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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Robert Higgs on the History of the American Warfare State

Few historians know more about the history of the American warfare state during the twentieth century than Robert Higgs. In this probing interview (audio here), Higgs gives his thoughts on the forgotten depression of the early 1920s, the Great Depression, World War II, the hubris of wartime leaders, past and present, and the current financial crisis.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is Obama Bush's Thrall?

That's the impression left by the latest Josh Brown cartoon which is prominently displayed on the HAW frontpage. Brown's cartoon portrays our new commander-in-chief as a weak and clueless victim of a siren song from Bush, Cheney, and Rice in his Afghanistan policy. Nothing could be further from the case.

Obama is going into this with both eyes open. He ran to the right of both Bush and McCain during the 2008 campaign and repeatedly called for sending in more U.S. troops and even recklessly supported cross border attacks into Pakistan, with or without the permission of that government. Unfortunately, on Afghanistan policy, Obama is just keeping his campaign promises.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Next Budget Increases Military Spending

That's right. We have a massive financial crisis that has forced most Americans to tighten their belts yet he can find room to ramp up spending for our world empire:

The Defense Department would see a $20.4 billion boost in 2010, a 4% increase from this year, slowing its growth from the Bush years but securing personnel increases for the Army and Marine Corps. Mr. Obama will request an additional $75.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of 2009 and another $130 billion for 2010, as he withdraws most combat troops from Iraq over 19 months but sends many of them to Afghanistan.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Security Without Empire Conference

The "Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference Against Foreign Military Bases" will be held at American University, February 27-March 2, 2009. This conference, featuring speakers from around the world such as Walden Bello, Wafula Okumu and Zia Mian, is attracting people from around the globe. It is an opportunity for HAW members in the DC area to network as well as develop HAW connections to the international movement for peace and social justice.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Body Count: 114

Reported U.S. military fatalities since January 20:
Iraq: 22
Afghanistan: 19

Reported civilian fatalities caused by U.S. forces since January 20:
Iraq: 12
Afghanistan: 61*

TOTAL: 114

*Includes 13 killed February 17.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Envoy to Iran Advocated "Military Strike"

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just announced the appointment of Dennis Ross as special envoy to Iran. Ross, who co-founded AIPAC, wrote much of Barack Obama's address to AIPAC last June, in which the candidate said that in its dealings with Iran the U.S. "should take no option, including military action, off the table." Three months after that speech, Ross co-authored a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which, according to Jim Lobe, the Washington Bureau Chief of the Inter Press Service, "amounts to a roadmap to war with Iran." Here is Lobe's summary and analysis of the report:

– A strategy of deterrence, if Iran became a “nuclear-capable” state, would not necessarily work because of the “Islamic Republic’s extremist ideology.”

— No agreement can be reached that would permit Iran to enrich uranium on its own territory under any circumstances, including even under the strictest international inspections regime.

— A “grand bargain” with Iran cannot be worked out in the time that remains before Iran builds a stockpile of 20 kgs of highly enriched uranium 6 kgs of plutonium which would make it technically “nuclear weapons-capable” and which thus must be unacceptable to the U.S.

— The U.S. should be willing to suspend all bilateral nuclear co-operation with Russia in order to pressure it to cooperate on Iran; that is, lending Washington full diplomatic support and refusing to provide additional assistance to Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs or to sell it advanced conventional-weapons systems.

— The U.S. should maintain a constant dialogue with Israel because “…(o)nly if Israeli policymakers believe that U.S. and European policymakers will ensure that the Islamic Republic does not gain nuclear weapons will the Israelis be unlikely to strike Iran independently.” In other words, unless the U.S. is prepared to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israel will likely do so without seeking a green light from Washington.

— If the next administration agrees to enter into direct talks with Iran without insisting on its suspension of enrichment, it must set a pre-determined deadline for compliance with its demands, after which it should be prepared to enforce a blockade of Iranian gasoline imports, followed, if Iran still does not agree, by a blockade of its oil exports. If that does not have the desired effect or if Iran retaliated in some way, the U.S. should be prepared to launch a military strike that would “have to target not only Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also its conventional military infrastructure in order to suppress an Iranian response.” Such an attack would be followed immediately by “providing food and medical assistance within Iran…” [!!!]

— To convey his seriousness both to Iran and to the international community, the new president should begin building up the U.S. military presence in the region “the first day (he) enters office…” Specifically this would involve “pre-positioning additional U.S. and allied forces, deploying additional aircraft carrier battle groups and minesweepers, emplacing other war material in the region, including additional missile defense batteries, upgrading both regional facilities and allied militaries, and expanding strategic partnerships with countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia [!!!] in order to maintain operational pressure from all directions.” The report goes on to note that “the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan offers distinct advantages in any possible confrontation with Iran. The United States can bring in troops and material to the region under the cover of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, thus maintaining a degree of strategic and tactical surprise.” [Emphasis added in light of recent concerns raised in Iraq about the Status of Forces Agreement.]

