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Discussion Guide: Grades 9-12

Castro and Iraq

Based on the editorial Castro and Iraq, published in Le Monde (liberal), Paris, France, April 4, 2003 and reprinted in the June 2003 issue of World Press Review (Vol. 50, No. 6)

Ask students to read the article in class and then open a discussion using the following questions and activities:

1. This editorial criticizes the international press and Western governments for paying such close attention to the war in Iraq that they have neglected other conflicts and atrocities going on around the world at the same time. Do you think that the importance of war in Iraq justified the focused press coverage that it received around the world? Why or why not?

2. Why do you think so many people marched to protest a war against Iraq, but do not march to protest the atrocities of dictators and tyrants around the world—like those of Saddam Hussein against his people, or like Fidel Castro's imprisonment of people just because they oppose his government?

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3. Do you think that a person should be sent to prison because they oppose the government?

4. At what point do you think legitimate opposition or resistance to the government becomes treason, or even terrorism? Consider whether the following scenarios are legitimate expressions of dissent, or whether you think people who carry them out should be punished:

a) Your government implements a policy that you disagree with. You and your friends complain that you don't like what the government is doing as you're walking home from school.

b) Your government raises taxes by 10 percent and you, along with thousands of other people, take to the streets in a peaceful demonstration to protest the tax-hike.

c) Your government begins to round up all the people in the country who are of a particular race, or from a particular region of the world. Some of your friends are among those taken away. You are one of the many people who speak up in their schools, in their newspapers, or in their communities against what they see as a terrible example of discrimination.

d) For years, your government has been arresting and imprisoning people for no reason. No one knows where they are, or even if they are still alive, but there are rumors that they are being tortured and killed. You and your friends start a newspaper that lists the names of people who have disappeared and you send the list to international media and human rights organizations to try to bring attention to what is happening in your country.

e) A foreign government invades your country and takes over. Some of your friends and relatives are killed when they bomb your neighborhood. You join an underground militant resistance movement to try to force the occupying power to withdraw.

f) You believe that your government is corrupt, and you believe that your country would be better off ruled by someone else. You join the army and participate in an armed coup to overthrow your government.

g) You have in your possession highly classified state secrets. Because you believe that a neighboring power will eventually take over your country, and because you want them to give you a powerful position in the new administration, you share your state's secrets with the neighboring power.

5. Wars and human rights abuses are going on around the world every day. How do you think the media decide what should be covered and what should not?

6. Here is a list of some of the conflicts going on right now. Ask students to fill in a table, or create the table as a class, with "Conflicts I have heard of" as one heading and "Conflicts I haven't heard of" as the other heading. Ask students why they think a conflict might be under its particular heading. Are some wars or some people more important than others? What other factors might make one war get a lot of media attention, while another war gets very little?

Current World Conflicts

Côte d'Ivoire vs. rebels

Israel vs. Palestinian Authority, Al-Aqsa Intifada

Nepal vs. Maoist rebels

Colombia vs. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC)

Sudan vs. Sudanese People's Liberation Army

Afghanistan: Kabul government vs. Taliban and regional warlords

India vs. Pakistan and Kashmiri separatist groups

Philippines vs. Abu Sayyaf

Burundi: Hutu vs. Tutsi

China vs. Uighur East Turkestan Independence Movement

Democratic Republic of Congo and allies vs. Rwanda, Uganda, and indigenous rebels

Russia vs. Chechnya

United States and allies vs. "terrorists with global reach"

 
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