Historians Against the War Petition the Organization of American Historians (OAH)





The people behind the organization, Historians Against the War (HAW), are celebrating tonight. This afternoon the executive board of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) decided to establish a committee to investigate reports of repression involving historians. The OAH is holding its annual meeting in Boston.

The news was announced by HAW member Jesse Lemisch, a well-known Sixties radical, at a meeting sponsored by the OAH this evening to honor radical historian Howard Zinn. The meeting was held in the Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party was planned.

David Montgomery, past president of the OAH and a member of HAW, will head up the committee. The American Historical Association (AHA) will be asked to participate.

The OAH acted in response to a petition, now public for the first time, filed by HAW in February (see below). The petition urged the OAH "to investigate reports of repressive measures having an impact on historians' teaching, research, employment, and freedom of expression." The petition listed eight examples of repression, including the "flagging and rejection of grants in areas deemed politically sensitive" and the "surveillance of library use."

HAW has significant support among American historians. Last year the OAH executive board approved a resolution sponsored by HAW in support of the right of dissent. A similar resolution was approved in January by the Council of the American Historical Association. (See below.) A HAW petition opposing preemptive wars has garnered a thousand signers. Today the petition was signed by Eric Foner, past president of the OAH, and James Horton, incoming president of the OAH. The petition 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.

HAW was founded in January 2003 to oppose the plan to invade Iraq. The organization held teach-ins across the country and demonstrated in anti-war rallies. After the war began in March 2003 HAW remained active. The group opposed alleged acts of American imperialism and rallied in support of the First Amendment. In July HAW campaigned for the" creation of an international provisional administration in Iraq, an immediate transfer of power from the occupation forces, expeditious withdrawal of US troops, and international action to guarantee democratic political and administrative control of Iraq by the peoples of Iraq."

HAW Petition

To: OAH Executive Board

From: Historians against the War

February 16, 2004

Both the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association have taken cognizance of threats to freedom of speech, historical inquiry, and access to public records, which have materialized since the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq . Both organizations have resolved to uphold those rights by unanimous votes at their respective business meetings and approval by the OAH Board and the AHA Council. Historians Against the War urges the OAH Executive Board to implement the Organization's resolution by establishing an ad hoc committee of historians to investigate reports of repressive measures having an impact on historians' teaching, research, employment, and freedom of expression.

Although the proposed ad hoc committee could not be expected to adjudicate specific academic freedom cases, it could and should collect and verify reports of actions by the government, officials of schools, colleges and universities, and self-designated groups dedicated to political surveillance, and report its findings periodically in the OAH Newsletter and in any other form the Executive Board deems appropriate.

We also urge the Executive Board to explore the possibility of joint action with the AHA and the sharing of information with other organizations concerned about freedom of expression.

Among the reported developments which have alarmed historians and which illustrate, but unfortunately do not exhaust, the matters into which the ad hoc committee might choose to inquire are the following:

Restrictions of research and surveillance of library use under the USAPATRIOT Act, the repeal of which has been advocated by a growing number of faculty senates

Reports of teachers, especially in high schools and community colleges, reprimanded or confronted with suspension or non-renewal for allowing students in their classrooms to express opposition to the occupation of Iraq

Reports of politicization of the grant process at the National Endowment for the Humanities, with flagging and rejection of grants in areas deemed politically sensitive

Exclusion, harassment, and demeaning treatment of foreign-born historians and students by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the State Department

Restriction of historians' access to government records, and new limits to enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act

Systematic denunciation of historians who have criticized government policy by Campus Watch, No Indoctrination, Students for Academic Freedom, and other groups

Hostile government scrutiny of foreign language and area studies programs and legislation, passed by the House, to establish an advisory board to review the curricula and faculty views in such programs as receive federal funds

Dismissals and refusals to employ faculty members allegedly on the basis of their views on foreign policy (Charges found plausible could be referred to the AAUP.)

This list is not intended to provide an agenda for the ad hoc committee, but rather to indicate some of the reported developments that prompted the OAH and the AHA to adopted their resolutions.