In other words, if Tehran is not eventually prepared to permanently abandon its enrichment of uranium on its own soil — a position that is certain to be rejected by Iran ab initio — then war becomes inevitable, and all intermediate steps, even including direct talks if the new president chooses to pursue them, will amount to going through the motions (presumably to gather international support for when push comes to shove). While I would certainly not be surprised if such an approach were adopted by a McCain administration, what is a top Obama adviser doing signing on to it?

Russia to Cut Military Budget: Will Obama Do the Same?

Russia plans to cut its military budget by 15 percent because of the financial crisis. Here is a golden opportunity for Obama to follow Russia's lead and do the same or, better yet, raise the stakes with even more cuts. This is an important test and we should know soon. If Obama fails this test, we have to raise a ruckus.

Robert Scheer: This is Fascism

Robert Scheer, the eminent left-liberal journalist, professor of communications at the University of Southern California, and supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, made a surprising comparison last Friday on the NPR show "Left, Right, and Center." Tony Blankley, who represents the "right" on the show, responded with a question that many should be answering these days.

Robert Scheer: I don't think the idea of nationalizing, as it's now being called--which means bailing out these banks, setting them straight, then letting them go private again, which is the model that everybody is using, and the people who get screwed are the people whose retirement funds had common or preferred shares and they get wiped out, and these bankers come out richer than ever at the other end--that's not a leftist idea and it's not socialism. This is what we used to, in Comparative Economic Systems, call fascism. It's putting government at the service of the big financial interests. That's what happened in Italy, that's what happened in Germany, that's what happened in Japan. . . .

Tony Blankley: What I don't understand is how my colleagues on this show, who I believe were for Obama, are now saying he's leading a fascist regime. Did he mislead them a few weeks ago when he was still running? . . .

Robert Scheer: To answer your question, I am disappointed in Barack Obama and I'm not quite sure what he's doing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

End the Empire and Bring Home the Troops (Ron Paul on Bill Maher)


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Afghanistan: No Longer a Forgotten War


February 20, 2009

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers


No Longer A Forgotten War

For far too long, the war in Afghanistan has been dubbed "the forgotten war." After U.S. forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, the Bush administration quickly shifted critical resources to the less critical war in Iraq. The Pentagon repeatedly begged President Bush for additional troops for Afghanistan, which never seemed to materialize. The Center for American Progress's Lawrence Korb and Caroline Wadhams warned that this "forgotten front" could become "a terrorist haven for Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist networks." In the meantime, security around the region dramatically deteriorated, heroin production spiked, and government corruption ran rampant. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen has said of the current situation, "In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must." In the past year, attention has shifted back to Afghanistan as coalition troop deaths there began surpassing those in Iraq. On Tuesday, President Obama announced that had approved the deployment of 17,000 U.S. soldiers to be sent to Afghanistan. This move is a fulfillment of a campaign promise made by Obama and marks the beginning of the drawdown in Iraq, where these troops were originally headed. "This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires," explained Obama. To put together a comprehensive strategy to accompany this troop increase, Obama has authorized a strategic review -- led by former CIA official Bruce Riedel, who was a member of the CAP's 2008 working group on Pakistan -- of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CHANGING THE DYNAMICS: There are already 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, compared to 146,000 in Iraq. To meet Obama's request, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the deployment of 8,000 Marines -- who are expected to arrive by late spring -- and a 4,000-strong Army brigade that will follow in the summer. Another 5,000 support troops will be sent at a "later date." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) welcomed Obama's announcement this week; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that more troops were long overdue, but added that "the president must spell out for the American people what he believes victory in Afghanistan will look like and articulate a coherent strategy for achieving it." It's important to keep in mind the mission in Afghanistan. As Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) recently wrote in the Washington Post, "The United States is not in Afghanistan to make it our 51st state -- but to make sure it does not become an al-Qaeda narco-state and terrorist beachhead capable of destabilizing neighboring Pakistan." Indeed, the bulk of these new troops will be going to southern Afghanistan, where the poppy trade has exploded under the Taliban, which uses the profits to fund its forces. "What this [additional troop deployment] allows us to do is change the dynamics of the security situation, predominantly in southern Afghanistan, where we are at best stalemated," said commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen. David McKiernan.

COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH: The deployment of these additional troops is part of Obama's commitment to make Afghanistan "the center of our global counterinsurgency campaign." Part of this strategy requires building, training, and equipping the Afghan National Army. The new troops authorized by Obama will have a "dual mission" to "help double the size of the Afghan Army to 134,000 by the end of 2011 and provide security in Afghan communities, which increasingly are falling under Taliban control." Accompanying Obama's troop surge should be a corresponding civilian surge; McKiernan has already "pressed for more help from civilian agencies, both within the U.S. government and from other countries." As the Center for American Progress has written, actions in Afghanistan also have an impact on Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons and a far larger population. Obama has recognized this fact and appointed Richard Holbrooke to be the Special Envoy to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has acknowledged that "no improvement in Afghanistan is possible without Pakistan taking control of its border areas and improving governance." This week, the Pakistani government made a concession to local Taliban leaders and agreed to enforce strict religious law in the Swat Valley, a resort near the Afghan border that was once known as the "Switzerland of Pakistan." After being ousted from Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban has rebuilt strength in Pakistan; this recent Swat deal is similar to the ones struck in 2004, 2006, 2008, which ended up creating greater safe havens. Additionally, U.S. missile strikes on suspected al Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan have been extraordinarily effective in "tracking and killing high-value terrorist suspects," but they have "not helped to prevent the spread of jihadist sympathies in the tribal regions and beyond, nor has it slowed the stream of militants and material into Afghanistan," national security analyst Micah Zenko notes. "In fact, according to Pakistani intelligence reports, refugees from Afghanistan have flocked to the Taliban by the hundreds to avenge the drones' killings of innocent civilians."

