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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Some responses to the new HAW statement proposal...

Response to our new statement has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are the e-mail responses we have gotten from our members who have given up permission to make their remarks public. Other responses can also be seen as direct comments made at the blog posting of the statement itself (story below this one).

Since there is concern that criticism of the statement is not being given a fair viewing at this blog, a particularly critical contribution to the discussion is highlighted below in red. We encourage comments and discussion about the statement, both pro and con, in the comments section.

I think the new statement looks pretty good and should be adopted (after revision) as a new general statement of HAW's purpose. The old statement, with its heavy focus on Iraq, is becoming dated as the imperial action moves to Afghanistan, Gaza, etc.

I caught one grammatical error in the draft: in the 3rd par., "accompanies" should be "acompany," since you have a plural subject (secrecy, deception, distortion, etc.) for that verb.

Beyond that, you might prune the prose a little so that the statement is not an unbroken chain of multiclause sentences. But that's just a stylistic matter.

On a substantive note, might you want to include another sentence or phrase pointing toward "lessons of history?" The current draft statement is really just an anti-imperialist manifesto that doesn't reflect a distinctive "historically-minded" approach. I'm wondering if there are things that stand out in particular to historians. Perhaps a troubling parallel between Obama, who is now pushing a surge in Afghanistan to fend off charges of being "soft on terrorism," and his fellow Democrats JFK/LBJ, who did likewise in Vietnam to avoid being labelled "soft on communism?" Just a thought.

Thanks for your hard and good work on behalf of the membership.

Roberta Gold

I'm down with the statement. It's well put together. As always, better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.

Incidentally, I'm not on the updated signers' list but I'm happy to be.

Louis Segal


I like it. There's nothing I see wrong in or with it.

My thanks to all those who have worked on it.

Daniel White


Dear Friends,

Thank you for your enduring commitment to these issues. And for considering an updating of the statement.

I write as one who dates from long back in the struggle, as indeed to many other members of HAW. I appreciated your statement of basic values and specific positions. But if there are lessons to be learned from forty years ago, they would include two points. If we wish to be effective in bringing people in (rather than simply stating our postion) our statement needs to be succinct. And it needs to avoid polarizing language; we need allies, even at the expense of expressing intellectual purity.

With these points in mind, I've proposed some revisions, both to make this more concise and to serve as an arena that will attract, not alienate others. Below, I attach three texts: your original, my proposed revisions in track changes mode (so you can trace each proposed change), and a clear copy of the revision.

I realize this will disappoint some people who want to make points of their own, but it seems to me more important to write in such a way what can bring a range of diverse people along.


David Newbury


I love the new statement. Have been feeling so frustrated about the build-up in Afghanistan...wishing the president were better versed in history instead of constitutional law.

As for how the statement should be handled, I'm for whatever will get it out in pretty much the form it's in now. If the membership is less rad than the leadership things can sometimes be derailed when the membership is not unified.

One thing I hate about email is that I can't hear various arguments pro and con, and in isolation it's hard for me to think out the ramifications of a certain position. I like to come to my conclusions after listening to what others' concerns are.

Anyway, 'way to go!

Ann Jefferson

Just a quick note to say that I like the new HAW statement, which I think should be a re-definition of HAW itself. It seems to me much more of a general identity statement for the organization than a specific timely comment on Lebanon, Gaza, or Afghanistan. Thanks for your excellent work on this.


Scott Laderman

What HAW is doing and has done is of great importance. Neither the media, nor congress nor the "public" have the expertise at their disposal that HAW does. What is more they are not beholden to anyone and can address issues in as unbiased a way as is possible. You are indispensable if this nation is to deserve to long endure.

Bill Springer

"…or that occupy the territories of other peoples." Given the vast number of states that occupy territories claimed by other peoples this would appear to be a call for ending almost all financial and military support for other countries. That might be a good thing, but I don't think that it is what's really meant here. It seems to me that this is a mealymouthed way of sneaking a proposal to cut off aid for Israel into the document without openly calling for that and opening a potentially divisive debate on the topic. We should either open this to full and honest debate or we should drop this line from the statement.

Stan Nadel


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


Blogger David T. Beito said...

As the zeroes in the recent comments section indicate, few members apparently read this blog now. It seems that Marc Becker's decision to exclude us from posting new threads has failed to increase our readership! I doubt that more than a handful of HAW members even know about this debate.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Mark H. said...


The countless comments from our vast readership and the vigorous discussion we had on the blog until you were excluded suggest that your posts were attracting hundreds, indeed thousands of readers. I regret to report that the storm of interest generated by your writing threatened to crash the server.

2:19 AM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

When did I say "countless?" And we are accused of hyperbole! There were certainly more than now (as in the posts on Keynesian military spending).

Now, it is apparently just you and me chatting in our cozy telephone booth.....though I'll wager that the shy and retiring Marc Becker is lurking somewhere in the neighborhood.

8:57 AM  

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