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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

[haw-info] Draft of HAW statement

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

For the past several weeks the Steering Committee has been discussing revising or updating our policy statement that people have been signing to join HAW. We adopted the current statement on September 21, 2003, and it reads:

As historians, teachers, and scholars, we oppose the expansion of United States empire and the doctrine of pre-emptive war that have led to the occupation of Iraq. We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history involved in the administration's conduct of a war that violates international law, intensifies attacks on civil liberties, and reaches toward domination of the Middle East and its resources. Believing that both the Iraqi people and the American people have the right to determine their own political and economic futures (with appropriate outside assistance), we call for the restoration of cherished freedoms in the United States and for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Several times since 2003 the Steering Committee has expressed opinions on issues that were outside the literal framework of the founding statement, but that appeared to many people to be related. The Steering Committee criticized US government support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, and for the invasion of Gaza earlier this winter. Last fall we adopted a set of "discussion points" on Afghanistan that called for the US to withdraw rather than to escalate.

More recently, there has been discussion of formalizing a broader scope for the organization, either through a more general statement by the Steering Committee or by a new statement of unity for HAW as an organization. A proposed document that could potentially serve either purpose is included in this message. We invite feedback on either or both of the following points:

-- The substance of the statement: Do you have concerns about the proposed text? Would you suggest revisions?

-- The purpose of the statement: If it were to be adopted after the process of feedback and revision, should it be simply as a statement of opinion by the Steering Committee (parallel to the earlier statements on Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan) or as a re-definition of HAW itself? (If we follow the latter course, it would be subject to approval in an e-mail ballot open to recipients of the HAW-Info messages.)

Please send any feedback to statement@historiansagainstwar.org. This statement is also posted on our blog, and those who so wish can discuss the proposal at

Jim O'Brien and Marc Becker, co-chairs
for the HAW Steering Committee

New Statement Proposal:

As historically-minded activists, scholars, students, and teachers, we stand opposed to wars of aggression, military occupations of foreign lands, and imperial efforts by the United States and other powerful nations to dominate the internal life of other countries.

In particular, we continue to demand a speedy end to US military involvement in Iraq, and we insist on the withdrawal, not the expansion, of US and NATO military forces in Afghanistan. We also call for a sharp reduction of US military bases overseas, and an end to US financial and military support of regimes that repress their people, or that occupy the territories of other peoples. We favor as well a drastic redirection of national resources away from military spending and towards urgently needed domestic programs.

We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history, the repeated violation of international law, and the attack on civil liberties domestically that accompanies the present U.S. foreign policy of war and militarism—a foreign policy that became especially belligerent in the aftermath of September 11.

We fear that the current, rapidly escalating crisis of global capitalism, which is creating suffering worldwide, will lead to escalating wars abroad and intensifying repression at home. We support solutions to this crisis that seek to enrich the lives and increase the power of working peoples globally, and protect their fundamental human rights. We are unalterably opposed to any attempts to solve the crisis at their expense.

We are aware that, in the words of the late historian William Appleman Williams, "empire as a way of life" has characterized the United States since its foundation and is not easily changed. However, we are mindful as well that the current conjunction of international and domestic crises offers an opportunity to alter longstanding destructive patterns. As historians, we believe that we can and must make a contribution to the broad, international movements for peace, democracy, and social justice. In pursuing our objectives, we look toward building and joining alliances with a wide variety of intellectual and activist groups that share our

Note: You are receiving this email because you signed a Historians Against the War statement (see http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/). If you no longer wish to receive these occasional messages about HAW's work, send an email to haw-info-request@stopthewars.org?subject=unsubscribe.
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Blogger Sarv said...

This is a fine statement. I find that I agree with everything. However, that I agree with it is not the point. The point is that we can begin to reach other folks than those who already agree. Progressives really need to stop preaching to the choir.

Soo, I would suggest dropping the William A. Williams quote. It really adds nothing and is not even characteristic of the brilliant work that he did.

Second, I think that war, itself, has become unthinkable. I am not a pacifist. Never have been. But the obscenity of four hundred children killed by the Israeli state in the name of preservation is something that needs to be illuminated. Iraqi children are being killed. Innocents are being slaughtered. Somehow we need to appeal to the hearts of our people. And they are heartful people.

I support you folks and applaud the role that you have played for the past several years.

5:03 PM  
Blogger John McDonald said...

I agree with Sarv about the Appleman quote and must emphasize that I do think the HAW statement is very good and will stand up well without a whole lot of work.

Regarding empire, of course the U.S. is not *anything* only. Many strands have developed side by side (as well as intertwined), some good, some very destructive to community and republic. (Didn't Tocqueville say something about us being the least militaristic people in the world?)

