200s, Mongols conquered Persia, but then Persians regained their land from the Mongols. From 1502-1925, the modern country of Iran was founded and ruled by two major dynasties (a dynasty is a family who rules). The Safavid and Qajar Dynasties decided Iran would follow Shia Islam. (In Islam, there are two major sects – Shia and Sunni).
A Persian officer, Reza Khan, orchestrated a coup (military takeover) of Iran in 1921 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). America and the British wanted to have Iran as a country against the Soviet Union, and they wanted to use Iran for its oil. After World War II, the Iranian government became more democratic and also moved against American and British interests. 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 made the Shah an autocrat (dictator).
The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic 1979 – Today
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 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. 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. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini died, and since then, the Ayatollah Khamenei has held the title of “Supreme Leader.”
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.
Iran has been incredibly successful in sponsoring, arming, and cooperating with terrorists. For a complete list of their decades of murder and terror, simply conduct a search with the phrase “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism.” Most recently, Iran is responsible for the death of over 1,500 Americans in Iraq, and it continues today to plan and carry out acts of terror against Americans. Iran’s goal is to destroy Israel and spread their Islamic Republic as far as possible. It sees America as an enemy.
Iran and the Obama Administration
In the past, American administrations have worked with allies to counter Iranian threats in the Middle East. Under the Obama administration, however, the U.S.A. is not working with its traditional ally Israel, but in fact it is aiding the Iranian Republic as it expands militarily. This American cooperation with Iran continues even though Iran is currently funding and coordinating terrorist acts against Americans and our allies.
In Iraq, Iran’s military is working with American air power to defeat ISIS. While American pilots bomb ISIS from above, Iranian soldiers take over the ground below that Americans used to hold. Americans do not know if the Obama administration has discussed what will happen in Iraq after ISIS is defeated. Will the Iranians stay?
Iran has been seeking for many years to develop nuclear weapons. As it would be the only Muslim country with this weapon, Iran seeks this power to exert its influence over the rest of the Middle East, Europe, and possibly to use this weapon to destroy Israel. Throughout the first months of 2015, leaders from the United States of America, Russia, China, Iran, Great Britain, France, and Germany have met to discuss a nuclear deal with leaders of Iran. The U.S.A. wants the deal to limit Iran’s ability to create a nuclear bomb, and Iran wants the deal to take away economic sanctions. (Sanctions are punishments that a country imposes. For example, no American company is allowed to do business with Iran.) Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanhayu has strongly objected to the talks, arguing that Iran should first cease all terrorist activities before the west grants Iran anything. Netanyahu’s thinking is, if Iran is killing Americans and Israelis now, how can we trust what they say during negotiations?
Iran and the Museum of Tolerance
When my students at MacArthur Intermediate asked me how could the Nazis take over a country and murder so many innocent people while the world stood by, I teach them about Iran today, as an example of how history is repeating itself. Iran seeks to destroy the Jewish nation of Israel, it sponsors terrorists that have killed over 1,500 Americans in the last few years, it calls America the “Great Satan,” and it is completely intolerant of anyone who does not fit their idea of what a good Muslim is. What is the American response to this? We are helping Iran expand militarily, allowing them to continue to support terror, and hoping that talking with them will bring good results. President Obama seeks to tolerate, understand and give into those who hate Americans and Israel, even at the cost of losing the lives of Americans and our allies. He fails to understand the universal rule of the bully. If you give him what he wants, he will only want more. If there is one thing the Museum of Tolerance teaches, it is that there can be no toleration for a country that foments hatred and intolerance. America cannot cooperate with and support Iran and at the same time defend ourselves and our allies from the deadly Iranian leaders.
1. What ancient empire does Iran trace itself to?
2. Who conquered the Persians in the 1200s?
3. Why did the United States and Great Britain sponsor a coup in Iran in 1953?
4. What happened in 1979 in Iran?
5. How does Iran view Israel and the United States?
6. Do you think President Obama is following the best policy with Iran?
7. If you were President, how would you deal with Iran?
In recent months, an organization called The Islamic State, (also referred to as ISIS or ISIL) has taken over a large area of Syria and Iraq. ISIS stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The organization is a jihadist movement, which means that it’s composed of Islamic extremists who believe that God, who they call Allah, wants them to kill people who don’t worship as they do. They also hold women to be inferior to men and strictly enforce repressive laws. The Islamic State wants to annihilate the United States because it represents freedom and wants a free Iraq. In the last month ISIS has murdered at least two American journalists by cutting off their heads and it says it will kill more Americans.