CHALLENGES AHEAD: Afghanistan requires a sustained commitment from the international community. One senior U.S. commander has warned that "it's going to get worse before it gets better." McKiernan has stated that even with the additional forces, "2009 is going to be a tough year." A majority of the American public currently believes the situation is going "badly" in Afghanistan and support Obama's deployment of additional troops as "unfortunate but necessary." Major impediments to progress include increasing insurgent violence, corruption and the illegal economy, and a lack of coordination within U.S. government and with international allies. According to the United Nations, 2,118 civilians died in fighting in Afghanistan last year, "a 40% hike as the war grows ever more bloody." The Taliban greeted Holbrooke's arrival in Kabul last week "by launching an audacious terror attack on three government buildings in the capital, leaving 26 people dead." Government corruption is now so bad in Afghanistan that many women say they would prefer living under the Taliban. Delivering a threat assessment on Feb. 12, Blair concurred with this view, stating that corruption in Kabul and throughout the country had bolstered support for the Taliban and warlords. Obama avoided asking Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for increased troop support while he was in Ottawa this week, and convincing other countries may be tough. In the past, Obama has pressed NATO allies to step up their commitments and not let the U.S. and U.K. do all the "dirty work."


ETHICS -- NOW ISSA CARES ABOUT TAKING EXTRA MEASURES TO PRESERVE WHITE HOUSE E-MAILS: In a letter to White House Counsel Gregory Craig yesterday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, "called on President Obama to put in place a system that ensures all White House emails be preserved even if official business was done through private e- mail accounts." "The use of personal e-mail accounts, such as Gmail, to conduct official business raises the prospect that presidential records will not be captured by the White House e-mail archiving system," wrote Issa, referring to how the Obama administration briefly used "Gmail accounts after Obama was sworn in last month, as they waited for the official White House e-mail accounts to become active." But Issa's newfound interest in the use of outside e-mail accounts at the White House is ironic, considering his dismissal of such concerns when the Bush administration abused RNC e-mail accounts. "Are we simply going on a fishing expedition at $40,000 to $50,000 a month?" asked Issa at an oversight hearing looking into the use of RNC e-mails. "Do any of you know of a single document -- because this committee doesn't -- that should've been in the archives but in fact was done at the RNC?" In 2007, the House Oversight Committee discovered that at least 88 Bush White House officials, including former adviser Karl Rove and former chief of staff Andrew Card, had RNC e-mail accounts. Additionally, the RNC had preserved no e-mails from 51 officials and had major gaps in the e-mail records of the 37 White House officials for whom the RNC did preserve e-mails.

HEALTH CARE -- KENNEDY-LED 'WORKHORSE GROUP' NEARS CONSENSUS ON INDIVIDUAL MANDATES: Led by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), a diverse group of senators, lobbyists for health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, small businesses, and doctors have been in quiet negotiations on a prospective universal health care plan since last fall. Although "not all industry groups are in complete agreement," they are "embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance." Opponents to such a "mandate" worry that the "government would end up forcing people" to buy coverage that they didn't want or need. In reality, however, mandates would serve to lower health care costs for everyone. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn explained that "if government prohibits insurers from excluding people with pre-existing conditions -- a step that's essential to making insurance available to all -- people could then game the system by waiting to buy insurance until after they became sick." Adding a mandate protects against such behavior while ensuring that individuals have access to preventative care -- a key component to reducing health care costs. The "workhorse group" is reportedly considering a legal penalty to enforce the mandate on the condition that all available health insurance packages are "meaningful and affordable."

HUMAN RIGHTS -- REVERSING BUSH POSITION, U.S. NOW SUPPORTS U.N. MEASURE CONDEMNING DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION: In December, the United States joined China, Russia, the Vatican, and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in refusing to support an unprecedented U.N. declaration calling for a worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. While the declaration "to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention" was signed by 66 countries, the Bush administration "couched its objection to the measure in legal technicalities." At the time, human rights advocates slammed Bush for "trying to come up with Christmas presents for the religious right so it will be remembered." But yesterday, continuing the Obama administration's rejection of Bush-era policies and attitudes, the U.S. offered support for a proposal to condemn "all forms of discrimination and all other human rights violations based on sexual orientation" at the U.N.'s "Durban Review Conference" on racism and xenophobia in Geneva. While the measure failed because of resistance from non-western countries, U.N. Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg noted that "it's relieving to see that the United States is now back on the side of the enlightened on this issue of basic human rights."


Writing in Time Magazine, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) lays out "the case for a truth commission." "People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments but to assemble the facts," he writes. "If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecution in order to get to the whole truth."

