Dirty Wars

After watching the “Dirty Wars” I felt powerless, hopeless and helpless. It seemed like a regular American or not American person meant little or nothing for the big guys and for the war machine. It was too easy to kill the one. Sadly, the private interest became more important than public interest. What even worse there is no public interest anymore. Even though all the actions are always depicted as “public interest” in reality these actions are driven by private affairs only.


Much like during Clinton’s administration government proved its inability of working for the public interest. “Clinton’s plan,…, aimed to provide universal insurance coverage and slow the escalation of health-care costs without greatly increasing government spending….” The plan that every employer was required to provide health care insurance to his/her employees and “…individuals who could not afford insurance would receive subsidies and Medicare recipients would get prescription drug and long-term-care coverage.” (421) Even though the plan initially won a high public support, it was fiercely resisted by the interest groups – employers, insurance companies, drug companies, and doctors. After a year of fighting the plan died in Congress. This proves that private interest of the “big guys” controls the government. Government is unable to do much for a regular American.


Jeremy Scahill attempted to warn the public about the danger of private interest in the public sector in his book Blackwater. Describing the privatization of military forces he shows how little lives of regular Americans mean to the “big guys”, or rather – big corporations. In his book, Scahill explains the difference between public army forces and peaceful mercenaries of private organizations. He goes into an in depth description of how the two fought the war in Iraq (which turned out to be completely independent from each other with different goal and different actions). Mercenary combats of private corporations like Blackwater were widely hired for security purposes by the US government officials. Yet when some of the Blackwater’s mercenaries were killed in Iraq, government was not able or willing to help. To help neither to protect them nor to find out for their families what had really happened. Since war became very profitable, bloody business there is a lot at stake for private groups and there is no place for public interest anymore.

Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)

“Especially frightening to Soviet officials was Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a plan to develop a system to defend against ballistic missiles, which he announced in a nationally televised address two weeks after the “evil empire” speech.” (p. 393)


Not only the two empires were fighting each other on foreign countries’ territories, but also they were in constant rivalry developing arms. SDI was the escalation point in the Soviet-American relationship. Reagan was excited to create a system to defend against ballistic missiles (antiballistic missile defense system). Even though it was portrayed as a defense system, the Soviet Union saw SDI as a “prelude to an attack”.

In 1986, three years later, Mikhail Gorbachev and Reagan would try to negotiate an agreement on strategic nuclear arsenal, cutting their intermediate-range missiles in Europe; and would try to reach a consensus on a certain SDI restrictions. This proves that existence of SDI was essential for both countries. And the fact of trying to reach a negotiation would be a powerful sign of the Cold War coming to its end.

“Smooth” by Santana Feat. Rob Thomas

This song and its video clip is very interesting to me, because it represents the mix of cultures. The video depicts how different races can have fun and party together. The song sang by a German-born American rock star Rob Thomas accompanies by  latin rock band Santana. Music with a slow percussion beat of latin cha-cha accompanied by bass, electric guitar and powerful brasses. Brasses were popularized  by African-Americans during jazz era in America, which adds more complexity and culture to the song. As a result, whites, browns and blacks party together.

Another interesting fact that I want to point out is that in the lyrics a white American is attracted to a young latin woman and this attraction seems to be reciprocal toward the end of the song, which symbolizes the breakage of race barrier between men and women. Even though there always were cases of interracial relationship, depicting it in the video-clip and showing it on TV creates popularity and wide acceptance of it.

Harlan County, USA

In the documentary we watched in the class a lot of events and facts shocked me. For instance, an interview with one of the eldest coal miners who said that he went to work when he was 6 years old and he was made to work 18 hours a day.

The idea that a 6 year old child is going to work in a coal mine is terrible by itself, supplemented with the horrifying inhuman conditions and unreal long hours (18 hours) makes it unbelievable. I would go on strike too!

The rise of tension between the workers and the company executives creates feeling of a war. A war in the 20th century between citizens of the same color, the same country, the same state. People carrying baseball beats and guns not only because they are ready to fight, but also because it became very unsafe. A war where a woman carries a gun in her bra saying “You would be crazy not to carry a gun”.

The war, or fight rather, was for better working conditions, better wages, and fairer labor practices. During the time of the strike women demonstrated strong organizing and leadership skills, readiness to fight fearless along with their husbands for better life, for better future.

One of the other things that draw my attention in the documentary was the music created by people, the songs that were telling the stories and the songs that were sang during strikes like “We shall not be moved!” Singing this song while picketing on the road made the scene very powerful when the executive (one of their primary enemies) turned his car around and left. It felt like a victory, may be not a big one, but certainly a very important one.