The Islamic State dates back about 15 years, during which the group bore different names and operated in states ranging from Jordan to Afghanistan and Iraq. In recent years, a power vacuum in Syria and Iraq has allowed The Islamic State to exert its influence. In Syria, various groups have been fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for control in a Civil War. Syria is weak. In Iraq, President Obama pulled out American soldiers, wrongly believing Iraq was strong enough to defend itself. And, after initially declaring the United States would fight Syria if it used chemical weapons, President Obama backed down and did nothing against Assad when he did use chemical weapons. This emboldened terrorist groups like The Islamic State to believe the United States was weak. The Islamic State has taken advantage of this lack of strength in the area, gaining control over large swaths of land.
The Islamic State, it is believed, has over 31 million fighters who come from all over the world, including from 1 to 2 million westerners. Leader of The Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was born in Iraq, and was held in captivity by the United States. He was released either in 2004, or in 2009. Al-Baghdadi has had stunning success in his brutality. When ISIS takes over an area, it gives the citizens one week to make a decision: Become Muslim and believe in the religion exactly as The Islamic State believes, pay a special tax until you die, move, or be killed. It is not known exactly how many people The Islamic State has murdered, but we do know that up to 1,000,000 have fled, and we have pictures of murdered children and men.
In a speech last week, President Obama announced “we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.” What this exactly means on the battlefield is still unclear, and it is unclear if the President thinks this a war or not. The President has said we will bomb The Islamic State, and we will work with other countries, however, he has said he will not put American soldiers on the ground.
1. What is The Islamic State?
2. What is The Islamic State doing in Iraq and Syria?
3. Read at least one newspaper article about this event, and answer the question: What should the United States of America do about The Islamic State? What is the best way to defeat it?
In September 2014, Current Event for Kids.com published an article titled “The Islamic State.” It gives a history of this terrorist organization and traces America’s actions towards it up to that time. The article this week deals with the name of the Muslim Terrorist organization, and the events of September 2014 through today, February 25, 2015.
What is in a Name?
In October 2014, French officials declared that they will refer to the Muslim terrorist organization that is attempting to establish a worldwide caliphate (kingdom) as Daesh. Daesh is the acronym of the organization’s full name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, and it also happens to be an insult when read aloud as one word. In Arabic, Daesh can mean “to trample down and crush” and “a bigot who imposes his view on others.” Members of D.A.E.S.H. have threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses the term. Daesh members want to be known as The Islamic State, which gives them credibility (importance) as a country that is Islamic, or ISIS (Islamic State in Syria), or ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant). The Levant is the name of an area in Southwest Asia.
The United States of America and Daesh
September 2014 to February 2015
In a speech in September 2014, President Obama announced that the United States of America “will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL, through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.” Since this time, the U.S.A. has used limited airstrikes to attack Daesh in Iraq and Syria. President Obama has declared that no U.S. ground troops will be used in the fight against ISIS.
In February, 2015, various journalists and politicians commented whether the U.S.A. was winning the war against ISIS. Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, reported that ISIS controls about the same area it did in September 2014, and that ISIS continues to successfully recruit terrorists. Bergen noted that while the Pentagon claims to be killing around 1,000 terrorists per month, it also admits that ISIS is recruiting about 1,000 terrorists per month. Vox, the liberal-leaning internet news source, reported that while ISIS is not retreating, it has stopped advancing. Journalist Zack Beauchamp noted that in order for ISIS to survive, it has to keep advancing or lose credibility.
Currently, ISIS controls an area larger than Switzerland with a population greater than 8,000,000. It is estimated that ISIS fighters number in the tens of thousands, possibly at 30,000. Recent reports show ISIS training children to become terrorist fighters, using similar tactics that Nazi Germany used in training youngsters to be part of Hitler Youth. Inhabitants under the yoke of ISIS, or Daesh, have no freedoms and face torture and murder if they do not follow a strict understanding of Islam.
In the months since September, 2014, ISIS has successfully tortured and murdered Westerners, Jews, Christians, and primarily, Muslims who ISIS believes do not follow the religion correctly. ISIS films when they torture and murder and uses these videos as recruiting tools. ISIS terrorists burned a Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. They also filmed their terrorists beheading twenty-one Egyptian Christians. In the last month, American aid volunteer Kayla Mueller was murdered. American intelligence say ISIS killed the twenty-six year old.
