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The schoolchildren of Baghdad are in dire need of basic school supplies!  The information below comes from Major Robert Bateman, the articulate U.S. military man whose letters appear frequently on Eric Alterman's blog Altercation.  He gave me permission to spread the word and so I am creating a diary in the hopes of engaging other Kossacks in this worthy project.  

Please read this plea below and join me in this project to help the innocent and suffering schoolchildren of Baghdad.  If you can't donate supplies, please recommend this diary so as many people as possible can see it.  And please feel free to send this plea out to other blogs and to your friends.

As for myself, this opportunity gives me a way, albeit small, to do something positive and empowering in response to this dreadful war.

Here is Major Bateman, in his own words, from the November 16 Altercation:

Major Bob Bateman
Dateline: Baghdad, Iraq

..........People often write to me and ask what they might send to support us here.  I generally redirect them, or decline.  We are well provisioned, and what we want (sleep, beer, sex), we cannot have anyway.  But now I do have a request.  A direct plea.  We need school supplies.  Well, we don't need them, some Iraqi kids do.

In the past some of us in this unit have taken supplies to various schools in the Baghdad area.  One very generous batch came from an Altercation reader as a matter of fact, some months ago.  But it has always been on a haphazard basis and generally only when we can fit it in as an adjunct to a mission we might be doing in the same area.  It has also been dependant upon what happened to come in from various unorganized donations from friends and family back home.  I want to change that.

There is a school nearby, three schools actually, and as with all elements of the Iraqi educational system, they could use help.  We think that the total enrollment is somewhere in the vicinity of one-thousand.  I want to flood this school with all of the pens, paper, notebooks, erasers, chalk, and any other school supply you can think of, as well as any toy you think that kids might want.  The ages range from 6-13, but we think that one of the buildings nearby is a high-school.  Optimally, if there is a benevolent somebody upstairs (FSM anyone?), some Altercation readers are in a position to establish a "sister-school" program as well.

If you are interested in helping you can write to Major Bob at .

I wrote to Major Bateman and received this reply, with instructions:

Great! If you want to send some school supplies, this is, generically, what
the kids need.  This list is not exhaustive (please, feel free to use your
imagination as well), but can be used as a starting point.

First, the basics:

Number 2 Pencils and pencil sharpeners
Pens (ball-point)
Tablets of Paper (spiral notebooks especially)
Folders and/or organizers
Scissors (safety)
Magic Markers
Construction Paper

Then, if you're feeling fancy or expansive:

* Bookbags (Iraqi kids have now seen American television. They see our kids
wearing bookbags.and want them too. Go figure.)

  • Coloring Books

  • Art kits (watercolor paints, etc)

  • Science projects (should be simple, although most science teachers can
read some English here)

  • Discarded (but working) computers.

  • Calculators

Guiding principals should be to keep it simple, and it should not be
something needing translation. Also, and this should be obvious, but nothing
with any religious overtones at all. If you really want to do it right, buy
some one-gallon bags and package the supplies in batches (so that each kid
can be given a bag with supplies all at once). That way we can walk into a
classroom and hand out 30 bags to 30 kids all at one pop. You know the deal,
if you're going to chew gum in the have to have enough for
everyone. We try to make sure (with their teachers) that everyone gets an
equal amount.

The person to send your donations to is:

SFC  L.  Wensink
Baghdad, Iraq
APO  AE  09316

SFC Wensink will be here for ten more months. Include a note with your
e-mail address so we can write back and thank you. Hopefully past that point
we can set up something more direct to sustain the support for these
schools. Feel free to cross post anywhere you think it might help.

Thanks, and regards from Baghdad,

           Bob Bateman

So, dear Kossacks, please jump in and help with this project.  I'm going to spend the Thanksgiving holiday planning and shopping for these kids as I give thanks for the safety of my own children and the comfort of my own little world.  Peace.

Originally posted to Radiowalla on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 08:59 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great Thought (none)

    9/11 + 4 Years = Katrina... Conservatism Kills.

    by NewDirection on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:00:35 AM PST

  •  Why does this annoy me? (none)
    Am I turning into a mean person?  What the heck is going on here?  I send a lot of money to a lot of causes but for some reason I cannot do this.  Where the hell are my tax dollars?  In Chicago, we have to send our kids to school with all this and toilet paper and paper towels.  I guess I'm living in another century when it's expected that the school district would pay for this.  Meanwhile our taxes go up, up and away.  

    The beneficiaries are likely to be...large corporations and development firms. (O'Connor, J. dissenting in Kelo). God bless you, J. O'Connor.

    by xanthe on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:03:49 AM PST

    •  btw (4.00)
      thanks to all our teachers here who routinely pay for this stuff our of their pockets SO THEY CAN TEACH.  

      The beneficiaries are likely to be...large corporations and development firms. (O'Connor, J. dissenting in Kelo). God bless you, J. O'Connor.

      by xanthe on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:04:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I get where you are coming from (none)
        It seems like we are trying to do diplomacy for BushCo's mistakes. Still, these kids are living in a complete PTSD zone (Present Traumatic Stress Disorder). Just imagine. No electricity. A war in your streets. Bombings, violence.