American Prisons

“After a half century during which the incarceration rate had fluctuated only moderately in the mid-1970s it had begun to rise steeply.” (p. 339)

Freeman tells about the rising rate of violent offense and increase of crimes on the streets, many of which were directly born by the social conditions of the country. Civil Rights movement, even though improved many aspects of live of an ordinary African-American, still proved existing split of the society and segregation de facto. Which resulted in violent reaction from both groups – blacks and whites. Worsening economic conditions: rising rate of unemployment, rising inflation and taxes just added fuel to the fire. Some neighborhoods of America were hit especially hard (like South Bronx for an example). This all resulted in increased crime rates and drug usage.

In order to decrease crimes on the street Liberals tried to limit access to firearms, which resulted in federal gun control law in 1968. But they were not very successful in further legislating the gun control because of conservatives who were fighting against any gun control quoting the 2nd Amendment. While the effort to limit access to firearms failed, the problem of the crime on the streets stayed open. The solution was to increase arrests and lengthen prison sentences. The idea was to keep the dangerous people off the streets. That is why the rate of arrests increased. Combined with social split, segregation de facto, the American prisons were overloaded mostly with African-Americans.




New Ethnicity

“Starting in the late 1960s and accelerating in the 1970s, many descendants of European immigrants, particularly Italians, Jews, Poles, and other Eastern Europeans, began more strongly and openly identifying with their ethnic background, after decades when assimilation had been the largely unquestioned expectation. ” (p. 315)

Freeman argues that the Black Power that resulted in the Civil Rights movement inspired spark in ethnic revival. Ethnic festivals began to take place in many cities with emphasis on food and international cuisine. New York was very diverse already at that time and it became even more diverse today. The result of that ethnic spark was development of taste for international food. The restaurants with cuisines from countries like Japan, Thailand, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia and many others are easy to find anywhere in New York City today.

Freeman tells that the reason that spurred New Ethnicity was that whites started feeling increased competition in the work force and school combined with declining economy. So it was easier to navigate the social roads by belonging to some organized society.

The Cross-Bronx Expressway

“Once an unbroken continuum of cohesive, diverse communities, the trench was now the clearing for the Cross-Bronx Expressway, a modernist catastrophe of massive proportions. (p.10)”


Jeffrey Cheng describes the history and conditions of the place where hip-hop was born. The Bronx, once a decent area to live in, started changing with Moses’ project to build the Cross-Bronx Expressway. The path that would allow to travel from the suburbs of New Jersey to suburbs of Queens through the upper Manhattan in fifteen minutes. The residents were displaced and the residential apartments and developing businesses were destroyed. By the end of the project whites moved out to Westchester county or elsewhere and the South Bronx became the place for African-Americans and Puerto Ricans.

The apartment buildings in the South Bronx were managed by the “slumlords”, who made money on cutting off the heat and electricity and then later setting the whole buildings on fire in order to get the insurance money. This is how the Bronx became a slum-hood for the second-class citizens. The abandoned hood where the young generation tried to survive without access to education and without any possibility to get out of the way they lived. As Cheng puts it “The Black and brown youths formed gangs, first in self-defense, then sometimes for power, sometimes for kicks. (p. 12)” A lot of those gangs were formed from the local bands that played in clubhouses. Here the connection of gangs and music takes place.

Nixon’s visit to the USSR

“At their summit, Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), the first arms control measure that the United States agreed to since the start of the Cold War.”


First of all, the visit was very significant, because no other president (except for Roosevelt) had ever went to the communist USSR before. Since the United States had always feared and fought communism and communistic countries, the “goodwill” visit to one of those countries meant a change in politics. As Freeman said it didn’t mean that the White House became more tolerant to communism, but it did mean that method of fighting it had changed. Instead of confronting each other they decided to be “friends”. If during the Cold War the two countries competed with each other in many aspects like military, science, innovations, etc. So after the visit they actually agreed on not only Arms Limitation Treaty, but on other joint projects in science and trade. For instance, during that visit was created an agreement to import Coca-Cola and created a project to build the first Coca-Cola factory in the USSR, which was completed in 1974 in Novorossiysk. This was a big deal in the USSR.

The Tet Offensive

(p.242)“On January 31, 1968, during the Tet Lunar New Year holiday, communist guerillas, supplemented in some places by regular North Vietnamese army units, launched a massive offensive that included attacks on thirty-six provincial capitals and five of the six largest South Vietnamese cities.”


At the time Tet Offensive occurred American people have been fed up with the war. A lot of protesters on the street, a lot of arguing and disagreement were happening. If before the Tet the White House had been telling to American society that there was still a “light at the end of the tunnel” and that the victory was possible and close, so after the Tet it was clear that there was neither light nor any hope. The Tet became a turning point in the war mainly because of the media. The horrible events were captured on cameras and showed on TV’s of millions of people all over the world. On the one hand, this was embarrassing for the White House and its officials who tried to portray the war as if it was for the better and freer life for Vietnamese people. On the other hand, it was very clear that a peasant country like Vietnam humbled a military hegemony like The United States of America.