I would hope our "alliances" as proposed in the statement would be directed toward the historically blind corporate engine that keeps the wars going and that daily takes us closer to the point of no return in every area of life that has value.

The statement sounds like a HAW redefining statement.

7:56 PM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

The proposed HAW statement is a terrible mistake and should be rejected. For more, see here:


1:44 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Here is a copy of an email that was sent to the listserv:

It would be a disastrous strategic mistake for HAW to adopt the proposed new statement. The statement’s assertions on domestic policies will only weaken the anti-war movement by driving away anti-imperialist libertarians and conservatives who have been among the most committed opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whereas the original statement wisely avoided making domestic policy prescriptions, the proposed new statement calls for “a drastic reduction of national resources away from military spending and towards urgently needed domestic programs.” This is an attack on the politics of libertarians and conservatives who have campaigned tirelessly against the wars but who object to spending on both the warfare and the welfare state.

Similarly, the claim that “the current, rapidly escalating crisis of global capitalism, which is creating suffering worldwide, will lead to escalating wars abroad and intensifying repression at home,” is rejected by many anti-war libertarians and conservatives who believe that the source of the current crisis is too little, not too much, reliance on free-market “capitalism.” Several scholars sympathetic to HAW’s original statement, such as distinguished economic historian Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan, attribute the current global economic crisis to governmental actions such as deficit spending, bailouts, Federal Reserve inflationary credit expansion, various stimulus plans, and vast military spending.

Three years ago, there was another attempt to make similar changes to HAW’s statement of purpose. David Montgomery, a founder and leading member of the organization, eloquently gave cheer to those of us who favor the strategy of uniting all anti-war historians when he wrote the following: “I remain cautious, however, about taking organizational stands on some of the other issues mentioned as possible targets of HAW activity, especially the socio-economic impact of imperialism. From the outset HAW has encompassed historians with divergent political views, among them quite a number of conservative libertarians. We must try not only to keep our ranks diverse but united. We should welcome open discussion of such issues, but limit the extent to which we take organizational stands. There are, after all, other organizations that quite properly represent their particular analyses and viewpoints. HAW's aim should always be to involve as many historians as possible and to make them feel at home, without in any way prescribing or stifling particular analyses of US power or interpretations of what is now called 'globalization.'"

Montgomery’s words apply equally today. Let’s not weaken the antiwar cause by adopting positions on domestic and economic issues that will only alienate us from potential allies.

In solidarity against the empire,

David T. Beito
Department of History
University of Alabama

Thaddeus Russell

10:00 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

[note from marc: David has intentionally misrepresented this conversation. I did not remove his post, but moved it to where it belongs--here in this comment section. He, once again, posted this as a new post at the top of the blog instead of here in the comment section. Once again, I am moving it to where it belongs. As to their question, I disagree with them hijacking this blog to advance their libertarian agenda and to attack HAW rather than to keep the focus on anti-war work.]

As you many can see, our blog post protesting the proposed (that means not yet official) new statement for HAW was removed. Here is what happened. Earlier this evening Marc Becker wrote the following email: "Hi David & Thaddeus. I fail to understand why you posted this as a separate post rather than as a reply to our original post. Please delete it from the top of the blog & post it as a reply where it belongs."

In response, I replied "Marc: And you disagree with of our post because.....? We'd like to find out. These are serious issues which are of vital concern to the future of HAW. Let's have some dialogue.

Marc has yet to give us his opinion. Instead, his only response was to tale down our blog post and bury it in the comments section of his own post. If Marc has an opinion of the merits of our argument (does he?) then he should express it in his own post. For example, does Marc support the proposed resolution? Does he believe that HAW shoud abandon its united front strategy?

We are still waiting. Marc: this issue will not "go away." Let's have some constructive debate and dialogue.

11:27 PM  
Blogger DRA said...

Since our inception HAW has struggled with the problem of defining a mission and vision. The current statement was crafted following months of debate and discussion. We do not have a unanimous position about the content, value, uses and meaning of the text. Our decision to send the document to the list, ask for comments, and create a threaded discussion on the blog was and is designed to expand the conversation.

I looked through 300+ e-mails to find the source and context for the citation of David Montgomery’s perspective. While I could not find the precise words, I was able to situate the statement in the context of an earlier debate about engagement by HAW with academic freedom cases and issues. At the time, we decided to encourage individual engagement in such matters and limit use of our social voice.

In my view, the new statement does not preclude debate about the causes or the current crisis or consideration of diverse remedies (including libertarian or conservative) scholarship.

Given the changes that have taken place since the creation of HAW, the self limitation associated with the original text are, in my mind, create a contradiction that undermines our ability to accomplish the founding goals we shared. Expansion of our mission and vision will give us the freedom to engage - as an organization – with the critical historical issues war, peace and social justice.

