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Editorial: What you don’t get taught in school


On March 17, 2003, President George W. Bush came before Congress armed with a lie.

In his speech, the president declared Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and troops would be sent to the nation with the dual goal of removing these weapons and ending the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein.

This came after previous claims by the Bush administration that there was a “massive stockpile” of biological weapons in the country and that there was “no doubt” nuclear weapons were being housed by the regime.

The only problem is, according to then-CIA director George Tenet, there was no specific intelligence indicating that Iraq possessed those weapons.

Despite these dubiously made claims, a sizable chunk of the United States population rallied behind Bush. (It was a bit more common to believe what the president said 20 years ago.) 

And we were at war once again. 

A brief history lesson

Though we don’t want to bombard you with an extensive timeline of the war itself, there are a few more facts we have to go over.

We now know the U.S. committed multiple war crimes in Iraq, including the use of thousands of depleted uranium munitions and white phosphorous gas in civilian areas.

According to Dutch peace group Pax, depleted uranium is a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal that can cause extreme suffering and health complications and can contaminate the sites where bullets fall.

According to Amnesty International, white phosphorus is a poisonous gas that can cause “horrific injuries, burning deep into the muscle and bone.” 

Not to mention, there were brutal “enhanced interrogation tactics” (torture) that Iraqi prisoners endured in U.S.-run detention centers, many of whom were arrested under flimsy and false charges.

We will stop here out of the risk of becoming repetitive, but you get the picture.

The information gap 

Some of you reading this may be thinking, “How did I not know about this?” or “Why didn’t we learn about this in school?” That is exactly why we are writing this editorial.

Recent events in American history, especially those that paint our country in a negative light, are often left out of the common core classes that we take in middle and high school.

In our high school experience, U.S. history classes will spend a week or two at the end of the year covering 9/11 and its response, but these events are hardly covered in a neutral way. Plus, by this point, students are pretty checked out and ready to move on to summer break.

Our generation, like many ones before it, live in a time where recent events do not yet qualify as “history.” 

Many of the history books we base our curriculums on do not span to include this information, and writing new ones that do require a long process. Not to mention, replacing old textbooks with newer ones is expensive.

If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a rich school district, you may have had the luxury of seeing a color picture of Obama in the last chapter of your history book. For most Americans our age, though, not much was documented in their textbooks beyond Clinton.

We are too young to remember these events when they happened and too old to learn about them in school, so we are forced to educate ourselves on the matter.

This self-education is complicated because finding and reading reliable resources about these issues is both difficult and time consuming. 

Even we, a group of current-events-minded students with the incredible privilege of a Lehigh education, did not learn about these horrific events in our not-so-distant past until we researched them for this editorial.

That being said, the lack of public knowledge about the Iraq War does not give us an excuse to not educate ourselves on an issue that is still affecting the lives of countless individuals. If anything, its recency creates an even larger impetus to learn.

Right now in Congress, legislators are moving to repeal the authorizations that led to the invasion of Iraq, a symbolic gesture that shows disapproval of the atrocities committed therein.

While we are happy to see accountability on the part of Congress (though it is about 20 years too late), we also see this repeal as an opportunity to put the Iraq war back into the public eye and educate the window of Americans who need to learn about what happens when our military goes too far.

Because, as cliché as it is, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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