"I'm excited because this president is taking urban America out of the desert it's been in for eight years," said Adolfo Carrion, Jr., the new head of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. Derek Douglas, formerly of the Center for American Progress, is headed to the new office as well.

For the budget he will present next week, President Obama "has banned four accounting gimmicks that President George W. Bush used to make deficit projections look smaller." The move away from budget gimmicks, one of which used to be failing to note the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will create "a budget that is $2.7 trillion deeper in the red over the next decade than it would otherwise appear."

"Demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year," according to a survey by Feeding America. Even food pantries in upscale communities are seeing an uptick in demand. "These are people who never really had to ask for help before," said Brenda Beavers of the Salvation Army.

The number of U.S. workers drawing unemployment benefits "jumped to a record high of nearly 5 million," the Labor Department reported yesterday. It's the highest number since 1967 when the government began keeping such records.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said it’s time to "take a whack" at climate change and that "he plans to push for Senate action on global warming by the end of summer." Reid said "the Senate will take up energy legislation in a couple of weeks ‘and then later this year, hopefully late this summer do the global warming part of it.'"

The IAEA has "found that Iran recently understated by a third how much uranium it has enriched" and it has enough low enriched uranium that --- with added purification -- is sufficient for one atom bomb. But the IAEA also found that Iran is "putting the brakes on key aspects" of its program, which is seen "as a conciliatory gesture in advance of any diplomatic overtures by the Obama administration."

A classified Pentagon assessment has concluded that "there is a significant risk the U.S. military may not be able to respond quickly and fully to new crises" because of strain from "repeated war tours, persistent terrorist threats and instability around the globe." This is the third year in a row that the risk level has been set at "significant."

And finally: Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, had a rough first weekend of work. Finding a large marble fireplace stacked with wood in his office on a chilly January day, Orszag lit a cozy fire. "The only problem: The Secret Service had capped the building's chimneys. Smoke alarms started going off upstairs, and the building was evacuated." Orszag has suffered the mocking of the White House ever since. "Rahm [Emanuel] asked me to send smoke signals to the Hill," Orszag told Politico's Ben Smith.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Waterloo of Keynesianism (Military and Domestic)

Note: In part, this post is an answer to a query by Mark Hatlie.

While it is perilous for any historian to predict the future, we may well be headed for the Waterloo of Keynesianism (both military and domestic) and that is a good thing.

Crudely put, Keynesianism (so named for the British economist John Maynard Keynes) is the theory that government’s can speed long-term recovery by running high deficts so as to stimulate aggregate demand or investment. It is the entire basis of Obama’s stimulus plan. To some extent, Keynesian ideas were the basis of Bush’s massive bailout and big spending policies, most especially his now forgotten “stimulus checks.”

The popularity of the Keynesian theory is something a puzzle (at least to me). Few ideas more defy ordinary common sense. Taken in today’s context, it seems akin to telling an individual who has recklessly run up a hundred thousand dollar credit card debt to spend even more on fixing a driveway or garage (infrastructure). For some reason, such advice (which would be considered utter lunacy when applied to individuals) is widely accepted as the best method of economic recovery when taken by governments.

Probably no event is more commonly cited as a Keynesian spending success story than World War II. Variants of this thesis can be found among across the political spectrum. On the right, neocon Conrad Black argues that World War II “had restored prosperity after the free market had failed.” On the left, Paul Krugman similarly writes: “There's nothing magic about spending on tanks and bombs rather than roads and bridges. The reason World War II worked more effectively than the WPA [in terms of promoting economic growth] as that it was *bigger.*”

While Krugman might prefer that this “bigger” spending be on roads and bridges, rather than bombs, this does not change the fact he still accepts the overall premise that spending on wars can be good for the economy. If this is true, one wonders why he never praised Bush’s bloated military budgets. If anyone should have greater reason to call this theory into question, it is antiwar historians. Fortunately, one has.

In a seminal article for the Journal of Economic History, Robert Higgs convincingly challenged the Keynesian theory of World War II as put forward by Krugman, Black and others.

While unemployment disappeared during the war, it was hardly a step forward. Moving men and women from the unemployment lines to the killing fields of Anzio did not represent economic progress in any meaningful sense. During the war, Americans at home suffered from rationing, shortages, more accidents on the job, longer hours, and many other measures of economic deprivation. Moreover, as Higgs points out, “real personal consumption declined. So did real private investment. From 1941 to 1943 real gross private domestic investment plunged by 64 percent; during the four years of the war it never rose above 55 percent of its 1941 level; only in 1946 did it reach a new high.”

According to Higgs, genuine prosperity did not begin to return until the last months of 1945 and 1946. This prosperity occurred under a policy of reverse Keynesianism which included massive reductions in spending because of demoblization, rapid steps toward price decontrol, and scaled back deficit spending.
Higgs sums it up:

World War II, the so-called Good War, has been a fount of historical fallacies. One of the greatest – and one of the most pernicious for subsequent policymakers – is the notion that prosperity prevailed during the war. Although Americans might have been dying in the Pacific and European theaters of war, people on the home front actually benefited from the war, because it propelled the economy at long last out of the Great Depression. This view of the war would be sufficiently egregious if it were true, but despite the claims of historians for the past half century, it is not true.