Sincerely yours,

David Montgomery Alan Dawley Jesse Lemisch

______________________________________________

Resolutions of the OAH and the AHA

At the 2003 convention the OAH Executive Board approved this resolution, which was subsequently adopted at the business meeting:

In view of the threat to free speech in the current climate, the Organization of American Historians affirms the centrality of dissent in American history, the sanctity of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the necessity of open debate of public policy issues, including United States foreign policy, in order to maintain the health of this democracy.

The American Historical Association at its January 2004 convention adopted a similar resolution, though one that focused more sharply on the work of historians. The Council subsequently approved it:

In view of current efforts to restrict free speech in the name of national security, the American Historical Association affirms the sanctity of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, the decisive importance of unfettered discussion in the pursuit of historical knowledge, the necessity for open debate of United States foreign policy and other public issues in order to safeguard the health of democracy and of our profession, and the need for open access to government records and archives.


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More Comments:


Luann Wright - 4/1/2004

The following was sent March 30, 2004:

Dear Professors Montgomery, Dawley, and Lemisch,

Your Historians against the War petition of February 16, 2004 accuses NoIndoctrination.org of “systematic denunciation of historians who have criticized government policy.” Where is the evidence to make such a statement? Please, carefully read our postings; they are 'cries from below' -- 'grassroots resistance' among students frustrated by unprofessional professorial conduct. Students report being browbeaten by powerful professors into supporting particular social or political agendas or being subjected to political soap boxing that has no relation to the advertised course description. Students’ academic freedom rights are being trampled upon by those who not only ignore the official statements of the American Association of University Professors, but also ignore the Standards of Professional Conduct of the American Historical Association (see below).

NoIndoctrination.org is not a “self-dedicated group dedicated to political surveillance.” There are thoughtful, intelligent, patriotic people on both sides of the war issue, and all must be free to disagree, question, or agree with government policies. This is what a democracy is all about, and NoIndoctrination.org does not take sides. Indeed, if students were posting that their molecular and cell biology professor held hundreds of students captive for a program promoting the War in Iraq and frequently advocated ways to disrupt war protestors, that posting would go online. If a history professor required students to attend a “teach-in” where the professors browbeat and ridiculed any student who dared question U.S. policy, that posting would also go online. Our concern is education—-not political ideology.

Open inquiry and freedom of thought and expression are supposed to be the hallmarks of education in a free society. However, these standards are all too frequently ignored by professors who choose to step over the line of professionalism. As Stanley Fish recently wrote, “While it may be, as some have said, that the line between the political and the academic is at times difficult to discern – political issues are legitimately the subject of academic analysis; the trick is to keep analysis from sliding into advocacy – it is nevertheless a line that can and must be drawn…”

It is indeed disturbing that a group of scholars seems more committed to personal political ideology than to professional academic standards.

Sincerely,

Luann Wright
President
NoIndoctrination.org
-------
American Historical Association
Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct
http://www.historians.org/pubs/Free/ProfessionalStandards.htm

Under 2. Teaching:
• "Quality in teaching involves integrity as well as competence. Integrity requires the presentation of differing interpretations with intellectual honesty; it also requires fairness and promptness in judging students' work on merit alone and a readiness to discuss their views with an open mind."
• "When so applied, the political, social, and religious beliefs of historians may inform their teaching. The right of the teacher to hold such convictions and to express them in teaching, however, does not justify the persistent intrusion of material unrelated to the subject of the course or the intentional use of falsification, misrepresentation, or concealment."
• "Freedom of expression is essential to the task of communicating historical thought and learning. To this end, historians should have substantial latitude in realizing their objectives, although they are obligated to see that their courses or other presentations reasonably correspond in coverage and emphasis to published descriptions."


Howard N Meyer - 3/27/2004

1.Congress does have the right to declare war BUT
I do not find reference to "conditional war" in the
document.
[of course it is not rational to call a resolution offered to avoid a declaration of war that which it was designed to avoid.
2.You do not have to be a lawyer, or even a historian to know that a Treaty proposed by the President and ratified by the Senate can make an agreement binding on the U.S.
to that extent, sovereignty is ipso facto "signed away." 3. My book,THE WORLD COURT IN ACTION does constitute an honest and objective look at the workings of the World Court. If Mr Jones (or anyone else) sends me an E-mail requesting a 19 page study of the book, from a Santa Clara University, I'll be glad to send a copy for comment and scholarly collegial discussion. meyerlang@msn.com


Sheldon M. Stern - 3/27/2004

If charges of repression of historians can be verified by this investigation, then obviously everything possible should be done to stop it.