        I welcome this as an opportunity to give some love to these kids...

        •  Oh Joan, believe (none)
          me - I understand.  It seems meanspirited, I know.  But all these bandaids we are being asked to apply -- it just makes me mad because the real money is in the pockets of the corporations.  I guess I've got Kos fatigue.  The government does zilch and those struggling along are asked again and again to help out.  And we do.  And we should certainly.  It's so bloody awful and unfair.  I guess I can just see some people who approved of the invasion feeling real good about themselves cause they sent some  pencils to Iraq.  I guess I do have Kos fatigue.

          The beneficiaries are likely to be...large corporations and development firms. (O'Connor, J. dissenting in Kelo). God bless you, J. O'Connor.

          by xanthe on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:16:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I know (none)
            I'm really, really angry too. I seethe with it.
          •  i think if you're just struggling along (none)
            there is no obligation here. But someone who is doing financially well, and has some extra money, should think about pitching in, either here or through a number of organizations.  It would be nice it we didn't have a pet rock in the white house and we had adequate social programs, but we have to deal with the reality we've got.

            Remember, dKos is very diverse. Some folks make a little, and some folks make a lot.  Pitches like this are appropriate as there are still a lot of folks here who can comfortably help.

            What I like about this is that you put together the kit, mail it over, and it'll get to a kid. Overhead is covered by the us army. So it's a fairly "pure" way to donate without money getting wasted.  

            One word of advice, I've done this type of thing for foster kids here in the states (lots of opportunities this winter in your local community for that, too) and it's a good idea to give the kids good quality stuff but nothing too flashy. Less chance of it getting stolen.

    •  Re: Where the hell are my tax dollars? (none)
      They went to Halliburton for 'administrative overhead'.
    •  Feel The Same Way (none)
      Let Haliburton give these kids school supplies.  I'll be damned if on top of all the US tax money that's gone into this despicable enterprise I'm going to contribute to a BushCo. propaganda ploy.

      Let's just get the hell out of Iraq.  That's by far the best thing we can do for Iraqis of all ages.

      "L'enfer, c'est les autres." - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

      "L'enfer, c'est le GOP!" - JJB, from an idea by oratorio

      by JJB on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 10:19:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How about that ... (none)
    Sounds remarkably like the list of needs for every school in the US.  Perhaps charity should start closer to home ...

    There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right with America. -- Bill Clinton

    by ThirstyGator on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:05:08 AM PST

  •  An idea (none)
    My first thought is to email this to my family and ask if anyone wants to take their Christmas budget and do this this year instead of gift exchange. Give there are both ends of the political spectrum in our family, this might be a unifying project for us.

    But am I "Aunt Kiljoy"?

    Maybe just do this for the adults?

    Except the kids would get so much out of putting the packets together....

    Think, Joan, think.....

    •  Another idea (none)
      Rather than 100 percent of your budget, maybe 30 percent?  A bit fewer gifts under the tree but the satisfaction of knowing you've helped build a bridge to Iraqi kids.  I doubt they'll forget it.  And neither would your kids (or nephews/nieces/grandkids).

      "As god is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." - Arthur Carlson

      by Ernest T Bass on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:13:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Recommended (none)
    Thank you for this, Radiowalla!
  •  Donation fatigue is in the air (none)
    and I feel it, too!  I have a pile of year-end requests on my desk from organizations that do wonderful, essential work in my community.

    So why am I putting the tin cup out for this?  Why am I spending my own money on something that our government could and should be doing ...or wouldn't need to do if we hadn't rushed headlong into this war?

    Because it gives me a way to say that I care about the children of Iraq and that I wish that their lives were better.
    It helps me disassociate myself from our invasion and occupation and helps me to connect in a personal way to the human face of this calamity.  

    Obviously not everyone feels the same way.  However, please be assured that there was no intent to annoy anyone.  I am simply offering an opportunity that everyone is free to take or reject.  

    "Pro-life" really means "pro-criminalization"

    by Radiowalla on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:39:03 AM PST

  •  I'm sorry, (none)
    but this rubs me the wrong way, too.  I'm a public school teacher who spends hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket, unreimbursed, to buy supplies for students every year.  Last year we rationed copy paper; every teacher got one case to last the entire year.  We begged parents for two things:  boxes of tissues and copy paper.  I buy novels and plays on-line, used, with my own money so that I can teach certain things that the district doesn't own and can't afford to now buy.

    The computer I'm typing this on is so old, I can go down to check my mail in the office while a page is loading.  

    Just this year I bought a pencil sharpener for my own child's 3rd-grade classroom.   Imagine that:  a 3rd-grade classroom without a pencil sharpener.  

    I'm sorry.  I feel badly saying this to you, but, you know, the public schools in your area have no doubt sustained tremendous cuts in the past years under the Bush administration.  I suggest you do exactly what you're doing only do it for the children in your own community.  

    I can guarantee you there is a real need.