In my view, Obama's best hope to bring lasting recovery is to let the economy go through a short, but sharp, readjustment. He needs to remove the malivestments, not perpetuate them. Obama can facilitate this readjustment to a more sustainable level by cancelling the bailout, cutting spending, and pruning deficits. Another worthy goal would be to dismantle the Federal Reserve which helped to create this mess through its easy credit policies.

Most of all, however, Obama should end our costly empire by closing down our overseas bases and bringing home the troops. Only then, can we start to get our financial house in order and move towards genuine economic well being.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Price of Obamania

Justin Raimondo, one of the most principled and consistent opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports that "the Obama-mania that has swept significant portions of the Left in this country" has virtually destroyed the antiwar movement: "In spite of our new president's announced intention to escalate the war in Afghanistan and perhaps even venture into Pakistan – not to mention the tremendous pressure on him to stay engaged in Iraq and go after Iran – antiwar activism in lefty quarters has largely given way to complacency."

This is painfully evident on the two leading sites in the left blogosphere: Moveon.org does not mention Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan (though it is still running a campaign against "McCain's Plan to Escalate"!) and the first response to the escalation at Daily Kos was Brandon Friedman's endorsement of it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Now?

In 1970, when Nixon expanded the Vietnam War by invading Cambodia, millions of people took to the streets, overturned police cars, burned buildings, closed down universities, and attacked military recruiting centers.

What now?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Toward a Peaceful World: Historical Approaches to Creating Cultures of Peace

Attention Graduate Students
Conference Presentation Travel Grant

The Peace History Society, an affiliate organization of the American Historical Society, is making available to graduate students a $100 travel grant to attend and present a paper at the biannual PHS conference in October 2009. Applications for the grant should be sent to the conference co-chairs (names and emails listed below) by March 20, along with your paper proposal and c.v.

Call for Papers:
Toward a Peaceful World: Historical Approaches to Creating Cultures of Peace

The Peace History Society invites paper proposals for its biannual conference to be held at Winthrop University from October 29-31, 2009. Proposals can include efforts to achieve peace or prevent war, including long-term efforts at sustainable development, diplomatic efforts to avert war or maintain peace, and popular social and cultural movements which seek to end war or reform the international environment to avoid future wars. Papers can deal with either current or historical topics and can include, but are not limited to, religious approaches, people-to-people approaches, gender approaches, government-to government approaches, and those dealing with the challenges that peace advocates face in their efforts to bring about reform and lasting peace. Proposals can be for individual papers as well as complete panels including a commentator. Please send one page abstracts and a brief c.v. to both conference co-chairs, E. Timothy Smith, Ph.D., Professor of History, Department of History and Political Science, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL 33161 (esmith@mail.barry.edu), and Virginia S. Williams, Associate Professor of History, Department of History, 377 Bancroft, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC 29733 (williamsv@winthrop.edu), by March 20, 2009.

More Troops to Afghanistan; None Leaving Iraq

Tonight Obama will announce the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. And,"although the announcement comes at a time of promised draw-downs in Iraq," Politico.com reports, "no troops go directly from Iraq to Afghanistan."

Obama's Surge Begins in Afghanistan: What Are We Going to Do About It?

An additional three thousand U.S. troops have arrived and are stationed near Kabul. Why isn't the antiwar movement loudly protesting as it did in 1970 when Richard Nixon widened the Vietnam War by occupying Cambodia? When will HAW issue a news release deploring this action?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama's Iraq War May Last Longer than Bush's Iraq War

At least that is what Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, said on the The Jon Stewart show:

"General Odierno says he would like to see 35,000 troops there (Iraq) in 2015. What that means is that we may be just halfway through this thing.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Racial Paternalism in the Antiwar Movement

United for Peace and Justice, one of the two major antiwar coalitions, just launched its "Yes We Can" campaign. The campaign deliberately avoids criticizing Obama or even mentioning his foreign policy plans. The reason for this, according to this report from the organization's most recent conference, was that the antiwar movement "would risk alienating the Black community if it directly confronted Obama."

Penn Won't Join the Pledge to be "A Servant" to Obama

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No to UFPJ

I will not give financial support to United for Peace and Justice and I call for HAW to disaffiliate from the group. Despite the objections of many in the antiwar movement, the UFPJ campaigned for Obama and other pro-war Democrats. Any truly antiwar organization would have opposed both major presidential candidates.

As averse to HAW's principles as Republicans have been, especially in recent years, we historians are well aware of a fact that is apparently unknown or forgotten by the UFPJ -- that over the last century few political parties in the world have invaded more countries, destroyed more local cultures, sent more soldiers to their deaths, and killed more civilians in the service of empire than the Democratic Party of the United States.

President Obama has announced his intentions, consistently and repeatedly since the beginning of the campaign, to return to the warmaking tradition of his heroes, the Democratic presidents who pushed the United States into the killing fields of Europe during World War I, provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor, ordered atom bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, invaded Korea, and sent more than a million troops into Vietnam. Unfortunately, since taking office the new president has lived up to his foreign policy promises: in just 24 days more than 73 Afghan, Pakistani, and Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers have died due to Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and his refusal to withdraw immediately from Iraq.