However, shouldn't these historians also be troubled by the repression of free expression on their campuses for both students and faculty. Well documented examples include:
1) the adoption of speech codes that violate the First Amendment
2) the disinviting of speakers with non-PC views
3) repression of faculty who dare to differ with PC ideology
4) one-sided courses used to indoctrinate rather than educate
5) punishment or ridicule of students who don't toe the PC line

Of course, universities routinely deny that these things happen. For incontrovertible proof, just go to the website of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education):http://www.thefire.org


Sheldon M. Stern - 3/27/2004

If charges of repression of historians can be verified by this investigation, then obviously everything possible should be done to stop it.

However, shouldn't these historians also be troubled by the repression of free expression on their campuses for both students and faculty. Well documented examples include:
1) the adoption of speech codes that violate the First Amendment
2) the disinviting of speakers with non-PC views
3) repression of faculty who dare to differ with PC ideology
4) one-sided courses used to indoctrinate rather than educate
5) punishment or ridicule of students who don't toe the PC line

Of course, universities routinely deny that these things happen. For incontrovertible proof, just go to the website of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education):http://www.thefire.org


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/27/2004

ARTHUR:
Old woman!
DENNIS:
Man!
ARTHUR:
Man. Sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there?
DENNIS:
I'm thirty-seven.
ARTHUR:
I-- what?
DENNIS:
I'm thirty-seven. I'm not old.
ARTHUR:
Well, I can't just call you 'Man'.
DENNIS:
Well, you could say 'Dennis'.
ARTHUR:
Well, I didn't know you were called 'Dennis'.
DENNIS:
Well, you didn't bother to find out, did you?
ARTHUR:
I did say 'sorry' about the 'old woman', but from the behind you looked--
DENNIS:
What I object to is that you automatically treat me like an inferior!
ARTHUR:
Well, I am King!
DENNIS:
Oh, King, eh, very nice. And how d'you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers! By 'anging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there's ever going to be any progress with the--
WOMAN:
Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh! How d'you do?

ARTHUR:
How do you do, good lady? I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Who's castle is that?
WOMAN:
King of the who?
ARTHUR:
The Britons.
WOMAN:
Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR:
Well, we all are. We are all Britons, and I am your king.
WOMAN:
I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS:
You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship: a self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
WOMAN:
Oh, there you go bringing class into it again.
DENNIS:
That's what it's all about. If only people would hear of--
ARTHUR:
Please! Please, good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
WOMAN:
No one lives there.
ARTHUR:
Then who is your lord?
WOMAN:
We don't have a lord.
ARTHUR:
What?
DENNIS:
I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week,...
ARTHUR:
Yes.
DENNIS:
...but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting...
ARTHUR:
Yes, I see.
DENNIS:
...by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,...
ARTHUR:
Be quiet!
DENNIS:
...but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major--
ARTHUR:
Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN:
Order, eh? Who does he think he is? Heh.
ARTHUR:
I am your king!
WOMAN:
Well, I didn't vote for you.
ARTHUR:
You don't vote for kings.
WOMAN:
Well, how did you become King, then?
ARTHUR:
The Lady of the Lake,...
[angels sing]
...her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
[singing stops]
That is why I am your king!
DENNIS:
Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR:
Be quiet!
DENNIS:
Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR:
Shut up!
DENNIS:
I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
ARTHUR:
Shut up, will you? Shut up!

DENNIS:
Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR:
Shut up!
DENNIS:
Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR:
Bloody peasant!
DENNIS:
Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn't you?


Grant W Jones - 3/27/2004

Congress did not give Bush a "blank check." Congress exercised its constitutional right to declare conditional war. As Congress has done with the Southeast Asia Resolution, The Formosa Resolution and The Middle East Resolution.