Even though President Obama vowed to destroy ISIS in September 2014, it appears he does not believe that ISIS is a dangerous threat to Americans. In February, President Obama hosted a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. At this summit American leaders did not mention radical Islam or Muslim terrorists or ISIS. The Wall Street Journal editorial board noted that at about the time of the summit, in the Iraqi town of Kirkuk, ISIS paraded 17 Kurdish soldiers in cages through the streets. Kirkuk is an important oil trading center that ISIS did not hold in September 2014. It is believed these 17 soldiers will face the same end as other soldiers ISIS has captured.
1. In September 2014, what did President Obama vow the U.S.A. would do against ISIS?
2. Is ISIS winning the war against the U.S.A. or is the U.S.A. winning?
3. Why does ISIS film when it tortures and kills its enemies?
4. Do President Obama’s words and actions show that he is serious in using American power to defeat ISIS?
In December 2014, President Obama announced that the United States is moving to normalize relations with Cuba, including having an American ambassador in Cuba and ending the American trade embargo. For 18 months, the Obama administration has been secretly negotiating with the Cuban government towards this end. Pope Francis assisted in the negotiations. Within a month following the announcement, the American government released three Cuban spies from prison and the Cuban government released a 65 year old American contractor, a Cuban who had spied for the U.S., and 53 Cuban political prisoners. While some Americans believe normalizing relations with Cuba is a good step, others think it will only strengthen the grip the Communist leadership, the Castros, have on the Cuban people.
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 suffer. Thousands of Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and many are executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught is killed by the police or government.
The United States policy towards Cuba has been aimed at starving the Castro government. The United States does not trade with Cuba, and there is a limit to how many Americans may travel to Cuba, and a limit on how much money can be sent to Cuba. However, President Obama wants to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. He 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. And, Rubio argues, by negotiating with the Castros, Obama has given them legitimacy and importance.
1. Who controlled Cuba, from 1492 to 1898?
2. Who fought over Cuba from 1895-1898?
3. Who was Batista?
4. What did Fidel Castro do?
5. What do you think America’s policy towards Cuba should be?
“But the one thing that I’m very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a belief — a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few,” Obama said in the statement. President Obama made these remarks as a reaction to the Islamic terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. However, while most Americans believe that freedom of speech should be a universal right, it is not. According to a recent article in the OC Register, 35% of the world is not free and 25% is partly free. Individuals in the world who enjoy freedom of speech are in the minority.
Freedom of the press is the right to print what you think is true and is enjoyed by only 15% of the world’s population. This right is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the First Amendment. However, the right to a free press is one that many world leaders do not allow their citizens to have. The right to a free press means that a journalist can report news that makes the leader look bad. In Russia, it is against the law to publish news that is not approved by the government, and journalists who oppose the government have been murdered. In China and Cuba, all news media is owned by the government.
One aspect of freedom of expression is the right to organize politically. In much of the world, citizens are not allowed to start political parties or support political parties that do not get governmental approval. In the year preceding the 2012 Presidential election, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) did not approve nearly 400 non-profit organizations that wanted to promote conservative ideas. Most think this helped President Obama win the election. In over 60 countries of the world, citizens are not allowed to start a political party and must vote for government-approved political organizations.
There are countries in which citizens find it dangerous, but not illegal, to practice freedom of expression. In France during the beginning of January, Muslim terrorists attacked journalists at a satirical magazine, killing 12. The journalists had offended Muslims by breaking an Islamic law against depicting images of Muhammad. Even though there is no law in France against this, the journalists were murdered. The American news corporation CNN and the New York Times, as well as other American news organizations, have censored themselves, as well, by not showing images that are offensive to Muslims. They claim they are doing this out of respect for religion. However, these organizations continue to show images that are offensive to Christians and Jews.
Most of the countries that are not free are located in Asia and Africa and are either predominantly Muslim or atheist. The world’s most heavily populated country, China, and the world’s largest country by territory, Russia, are not free. All of the countries on the Arabian peninsula, except one, are both Muslim and not free. The only free country in Arabia is the Jewish country of Israel. All of the world’s communist countries are not free, and only one, Cuba, is located in North America.
