Periodically I try to share with readers of this column new Web sites that I have found to be particularly informative and useful in understanding both past and current events. As an academic, I have the freedom and time to explore the Web looking for new sources of information.
Of course, whenever one views a new Web site, one must determine the extent of any hidden biases and any inaccuracies. Recently, I have come across two sites that I think are well-done and accurate and whose information is either unbiased or whose biases are openly revealed. They are, in my opinion, sites worth spending some time with.
The first site I have recently discovered is the "American Presidency Project" site maintained by the University of California, Santa Barbara. This site is designed to give scholars and the general public resources dealing with the history of the modern American presidency.
It provides three different searchable databases on the presidency. The first is a comprehensive digital collection of the messages and the papers of the presidents of the United States from George Washington to William Howard Taft.
The second database on this Web site contains all of the public papers of the American presidents from Herbert Hoover to George H.W. Bush. Among these, of course, are the public papers of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. For those interested in the Second World War and the development of post-war America, this database is a treasure trove, as is the third database. This last digital collection contains the weekly compilation of presidential papers from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush.
Together the three collections allow the reader to sit at home and browse through thousands of official papers of American presidents from 1789 to the present. In these three databases one can find such wonderful and important documents as the inaugural addresses of Washington, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, F.D.R.'s "fireside chats" and George W. Bush's speeches on the reasons for and prosecution of the current war in Iraq. These documents are accurate and provide viewers with the primary sources from which not only history books but also newspaper articles are written.
A second Web site I have found fascinating and informative is quite different but no less significant. Since March of this year, the U.S. military has provided video feeds of ongoing operations in Iraq to You Tube. Not surprisingly, these clips are selected and edited by the military.
On the Web site, the military states that the clips have been edited only for "security, time and offensive language," but, obviously, what is put on the Web is also carefully selected. Nevertheless, these videos provide an intimate portrait of our troops' lives abroad and the dangers to which they are exposed every day.
Among the video clips available for viewing are scenes of battles in Baghdad and Baqubah, troops searching a residence in Baghdad, and even a clip of Iraqi Boy Scouts getting ready for a jamboree. If the coverage of the Iraq war on television news leaves you wanting to see more of what is going on in Iraq today, this Web site will provide additional information, albeit through the filter of the U.S. military public affairs specialists who produce it.