Is Chicago the New Baghdad?

Is Chicago the New Baghdad?Two Chicago politicians have called for the deployment of the Illinois National Guard on the streets of Chicago, following months of intense violence – 113 people have already been killed in Chicago this year. From

State Reps. John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford, both Chicago Democrats, made the proposal at a news conference Sunday, noting that 113 people have been killed in Chicago so far this year. Fritchey said U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan had suffered precisely the same number of deaths in the same time period.

“The unfortunate reality is that we have another war that is just as deadly taking place right in our backyard,” Fritchey said. “Is this a drastic call to action? Of course it is. But is it warranted when we are losing residents to gun violence at such an alarming rate? Without question.”

The two reps really played up the Iraq-Afghanistan theme. Here Ford lauds the National Guard’s work in Iraq:

“We know the U.S. troops have been winning the hearts and minds of in Iraq, they stabilized those communities, those communities are safe and that’s what we want right here in Illinois for the National Guard to come in and help stabilize the community with the Chicago police department,” Ford said.

This has come up in the Chicago area before – in 2008 then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich talked about it (on July 17, a child had been killed every day since June 26, which shocks me), and in 1995 Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh actually called out the guard to patrol the streets of Gary, Indiana.

And this time around, the calls seem to be coming from the street. A Chicago minister led a protest to bring in the guard last week (the link has a list of recent Chicago killings that is too long for me to include. For a very good blog devoted to Chicago murder, go here).

But, let’s be honest, this is a stunt (and, for better or worse, the governor and mayor seem to not take it seriously).

A good stunt.

It calls attention to the fact that we are pouring resources into Iraq and Afghanistan while American poverty and violence continue to fester.

It calls attention to the horrifying levels of Chicago violence. Even if most of the killings take place on 9 percent of the city’s blocks, that does not make it any less real, though it probably makes it much easier for the city elites to ignore it.

Hence the stunt.

I spent three months working – and living – at a homeless shelter on the Near West Side of Chicago, a neighborhood that had burned in 1968 and never been rebuilt. We were on the edge of a gang boundary, and one homeless man died outside one night after he got punched and his head hit a brick wall.

I went from there to war-torn Croatia, to a little town that had seen two rounds of battle, plus three years of tense violent standoff between Croat and Serb.

Chicago was worse.

More violent with more traumatized people.

Now, this was 15 years ago, and I thought things had gotten better.

But the lesson remains the same. Our national priorities are all screwed up.

Take care of Chicago first. Then Kabul and Baghdad.

How about we start with good health care, child care and schools just for the children?

Photo by DVIDSHU

Nathan Hegedus blogs about the changing nature of fatherhood and life on paternity leave in ”socialist” Sweden at Dispatches from Daddyland. He has lived for the past two years in Stockhol more


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