I am sure the leadership of UFPJ is aware of Obama's foreign policy plans, yet, amazingly, the organization's new "Yes We Can" campaign does not mention them.

The antiwar movement must recognize that the Democrats and Republicans are one party: the War Party.

[haw-info] Fundraising appeal for United for Peace and Justice

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

Since our founding in 2003, HAW has been an active member of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the nation's largest antiwar coalition.  We have organized contingents for each major UFPJ mobilization, and UFPJ has strongly promoted our events.  Now UFPJ has a serious financial crisis.  We are asking for your consideration to the following message from UFPJ Co-Chair Michael McPhearson, who is also the Executive Director of Veterans for Peace.
Jim O'Brien and Marc Becker
co-chairs, Historians Against the War



The troops are home. The struggle for peace and justice has been won.


Silence your voice of rage, your mighty call for peace and justice. Rest your weary feet, your troubled mind. Pack up the buttons and posters, the marching shoes and petitions, put them away as keepsakes, attic bound. The time for celebration is now.


Do you believe a coalition like United For Peace and Justice is no longer needed -- that this is a time of no war and no U.S. troops in foreign lands, that the struggle for peace and justice is over, that the ties between militarism and economic deprivation are not real and inflaming the crisis at home right now?


If not, please take this message seriously.


United For Peace and Justice needs your help - and we need it now! Please donate today.


There are some who think that with the new administration the war in Iraq will wind down and Afghanistan will take care of itself. That we no longer need to be in the streets or push Congress. That we no longer need to participate in and FUND peace organizations and coalitions. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Our activism is as needed today as ever before. UFPJ nurtures the work of community-based organizers and is the vehicle that brings this movement onto the national stage. In fact, our movement needs to grow, to be stronger and more effective. But we cannot do that without your support, your financial support.


We need funding to continue the struggle or we might soon have to CLOSE OUR DOORS.


For the past six years, UFPJ has been a leader in the antiwar movement. Our work has turned antiwar sentiment into action, laying a foundation for the possibilities of positive change that lay ahead. While the future looks bright it could turn darker -- decisions on Afghanistan will be made soon and UFPJ must be able to raise our voice for peace. It is a critical time, unlike any before, to push for change. It will not happen by itself. UFPJ is needed to push for that change.

Your help is needed right now! The economic crisis is at our front door. We cannot do the work and we will not be able to pay staff without your help! Please donate.

If UFPJ goes away the proponents of violence and war will rejoice. Let's not give them something to smile about. Please give now and please give as generously as you can.

Michael McPhearson

Co-chair, UFPJ

Executive Director, Veterans For Peace


P.S. Yesterday, I signed up to give a monthly recurring donation to UFPJ. Please think about doing the same. Everyone is hurting financially. That's exactly why we need to stick together. See you at the next demo!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is Obama A Slave to Bush's Policies?

The most recent "Life During Wartime" cartoon on the front of the HAW website seems to say so. The ACLU and other civil libertarians have long said that not only can Obama overturn Bush's state secrets policies but should. And now they're outraged -- at the current president, not the previous one. I wish we would be, too. It's time to recognize the real danger we face as an antiwar movement -- the United States just replaced an unpopular imperialist leader with a popular one.

Empire - Divestiture - Hampshire College

The Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine, part of a national network of the Palestine Solidarity Campus Network issued this press release.

Hampshire College becomes first college in U.S. to divest from Israeli Occupation!

Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, has become the first of any college or university in the U.S. to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College’s Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s “institutional statement” calling for the divestment.

The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 Feb 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

Meeting minutes from a committee of Hampshire’s Board of Trustees confirm that
“President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that brought this
issue to the attention of the committee.”

This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire’s history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa thirty-two years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns. This divestment was also a direct result of student pressure.

The divestment has so far been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Vice President of the EU Parliament Luisa Morganitini, Cynthia McKinney, former member of the African National Congress Ronnie Kasrils, Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, John Berger, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, and
Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others.

The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza are: Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT Corporation, Motorola, and Terex (see attached info sheet for more information on these corporations.) Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation.

SJP is responding to a call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as a way of bringing non-violent pressure to bear on the state of Israel to end its violations of international law. SJP is following in the footsteps of many noted groups and institutions such as the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in the UK, the Israeli group Gush Shalom, the
Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the American Friends Service Committee.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evidence Emerges of Military's Plan for Long-Term Stay in Iraq

The Washington Times reports that the military recently ordered helicopters, cargo planes and tanks to be shipped to Iraq, and that some of the gear isn't scheduled to arrive until 2012. You don't think the new administration told them to do this, do you?

Celebrities Volunteer to Fight in Afghanistan!

In this video, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, and Anthony Kiedis "pledge to be a servant to our president." That means they're enlisting, right?