While it is easy for Americans to imagine that people all over the world live and think the same as we do, the facts are very different. Americans are part of a minority of people in the world who believe in and practice freedom of expression. The majority of the world’s leaders do not want their people to have freedom of expression, and, a great many citizens in countries also do not want to have this freedom. For example, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there have been widespread rallies throughout Asia supporting the Muslim terrorists. Opposite what President Obama declared recently, freedom of expression is not a universal belief and its practice is the exception to the rule.
1. What does President Obama believe is a universal belief, that is, a belief shared around the world?
2. About what percentage of the world enjoys freedom of the press?
3. What does it mean to organize politically?
4. What do most countries that are not free have in common?
5. Task: Find out what the first amendment states. Why do you think the American Founding Fathers included this in the Constitution?
In early December, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer system was hacked by a group that calls itself the “Guardians of Peace.” Hacking means when someone breaks into a computer’s files, steals private information, and in cases like this, releases the information to the public. The Sony hackers stole movies and large amounts of private emails and information. The Obama administration and the FBI strongly believe North Korea hacked Sony to punish it for planning to distribute the movie “The Interview.” The Interview is a fictional movie about two American journalists hired by the CIA to kill the North Korean leader. North Korea denies any involvement in the hacking.
North Korea and South Korea
The history of North Korea begins in the first half of the twentieth century. Since the early 1900s, Japan had occupied Korea. Once Japan surrendered to the Americans in 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States of America decided to initially divide Korea at the 38th parallel, with the Soviets controlling the north and the Americans controlling the south. Both sides promised free elections, however, just as in Europe, the Soviets handpicked their leader and declared a communist country, while the Americans allowed free elections in the South.
Both Koreas were proclaimed as independent countries in 1948. North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and South Korea is called the Republic of Korea. The Soviets placed Kim Il-Sung in charge of North Korea, and the citizens of South Korea voted their leader into office. The northern government moved quickly to control all industries, control all aspects of society, and to push for conquering the south. North Korea has a “totalitarian state.” This means that all elements of society are controlled by the government. South Korea is a republic, where citizens have political liberties and freedom.
The Korean War (1950-1953)
With the approval and support of the Communist leaders Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong of China, Kim Il-Sung of North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, hoping to reunify all of Korea under Communist rule. The Soviet Union aided the north with weapons and military advisors, while China sent soldiers. South Korea was aided by the United States and the United Nations. In 1953, both sides agreed to stop fighting and split the country in two at the 38th parallel. The United States still has soldiers in South Korea.
The Totalitarian State
Kim Il-Sung led North Korea until his death in 1994, establishing a society where the government completely controls everything. He created a Communist society where the state is everything for the people. No one in North Korea is allowed to speak against their leader, have an opinion against the government, or have a religion or believe in God. Punishment for holding an opinion not approved by the state can be torture, forced labor, imprisonment, and execution, not only for the accused but for the entire family and generations to come. North Koreans have no freedoms, including no right to travel within their own country, no right to say what they think, and no right to watch what they want on T.V. Watching a Western T.V. show could mean torture and death for your entire family. The Communist North Korean government has murdered millions of its own people. North Korea is the largest forced labor camp in the entire world.
After his death, Kim Il-Sung’s son and grandson continued the brutal regime. Son Kim Jong-il in 1994 took over, and then his son Kim Jong-Un took over in 2011 when his dad died. The three leaders continued to cultivate the cult of the personality. At every moment in a North Korean’s life, he has to obey the state, or suffer. North Korea has become an international outcast, friends only to groups and countries that sponsor terror.
Sony and The Interview
In 2014, Sony distributed “The Interview,” a comedy about the CIA hiring two dumb American journalists to kill the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. A few weeks before the movie’s release, Sony’s computer systems were hacked by a group that calls itself the “Guardians of Peace.” The hackers released movies and emails it stole from Sony, and they threatened that if Sony released “The Interview” great harm would come to American movie goers and to Sony. Initially, Sony declared they would not release the movie, but then it eventually did. The Obama administration believes the government of North Korea is responsible for hacking Sony’s files and is using economic and travel sanctions to punish North Korea.
1. What does the Obama administration believe North Korea did to Sony Picture’s Entertainment?
2. Who controlled Korea during World War II?
3. What happened in North Korea and South Korea from 1945-1949?
4. Who won the Korean War (1950-1953)?
5. What is a totalitarian country?
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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