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total length: 26:31

Clip 1 (length 5:54)
Meeting the U.N. arms investigators in Sierra Leone

Clip 2 (length 6:33)
Liberia's arms-smuggling connection

Clip 3 (length 7:16)
How arms were smuggled from Ukraine into Liberia

Clip 4 (length 6:48)
The United Nations and arms smuggling

Image from the storyFrom Arms Race to Arms Sales

Target Grade Levels:
Grades 7-12

Cold War, Arms Sales, U.S. Influence Abroad, International Law

• The Activity
• Relevant National Standards
• Cross-Curricular Activities
• Ties to Literature

The Activity

Illustrate an important way in which the Cold War influenced international politics by having students create a sequence chain (such as the one here)
that traces how the buildup of arms in the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic eventually led to illegal arms sales and the arming of rebels in war-torn African countries like Sierra Leone. Have studentst break up into groups of 3-4 students each. To help students get started, have the groups read the interview
with State Department analyst Tom Ofcansky. Next, watch a segment from "Sierra Leone: Gunrunners"
for additional information on the trail of illegal weapons sales in West Africa. Ask students to compare their sequence chains with what they see in the video and to fill in any links that might be missing.

Set up the clip by showing students where the Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the city of Milan, Italy, are on a map. Also explain that the man in the dark suit is a U.N. expert in illegal arms trafficking who was investigating a rebel uprising in Sierra Leone during which thousands of innocent civilians were killed. The rebels were using illegal weapons. He was having trouble coming up with any leads to the source of the weapons when he got a break from an unexpected source.

At about 6 minutes into the story
In: "An Italian journalist called me ..."
Out: "... a top aide to the president of Liberia, Charles Taylor."
Length of clip: 6 minutes

Wrap up the video segment by explaining that by arming the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone, the president of Liberia could extend his control over the region's diamond and timber riches. Ask students who else benefits from illegal gun trafficking and who loses.

Next, have students go back into their groups and consult their completed sequence chains to propose what should be done to resolve the problem of illegal arms sales. What does Ofcansky think should be done to address this issue? Do students have additional ideas?

And finally, have each group present their proposed strategies to the full class. Ask what might happen if the problem of illegal arms sales is not addressed. Does the United States have any responsibility for assisting a "failed state" like Sierra Leone? Why or why not?

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Relevant National Standards

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning), at

World History, Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability and peace in an interdependent world

Level III, Benchmark 4
Understands instances of political conflict and terrorism in modern society
Level III, Benchmark 5
Understands the definition of "fundamentalism" and the political objectives of militant religious movements in various countries of the world, as well as the social and economic factors that contribute to the growth of these movements
World History, Standard 45: Understands major global trends since World War II
Level III, Benchmark 2
Understands the origins and decline of the Cold War and its significance as a 20th-century event

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Cross-Curricular Activities
Consider building on the themes of the above activity by working with colleagues in other disciplines to conduct the following activities.

Write Lyrics for Songs with Social Themes (Music, English)

The Activity

Show students a segment from "North Korea: Suspicious Minds" in which a young girl sings a song that praises North Korea's "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.

At about 12:50 into the story
Song lyrics (translated): Sun, sun, if there's sun, it's the morning. Sun, sun, if there's sun, the birds fly. The Great Leader's picture is the sun, to whom I am grateful. I can't live without him. I am thankful to him.
Length of clip: 47 seconds
Discuss the message of the song and the purpose of teaching such a song to young children in North Korea. What would the lyrics be in a similar type of song written for children in the United States? Have students, working in teams, write sample lyrics then share them with the class.


Visit the "North Korea: Suspicious Mind" Web resources for a synopsis of the story, related links and facts, and more.

A transcript of the story is also available:

Relevant National Standards

Music, Standard 7: Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

Language Arts, Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level IV, Benchmark 4
Understands writing techniques used to influence the reader and accomplish an author's purpose

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Write a Job Description for the Position of "Government Minder" (English)

The Activity

Several journalists reporting for FRONTLINE/World were assigned "minders," or official government representatives, whose job it was to show these reporters specific details about the country while limiting access to unfavorable information. You can read about some journalists' experiences with such government minders in the interviews with reporters Nguyen Qui Duc in Vietnam,
Ben Anderson in North Korea
and Sam Kiley in Iraq.
Ask students to write a job description for the position of government minder based on what they learn from the reporters. Be sure students include the background and qualifications that are required and a summary of the job's responsibilities. Then discuss how things would be different if the position of minder disappeared.


The full stories reported by Nguyen Qui Duc, Ben Anderson, and Sam Kiley are all available on the Web on the streaming video page:

Transcripts of each story are also available:

"Vietnam: Looking for Home"
"North Korea: Suspicious Minds"
"Iraq: Truth and Lies in Baghdad"

Visit the Web resources for each story for related links, facts, and features:

"Vietnam: Looking for Home"
"North Korea: Suspicious Minds"
"Iraq Truth and Lies in Baghdad"

Relevant National Standards

Language Arts, Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

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