Think Tanks: More Deaths in Afghanistan Would Be Prudent

Experts quoted today by Reuters are calling for a far greater deployment in Afghanistan than the 60,000 Obama is currently considering. And Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations says "it would be prudent to assume that fatality rates of perhaps 50-100 per month could persist for many months, if not years." If anything, these experts are underestimating the number of soldiers who must die in order for the U.S. to conquer Afghanistan. How else could the U.S. overcome an enemy that defeated 620,000 Soviet soldiers and killed 15,000 of them?

A Commodity Called Misery

Need to Replace Your "Hope" Stickers?

These stickers are available for purchase from libertystickers.com. Just click on an image to go to the order page.

"Give Him a Chance"?

To do what? Double the number of soldiers in Afghanistan?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Black Agenda Report: When Will We March Against Obama?

Another great question from the Black Agenda Report, which has opposed Obama and especially his foreign policy plans since the beginning of the campaign.

So, when will we -- the antiwar movement -- march against the new president? When he delivers on his promises to escalate the war in Afghanistan, invade Pakistan, and leave a permanent force in Iraq? Or when he follows through on his pledge to increase the U.S. military by 100,000 troops?

I recall several marches against another president who made similar promises.

KRS-1: Will You Still Be Down With the Man?

At a January 24 concert in Austin, Texas, hip-hop legend KRS-1, a rapper who often cites history in his rhymes, asked his audience these questions about the future:

The president that just got in there is brown. But in four years will we still like him? In eight years are we gonna still hype him? What if he says we’ve gotta go into Iran? And kill a million people? Will you still be down with the man?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bill Moyers: I Am Reminded of My Former Boss

In a bad way.

From "Bill Moyers' Journal," January 30:

When I read the first story about the Predator strikes last weekend, I thought back to 1964, and another president.

LYNDON JOHNSON: My fellow Americans...

BILL MOYERS: After an encounter in the Gulf of Tonkin between American destroyers and North Vietnamese torpedo boats, President Lyndon Johnson ordered bombing raids over North Vietnam.

LYNDON JOHNSON: Air action is now in execution...

BILL MOYERS: LBJ said we want no wider war, but wider war is what we got, eleven years of it. Now military analysts and historians, including my two guests are wondering aloud - could Afghanistan become "Obama's war," a quagmire that threatens to define his presidency, as Vietnam defined LBJ's?

New History of the American Peace Movement...

Charles F. Howlett, Robbie Lieberman. A History of the American Peace Movement from Colonial Times to the Present. Lewiston NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. 656 p. $149.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7734-5092-9.

There is a review by Caroline Hoefferle over at H-Net. According to the review, the new book is very broad in scope and rich in facts. It is an exhaustive account of the history that would make a good reference work. Hoefferle critisizes the book's laudatory tone and the overall lack of discussion and analysis of the subject matter, however.

Monday, February 09, 2009

This is Outrageous

Are we Historians Against the War or Historians For the Democratic Party?

The Keyhole: A peek at the Steering Committee

This is the first of what I hope are regular reports on what the SC is doing or talking about doing. Right now, there are a number of issues on our plate:

- New steering committee: We just got through another election and we are welcoming new members. This coming Wednesday we will have a conference call to talk about our ideas for the future.

- A new core statement of purpose: The election of Obama, his policies, the impending escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and other factors going back further in time present HAW with a situation that is different from when the original statements were drafted and signed in 2003. Members of the SC are fielding ideas about a new core statemetn of mission and purpose or a new "basis of unity." One member has offered a draft of such a proposal. There have also been proposals for a new name, such as those ideas fielded here at the blog.

- What _is_ HAW? Related to that is the issue just raised yesterday about what exactly HAW is in terms of membership. Does the SC act in the name of the signatories when we address other themes not related to an anti-Iraq-War stance, such as the Afghan War or torture or more general themes of empire?

- Monograph series: The idea of publishing has returned. Several members are tossing around ideas on publishing a monograph series on issues important to HAW. We are considering whether that is a good idea and how that could best be done.

- Chapters: For quite some time now, we have been encouraging people to found local HAW chapters. Discussions about that have re-emerged this week.

- HAW Listserv: Someone has suggested re-establishing the HAW listserv. This has been opposed by almost all members of the SC who have responded to the initiative. There is a feeling that it would only create more e-mail and that there are other channels available for communication. The larger context of this is also the origin of this posting: Member concerns that the SC is not responding to current issues and to member concerns. The consensus on the SC is to encourage the blog to be our forum for debate among interested parties.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

No Wonder He Didn't Get Secretary of State

Try as he might, John Kerry can't help but see a new Vietnam in Afghanistan.

Here are his comments during the confirmation hearing for Hillary Clinton, who got the job Kerry wanted and has always been eager to send in more troops:

I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would not see all of our conflicts, ground operations, in the context of Vietnam. I really try hard. I have an automatic check that says, you know, not everything is that.

But I have to tell you, in the several visits I have now made, escape it as I might, the parallels just really keep leaping out in so many different ways. We are struggling to fight with and for a people of a different culture, different language, different custom, different history, different religion, if any. And all of those similarities exist.

We don't live there. We don't live in the community in a hamlet, in a small town, pocket, whatever you want to call it. And so, we are not there often at night. They are. And the night often rules, with insurgencies. . . .

