Judy Garland singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ for US troops (1943)

Through one of the internet’s many rabbit holes, I came across this video from 1943 of Judy Garland singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ on the ‘Command Performance‘ program. She is introduced here by Bob Hope.

‘Over the Rainbow’ as a theme seems a universe away from ‘Courtesy of the Red White and Blue‘ so I dug a little further. ‘Over the Rainbow’ debuted in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. It came to be thought of as a symbol of the United States by US troops (Barnet, Nemerov, and Taylor, The Story Behind the Song). Their book makes it seem like it was the go-to anthem during World War II, much like Toby Keith’s song became popular in the years following the September 11th attacks. I haven’t been able to track down any more information on it, though.

‘Over the Rainbow’ would later be named the #1 song in a film of all time by the American Film Institute.


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ROTC Wants Rule by Force

ROTC Wants Rule by Force

The City College of New York recently announced that they had digitally archived all editions of the undergraduate student newspaper of record from 1907 to 1981. I’ve been poking around for a few minutes and I can waste a lot of time there.

When I was at City College I founded the veterans club, or rather, resurrected the veterans club. While looking for a name, I discovered through old issues of The Campus newspaper that a group that called itself the “City College Veterans Association” had existed for many years on campus. So I just started a club with that name. CCNY historically hosted a vibrant military/veteran community on campus that faded away with the elimination of ROTC during the Vietnam War. That culture I’m happy to say is being revived, slowly.

Anyway, here’s a little snippet from the front page of the April 1, 1947 issue of The Campus, proving that satirical news is an old, old idea.

This particular article reminds me of a flyer a veteran friend of mine made with me. It was a flyer announcing the veteran club on campus, and we wanted to add a line at the bottom assuaging people’s fears so we wrote:

CCVA is not a political organization. CCVA does not take a position on the wars and is only here to help improve the lives of veterans on campus.

As a joke, we made a flyer with an alternate disclaimer that read:

CCVA is a political organization. We take a militant position on the wars and we are here to militarize the campus. (or something to that effect)

Reading back on the real disclaimer, I’m struck by how apologetic in tone it seems. I remember at the time feeling that it was necessary to have it in there given the political climate on campus, even though that was probably an imagined climate. Most students were completely uninterested in the wars or what activities were happening on campus. It’s also interesting that we used the term “the wars” as if they were truly perpetual. Not the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Just ‘the wars.’

Anyway, you can access the entire archive here.

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ccva general flyer

Well, how was it?

Shock and Awe

I wrote a short piece for the Guardian as part of a “key bloggers look back on Iraq” idea. The prompt was “How did the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq affect you?” How has it changed your life?” I had 200-300 words to do it.

The question reminds me of people asking me “How was it?” upon hearing I had deployed, often in the most casual setting. Instantly, I have to come up with an elevator pitch summing up the totality of my experience. I don’t mind it, actually. I’d be curious to know, too. But what a strange question!

With only 200-300 words, I decided to try writing something a little more poetic for impact. I like that they anglicized it for a UK audience (color becomes colour, center becomes centre, etc.).

Iraq 10 years on – the key bloggers look back on the war

Ten years ago I invaded and occupied Iraq.

Whether I like it or not, it defines who I am. I cannot escape it.

It is the thrill of being on a road heading north as part of the grim machine, looking out at an endless convention of military hardware. Tanks, artillery, helicopters, trucks, gathered together under darkness for the end of the world.

It is the playing and replaying of scenes in my head forever. Things I could have done better and things I cannot believe I did. Glory and shame tangled together, unsolvable for eternity.

It is a row of bright ribbons I wear on my chest. Colours and stars, neatly arranged to tell a sterilized version of an awful story.

It is a heap of benefits for being there. Available and accessible with the right combination of patience, perseverance and connections.

It is the dark looks in the classroom from fellow students who were in grade school when I was in Baghdad. It is today’s lesson in hubris and failure to be dissected and discussed in an hour before grabbing lunch.

It is being called the hero and the villain simultaneously, and wondering.

It is the handshake at a party and a too-sincere ‘thank you’ from a patriotic citizen before moving on to more pressing concerns.

It is the forever-wondering of what could have been and what will be. For me, for my peers, and for Iraq.

It was the centre of the world, my world, until it was no longer interesting.

Above all, it is the terrible knowledge that Iraq is inescapable. Terrible, not because it is inescapable. Terrible because I like that I cannot get away.

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