I strongly support inclusion of the reference to “empire at home.” Since publication of Williams’ work, the scholarship on the interplay between “metropole” and “empire” in everyday life has fleshed out cultural dimensions of living with empire. It does not make sense to me – as a historian -to continue work in a partial (in both senses of the word) manner.

7:40 AM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...


We actually seem to agree more than disagree.

I am a big fan of William Appleman Williams. I was introduced to his work at the University of Wisconsin as a teaching assistant of one his students, Thomas McCormick. I agree that "empire" is indeed a way of life. I have no problem with that part of proposed new statement.

The problem starts when HAW as an organization, which represents both progressives and libertarian historians, tries to use the progressive view, and only the progressive view, as its "official" interpretation of empire.

For libertarians, empire as a way of life means big government, more intrusive regulation, bailouts, the expansion of the warfare/welfare state, debt, military spending, and undermining the free market. Progressives, on the other hand, might have a different view on some of these issues.

We primarily object to the statement because of those sections which make define the current crisis as caused by "capitalism" and and those sections that endorse more spending on domestic programs.

HAW members as individuals should be encouraged to advocate those and other positions on the blog, or the listserv. The problem arises when the organization itself takes an exclusionary official position that claims to speak for everyone including new members!

Let's suppose that the statement attributed the current global crisis to "global big governmen" and, instead of calling for domestic spending increases, called for overall spending cuts and tax cuts.

Wouldn't the progressives in HAW would be up in arms about that---and properly so?

10:13 AM  
Blogger Thaddeus Russell said...

Marc Becker, the master of this website, has revoked my right and David Beito's right to post on this blog. If you are a member of HAW and object to this, please email Marc Becker at marc@yachana.org.

Thaddeus Russell

10:48 AM  
Blogger DRA said...

I am not sure that David Beito has read or accepted the post Williams scholarship referenced in my earlier post.

For example, the essays presented in Hall and Rose's collection on the British Empire make it clear that consumerism (expanded beyond simplisitic analysis of markets, buying and selling to include cultural practices and rituals) and capitalisms are core componets of imperialism. The work is denotative and descriptive as much as it is connotative and prescriptive.

In sum, I doubt that we agree.

And I remain convinced that the new direction of our work and scholarship -- will benefit enormously from the new statement.

Critical historical understanding of capitalism and empire are a first step in harnessing our skill to chart a new and different future.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Thaddeus Russell said...

DRA, are you suggesting that anti-war and anti-imperialist historians who reject the claim "that "consumerism and capitalism are core components of imperialism" should not be welcomed into HAW? Whether or not you wish to exclude them, do you not acknowledge that the effect of the proposed new statement and your comments in support of it is precisely that?

12:01 PM  
Blogger Thaddeus Russell said...

I wrote an article for Salon arguing that consumerism has worked against U.S. imperialism in the Eastern Bloc and the Midde East: http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2006/08/31/beyonce/

Is it therefore inappropriate for me to belong to HAW?

12:08 PM  
Blogger John McDonald said...

My objection to the Williams statement is that it ignores the exponential expansion of corporate economic and cultural imperialism into our nation's life (not to mention global life) which provides the necessary ingredients of war without end. That exponential expansion denotes a distinct era from 1945 or so (crucial to distinguish), almost as if the cancer of capitalism had metastasized. The Williams quote distills it into a general statement on empire.

I agree with DRA that we don't want to work in a partial manner, but not including Williams' statement would not preclude working in a full manner.

That said, I'm bringing up something I think needs to be considered but don't have a big emotional stake in it. I could possibly be convinced...

12:38 PM  
Blogger DRA said...

I think discussion and debate about the periodization of empire as a way of life are helpful. There is need to discuss the long term and short run phases of development as well as think through the problem of conjuuncture. My preference would be for a "both and" rather than an "either or" framework -- hence the logic for looking into the pre 1945 development.

I have never suggested exclusion of any voices - or posts - and am perplexed by the suggestion that earlier statements have been interpreted as creating such boundaries and borders. I do support the decision to keep comments in the thread and keep us "on topic" as we struggle with shaping our future.

I do not read the proposed statement as anything more than a new framework for focusing HAW time and energies.

If someone "opts out" of HAW and decides not to engage in debate and discussion, I think it will be a result of self-censorship.

I also think HAW needs to draw scholars from around the world - especially useful in considering assessments of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Mark H. said...

I think the problems having to do with connecting the crisis to domestic issues as addressed by Beito and Russell are weighty and deserve debate and consideration.

The problem with representation as a voice of HAW is connected to that. If libertarians - or anarchists or progressives or any other branch of thought - within the anti-war community or among anti-war historians - are of significant numbers, then they need to get members on the steering committee. That would be the best way to assure they have a voice in HAW.

