Historians Against the War

God and War at Yale

April 28, 2005

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Staughton Lynd speaks at God and War at Yale, a distinguished panel of Yale alumni discussing the legacy of anti-war resistance at Yale (April 28, 2005).

Video and audio from this event can be streamed at http://www.yale.edu/divinity/video/coffin/battell.htm.

The forum “God and War at Yale” was an enormous success. The audience was estimated at 150-200. Participants included David McDonough (David Dellinger's grandson, who is an undergad in History at Wheaton College and engaged in anti-war activism); David Mitchell; Staughton Lynd; Michael Ferber; Warren Goldstein, (Bill Coffin's biographer) and Bill Coffin himself, in a wheelchair, but present throughout; and Rev. Allie Perry, who spearheads the current resistance to the Iraq war in those parts -- showed up and did well. Speakers sat at a table from the front of which hung the HAW banner.

Coffin, despite being confined to a wheelchair, remained deeply engaged and dynamic, often eliciting cheers from the crowd of some 200 people. In a passionate speech, he bemoaned that too many Americans see their nation as a “biblical City on a Hill, with the rest of the world made up of frustrated, potential Americans.” Staughton discussed the “two Yales,” and challenged the audience to critique the worldview of the “governing class,” a view that centers on a “devotion to capitalism.” Both "Yales" are equally devoted to free markets, but cautioned that we must not loose sight of “the decency of the human beings on both sides of the divide.”

David Mitchell who was indicted for resisting the draft on the Nuremberg principles, quoted “a famous Yale grad,” Willaim Buckley, who commented on his case back in 1965: “I am glad that I didn’t have [the Judge’s] job. Oh, I could have scolded Mr. Mitchell along with the best of them. But I’d have to cough and wheeze and clear my throat during that passage in my catechism at which I explained that the Nuremberg Doctrine was not at his disposal.”

Ferber made a call for civil disobedience, while Rev. Perry and her colleagues have crafted "A Call to Resist the War in Iraq," modeled on the famous 1967 Call, and recently adopted by the FOR. This call explicitly endorses civil disobedience and support for military resisters. (HAW might consider adopting this document, perhaps we can add it to the May 11 agenda?)

Warren Goldstein thanked HAW for holding such a conference and expressed his gratitude for Coffin’s legacy and Staughton’s impact on his profession.

Finally, the event closed with mass singing of "Jerusalem" by William Blake, and the civil rights song, "Just My Hands" (formerly "One Man's Hands"). Roger Leisner of Radio Free Maine did a video and will send a DVD. Staughton suggests that along with whatever use we may wish to make of the audio transcript, we make this forum Item No. 1 in a collection of videos, or DVDs. I attached a photo for our web page. Special thanks to Van and Rusti for their help and to all for voting in favor of the event!

A Call to Resist the War in Iraq

Petition to Download and Sign

A growing number of U.S. citizens have realized that the war in Iraq is an immoral and profoundly destructive waste of both Iraqi and American lives. The war was begun in violation of international law, and founded on lies told to our own people and to our allies. It has included defiance of the Geneva Conventions with illegal and secret detentions of prisoners, a denial of due process of law and well-documented torture and killing of prisoners in American custody. Its extravagant cost increasingly robs our own neediest citizens of vital services while enriching a few private corporations.

We believe it is the moral responsibility of every U.S. citizen to raise our voices and take action to stop this illegal war and bring our soldiers home. We believe it is our duty as both Americans and members of the international community to insist that our government immediately adhere to the international agreements binding us, including the Geneva Accords protecting prisoners from torture and indefinite detention.

Many members of the armed services are seeking ways to avoid service in Iraq or leave the military completely; some young men are refusing to register for Selective Service. Increasing numbers of enlisted men and women are risking prison sentences or forced immigration in order to avoid collaboration in an immoral war. We applaud these choices and will do all that we can to encourage others to follow their example.

More specifically, we support and will spread the word about the G.I. Rights Hotline and other efforts to support soldiers in withdrawing from the military. We will counsel young men turning eighteen on the moral obligations as well as risks inherent in a refusal to register with the Selective Service, and we will raise funds to support them in their legal defense. Should a draft be reinstituted we will encourage young men and women not to comply.

The War Crimes Tribunals following World War II declared, “Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something is a potential criminal under international law, unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the crimes.” We, the undersigned, commit ourselves to undertake all affirmative measures available to us to fulfill our obligations under these treaties, which have guided our world for half a century. We will continue to raise our voices and engage in nonviolent resistance until our government has withdrawn from Iraq and brought our soldiers home.