And I think, unless we rethink this very, very carefully, we could raise the stakes, invest America's reputation in a greater way, as well as our treasure, and wind up pursuing a policy that is, frankly, unpursuable, unachievable. . . .

I think anybody who has really traveled on the ground, listened in the right ways and not just accepted the sort of briefing culture, will suggest to you respectfully, Madame Secretary, this really has to be rethought very, very carefully. Our original goal was to go in there and take on al-Qaida. It was to capture or kill Osama bin Ladin. It was not to adopt the 51st state of the United States. It was not to try to impose a form of government, no matter how much we believe in it and support it. But that is the mission, at least as it is being defined today.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

New President Proves Black People Can Be Murderous Imperialists, Too

The presidential election was seen by many as the moment when African-Americans finally "belonged" in the United States. But loyalty to country and sovereign power are double-edged swords, as white Americans have learned repeatedly over hundreds of years. When Iranian revolutionaries took over the U.S. embassy in 1979 they identified the white hostages as their oppressors but offered to release the black hostages, whom they did not blame for American policies in the region. If Obama continues to carry out his foreign policy plans, which necessarily entail many civilian deaths and the destruction of local cultures in wars that most of the earth's population angrily oppose, African-Americans will learn what it's like to be hated by the world.

Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report recently warned African-Americans of the consequences of "belonging" to the American empire.

Chalmers Johnson on Military Keynesianism, Blowback, and Obama

In this audio of an interview with Scott Horton, Chalmers Johnson discussion the intersection between military Keynesianism and empire. It was Johnson who first popularized the term "blowback." He also deplores Obama's "insane" policy in Afghanistan.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Name Change for HAW: How About Historians for Peace (or Historians Against Empire)?

Thaddeus Russell suggests that we make it Historians Against the Wars. That change certainly has the virtue of simplicity and would be an improvement over the current name. Even better, IMHO, would be to change it to "Historians for Peace." Everyone claims to be for peace after all and this gets us past the pacifist v. non-pacifist issue. Besides, isn't it generally better to be seen as for, rather than against, something?

P.S. I just noticed after posting that some in HAW once considered the name, Historians Against Empire. That might even be better, and clearly more assertive, than Historians for Peace.

Time for a Name Change?

Isn't it time to change our name to Historians Against the Wars?

If you still think Afghanistan is the "good war," take a look at Justin Raimondo's brilliant recent analysis of what he calls the "war without end."

Oh, and pretty soon "Wars" won't be referring just to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration, led by a new cadre of neocons and "humanitarian" imperialists, is eager to effect regime-change -- by force if necessary -- in Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, and wherever else people are not living up to our ideals.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Afghans Unhappy With Our "Change"

These residents of the town of Mehterlam, where U.S. air strikes authorized by President Obama killed at least 16 civilians, don't seem to appreciate the "historic change" in Washington.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

How About This For An HAW Cartoon?

Or are we unwilling to criticize the new president?

Are We Still Historians Against the War?

Or are we now just Historians Against the Republicans?

Since it took power, the new administration has ordered bombings that killed twenty-four Afghan civilians (including several children), promised that an attack on Iran remains “on the table," vowed to double U.S. forces on the ground in Afghanistan, and proposed an increase of forty-billion dollars in the already bloated Pentagon budget.

Meanwhile, Richard Holbrooke, the new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan has predicted that the Afghan war will last longer than the fourteen years of the Vietnam War, Vice President Biden has matter-of-factly promised an "uptick" in American casualties, and the American commander of NATO forces announced that all Afghan drug dealers, regardless of any connection to the insurgency, will be killed on sight.

Even the good news is less hopeful than it seemed on first appearance. Though President Obama has begun plans to close Gitmo and end torture he also issued executive orders to continue the policy of "rendition."

These developments should be of grave concern to all advocates of peace. Despite this, the official face of HAW on the front page of the website highlights a cartoon (see above) of Michael Steele, a person who has nothing to do with setting U.S. foreign policy. It is not the first cartoon of this type to appear. If this continues, readers will naturally start to wonder if HAW still takes a firm stand against the pro-war policies of the United States.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Feminists Call for Big, Strong Men to Save Helpless Women

The "Campaign for Afghan Women & Girls" by the Feminist Majority (is it either?) "urges the expansion of peacekeeping forces" to protect allegedly pitiful female Afghans from the Taliban. Similar arguments were made about Cuban and Filipino women by Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Randolph Hearst . . . .

Taliban: Obama's Plan Increasing Recruits

Over the weekend a Taliban leader happily declared that "During the Bush administration the suicide bombers were registering individually, but now they are coming in groups. The whole nation is ready for the fight."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Obama Body Count

Julian T. Brennan, age 25, Trevor J. Johnson, 23, and David W. Wallace III, 25, were U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan during Obama's first week in office. Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire estimates that at least 24 Afghan civilians (including several children) have been killed by U.S. forces since January 20.

One with Our Leader

Here's the latest attempt to encourage us to merge our identities with the President, this time from a major American newspaper. It's creepy, totalitarian, and, with an aggressively imperialist president, a great way to create a culture of war. Is anyone on the left troubled by this?