The issue of the blog and how it should be run is tangentally related, but I think we should discuss that issue separately.

3:09 AM  
Blogger DRA said...

I am searching for answers to several questions and issues raised on the blog.

The key passages in the statement are included - to frame the quesions.

"We fear that the current, rapidly-escalating crisis of global capitalism, which is creating suffering worldwide, will lead to escalating wars abroad and intensifying repression at home. We support solutions to this crisis that seek to enrich the lives and increase the power of working peoples globally, and protect their fundamental human rights. We are unalterably opposed to any attempts to solve the crisis at their expense."

Is the rapidly escalating crisis of global capitalism contested?
Is the increase in material and psychic suffering a myth?

Is the prevision of increasing and intensifying domestic repression off base?

(Are key provisions in the USAPatriot Act still in force and do they constitute a sustained threat to our ability to exercise fundamental rights? Does this mean that we are to focus on the “tip of the iceberg” and the politicians or consider the wider swath of repression associated with the elaboration of police powers?)

In what ways does the HAW statement diverge from Adam Smith’s critique of British Imperial policy or Edmund Burke’s parliamentary interventions regarding the British East Indies Company and the privilege enjoyed at Westminster at the beginning of the 19th Century?

The answers to these questions are important. They tell us if the new statement carves out inclusive ways to conduct research, offer analyses and interpretations and maintains the space for a range of scholarly endeavors as well as a variety of schools of history.

"However, we are mindful as well that the current conjunction of international and domestic crises, offers an opportunity to alter longstanding destructive patterns."

For me, the keyword in this sentence is conjunction. As with the earlier cite, does the term selected create the space for diverse and opposed views of causes and remedies?

Is there room for those who think that parasitic states (Hugh Trevor-Rope v. Eric Hobsbawm’s conflict during the 1960’s) are at the root of the current crisis (like the crisis of the 17th Century)?

10:47 AM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:44 PM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Vinay said...

The proposed new statement is, in my view, a distinct improvement over the previous one, and it should serve not merely as a statement of opinion of the Steering Committee but as something of a charter statement representing the views of HAW. I have read a number of the posts but some of the objections to the new statement appear to me to be misplaced. It has, for example, been argued by one of the bloggers that the focus of HAW should remain resolutely on opposing American ambitions overseas and the disastrous foreign policy of the US, and that the new statement, by adverting to various domestic policy matters, risks alienating those conservatives and libertarians who have been opposed to American aggrandizement in Iraq (and elsewhere). If the supposed unity of all anti-war forces can only be gained by suppressing positions that perforce demand our close attention if not allegiance, then of what use is this unity? I hope that HAW is not going to rest its hopes, in true American fashion, on the fiction of unity, the same kind of fiction that is drummed into everyone’s ears with talk of ‘bipartisanship’ or even in Obama’s plea that he unites rather than divides. It is perfectly appropriate if libertarians and conservatives are alienated so long as HAW is standing by, as it does in this statement, some sound political and ethical positions.

The present proposed statement is more daring than the statement that was adopted in 2003, and in particular I find commendable that its framers have embraced positions that, even among those opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seldom receive any attention. We should recall that, even for liberals, Afghanistan was the ‘good war’, and only an extraordinarily miniscule number of people at all opposed that war in the flush of anger and the desire for revenge in the wake of the bombings of 11 September 2001. (To call it 9/11 is to succumb to the received narrative . . .) The call for a “drastic redirection of national resources away from military spending” is necessary and should become a political and social imperative if the US is to be weaned from its habits of aggression. I also find salutary the unambiguous expression of opposition to attempts to solve the financial crisis of the US and of capitalism in general at the expense of countries in the global South or the poor in the US and the global North.

Having said this, I would suggest that the statement is lacking in one fundamental respect. We know what HAW opposes, but what is it that it supports? In the closing paragraph, the proposed new statement adverts to the desirability of supporting “broad, international movements for peace, democracy, and social justice.” I very much agree with this formulation, and few are those who do not want peace. And, yet, I am wary: as Tacitus wrote, ‘they make war and call it peace’. Most wars are waged in the name of peace, and American adventurism in Iraq was defended on the grounds that it was calculated to bring democracy to a people who had only known despotism. To be sure, we cannot abandon ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ to those who are wont to abuse these terms. Nevertheless, as teachers, scholars, students, and activists, should we not be dedicated to a pedagogy of nonviolence? HAW should actively support nonviolent resistance as well as a pedagogy that takes seriously the moral precepts and efficaciousness of nonviolence.

Vinay Lal
Department of History, UCLA

1:14 AM  

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