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Brave New War 

A Textbook Case: Dubya to teach Iraqis a thing or two

According to the Washington Post, the US Agency for International Development is preparing to award an estimated $65 million in education-related contracts to "demilitarize" the Iraqi school system by revising textbooks that have taught a generation to be ready to die for Saddam Hussein. No word yet on what role school vouchers will play in the plan.While the intent of this program may be good, there are a couple of nagging details. First is the level of commitment that $65 million represents. In 1999-2000, for instance, North Carolina spent about $50 million on textbooks. Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools recently asked for an $838.5 million operating budget, although, to be fair, Iraqi schools don't have a complex choice plan to implement.

What's more worrisome is that the most candidly fundamentalist Christian and pathologically conservative administration in American history says it will install the principles of Jeffersonian liberty in a Middle Eastern country while it simultaneously seeks to throttle many of those same ideals at home.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced a proposal in recent days that would make the original Patriot Act a permanent part of our legal landscape. This would eliminate the need for federal agents seeking secret surveillance warrants to show that a suspect is affiliated with a foreign power or agent, like a terrorist group. And Attorney General John Ashcroft continues to push hard for the frightening Patriot Act II.

At the same time, US Education Secretary Ron Paige was quoted in the Baptist Press as saying, "All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith. . .In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school, where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values."

So what would Jefferson say about this? How about, "Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."

Prior to the start of the actual war, the US military dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets on Iraq in a psychological prelude to the fighting. Many of those leaflets were instruction for Iraqis on how to surrender.Comedian Colin Quinn suggested that we use the next leaflet sortie as an opportunity for the Iraqi people to rate the invasion force, such as "Would you say your country goes to war often, sometimes or never?"

Personally, I think they should include these questions: "To what level were you in shock and awe of your liberators?" and, as a hint that Iraq may not be the final stop on this Middle Eastern tour, "Would you recommend our incursion services to your oppressed, oil-rich neighbors?"

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