    Jesus + Fetus = SCOTUS (math by Jon Stewart)

    by lightiris on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:42:46 AM PST

    •  You should feel badly! (none)
      I DO donate to my local schools!  I donate directly to the classrooms and to the foundation that supports the schools!  You don't know me and you know nothing about my charitable giving.  And yet you feel free to criticize me and tell me where YOU think I should be directing my giving.  

      I wonder why you should feel at all "rubbed the wrong way" by this simple request for help for children.  You are completely free to ignore it as we all ignore the many pleas for donations from causes that don't move us.  I throw out more pleas for funds than ones I write checks for.   But I don't strike back at the person who dared make the request.

      I am not passing judgement on anyone who choses not to donate to Iraqi schools.  I was simply offering this information to anyone who might be moved to respond, as I was.

      Jeeze, had I realized that so many would get their shorts in a bunch, I would have never written this diary.  I started out feeling good about it and now I wish I had just gone to the gym this morning instead of writing this diary.

      "Pro-life" really means "pro-criminalization"

      by Radiowalla on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 10:03:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Few things can always be said to be good, (none)
        and it is always good to provide supplies to children for their education. Anywhere. Anytime.

        For those with frayed nerves,notice I said supplies for education, not for other sinister purposes.

        Thanks for posting the diary!

        Novus Ordo Seclorum. Since 1776.

        by Ignacio Magaloni on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 11:52:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I should feel badly? (none)
        You know, I'd tell you to go to hell if you had any sensitivity at all to what I was trying to get across to you, but you show none.  So I won't.  

        Jesus + Fetus = SCOTUS (math by Jon Stewart)

        by lightiris on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 01:44:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As a matter of fact, lightiris (none)
          I was thinking that it was you who lacked sensitivity when I wrote my response.  Then I went out to do some errands and was soothing my feelings with a Whopper when I realized that your response was coming from your experience as an underappreciated teacher, working in the front lines with inadequate support.  

          My plan was to come home and write an addendum, asking you to email me privately or to post the address of your school so I (and perhaps others) can send you some of the things you need for your classroom.

          Although you have told me to "go to hell," the offer still stands.

          I do believe that when one gives to a person or to a cause, it isn't with the intent of stinting or stiffing someone else.  I think we can support our own schools and still find room for concern for the school children of Baghdad.

          "Pro-life" really means "pro-criminalization"

          by Radiowalla on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 04:24:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is a matter of perspective (none)
            Let's face it here: the primary reason that schools in this country are facing he dire financial straits that they are facijng is because the same group which supported the Iraq invasion is four-square in favor of dismantling the public school system in this country.  We see it time and again, that conservative forces are at work to toake over local school boards in order to drastically reduce the funding that schools receive from the communities that they serve.  

            So, when it comes to this issue--and by this I mean no offense to you personally--I'm with lightiris: charity for schools begins at home.  If Iraqis are deserving of aid, let it come from those who supported this bloody war in the first place.  Let it come from those who would rather see it come from public school budgets.  

            -6.13, -5.90 The New York Times: All the news that's fixed to print

            by GOTV on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 05:52:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's way more complicated than that. (none)
              The schools in California have been going down the tubes since 1979 when the voters revolted and passed Proposition 13.  Iraq was nowhere on the radar screen then.

              Quite obviously the plight of the school children in Baghdad does not inspire most Kossacks.  So be it.   I'm content to accept the reprimands of those who were offended by my diary and move right along, supporting the causes that have meaning for me, and that includes the classrooms in my own community.

              "Pro-life" really means "pro-criminalization"

              by Radiowalla on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 07:13:41 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  A symptom of what is wrong (none)
    This is another symptom of what's been wrong all along in our Iraq policy.  It has been left to the US military to do development aid ad hoc, when it's not really their job.  If we were serious about making life better in Iraq, there would be non-military agencies like USAID doing this.

    Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on. --Winston Churchill

    by rmwarnick on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:43:32 AM PST

  •  no child left behind - iraqi style (none)
  •  I Agree (none)
    It is despicable that our own teachers have to buy supplies. It is despicable that with all of our money going to Iraq, Halliburton could set every Iraqi student with school supplies for years without a blip to their bottom line. But like Bertuzzi says it is what it is.  Again the common folk have to bail out the government.

    Maybe I am being shortsighted or naive but a bag of school supplies just might go a long way to showing a few Iragis that we are not the same as our government and we value their lives more than their oil. Nothing makes more angry, almost violently so, than the thought of the children who have been killed in this war.  The survivors deserve some small moments of happiness.


  •  Too much for me too (none)
    I think a better idea would be to start an email campaign to Halliburton.  They've raked in billions in Iraq.  They could buy school supplies for all the kids in Iraq and blast the TV with a ads about their good work.
  •  An Opportunity to Give Back (none)
    This idea feels to me like an opportunity to give back something to a community BushCo has done it's very best to destroy. It's a small way to make reparation, in a 1:1 personal sense. My daughter and I plan to work on it this weekend as part of her Thanksgiving visit home from college. BTW, she's about to graduate as an early childhood special education teacher. Helping kids anywhere is a good investment, IMO. Thank you for letting us know.

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