I have not found the clause in the constitution giving either Congress or the president authority to sign away American sovereignty.

International Law and the "Law of Nations" are legal fiction and an exercise in mental masturbation. What exists in reality are agreements between sovereign nations, designed to further their own interests. Regarding "international law" when did the American people VOTE to surrender their security and interests to the scum that run the U.N.?

Mr. Meyer is right on one point. An honest and objective look at the workings of the U.N. and World Court would be very instructive.


Howard N Meyer - 3/26/2004

It was good to see acknowledgment, in the quoted paragraoh from the Foner/Horton petition, a refenence to
peace advocacy tool so long neglected or unrecognized.
The "Historian's Petitition" of a year or so ago protested the oncoming Bush war on the ground that there had been no declaration of war. A good point but a minor one since both Houses had given Bush a blank check.
International Law is not taken seriously by the media,--
which are, after all, in bed with the military-indusrial complex
Now that the Law of Nations is re-recognized, some thought should be given to curriculum. History classes are not supposed to teach International Law, but the role
of international law in our transnational relations that
teachers should recognize that there IS a Law of Nations,mentioned specifically in the Constitution,and of such importanc to our venerated Founders that in Art VI
of the Constitution, Treaties are the "supreme law of the land" on a level with the Constitution itself. The U N Charter is a treaty.
One radical suggestion: the content of the U N Charter should be taught in secondary schools as intensely as the Constitution itself is taught,-- in history classes of merit. And should be compulsory in the Peace Studies classes, the new subdiscipline whose current pracitioners need to incorporate respect for International Law and its Court, the International Court of Justice subject of the book THE WORLD COURT IN ACTION.
I'll declare an interest: I wrote it.
Howard N Meyer 212 724 3235


david horowitz - 3/26/2004

The Organization of American Historians was captured sometime ago by the Communist left. Presidents of the organization in the past ten years have been almost exclusively drawn from the ranks of "progressive" anti-American radicals. Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes have shown in their important book In Denial (Encounter) how the professional journals of the association are dominated by apologists for the Soviet empire whose work has been discredited by the atrocities revealed in the Soviet archives but who persist in their defense of Communism nonetheless.

At this years meeting of the OAH in Boston, the Stalinist author of a cartoon history of the United States -- Howard Zinn -- was honored by the organization and a petition denouncing the Bush doctrine of attacking terrorists before they attack us was presented with 1,000 signatures from political radicals posing as historians. Chief among them were two past presidents of the Organization of American Historians -- David Montgomery a longtime Communist Party supporter and unreconstructed anti-American leftist and Eric Foner whose intellectual oeuvre is dedicated to rehabilitating the Communist left. Foner is also organizing a committee against the repression of "historians" by which he means pro-Communist, anti-American, academic poseurs who have on their own faculties systematically repressed any voices who might dissent from their ludicrous perspective.

When so-called historians come out of their political closets to reveal their ideological agendas like this, they discredit the intellectual enterprise itself. When they claim to be affirming "the centrality of dissent" while controlling history departments that are 90% leftist (at Foner's department at Columbia the figure is closer to 100%) they are approaching standards set by old Joe Stalin himself.

BTW Foner, Lemisch and their friends are also liars (no surprise here) attacking in their document non-partisan organizations, including noindoctrination.org, Campus Watch and Students for Academic Freedom for allegedly conducting a systematic attack against historians who criticize the government. This lie is also worthy of Foner and Lemisch's Stalinist models. Campus Watch criticizes academics who support the agendas of America's terrorist enemies in general and middle east dictatorships in particular. Noindoctrination.org merely posts complaints by students about professors who use their classrooms as political soapboxes and Students for Academic Freedom opposes all political abuse oft the classroom from all political perspectives whether critical of the government or supportive of it. But why should this suprise us since progressives like Foner and Lemisch invented this form of political witch-hunt.


Jerry West - 3/26/2004

Steve Sagarra wrote:

How many historians have made their career based on the pre-emptive strike against Hitler at Munich that never happened?

JW:

Or on the pre-emptive strike at Pearl Harbor. We will never know what would have happened in Europe had the UK and France responded to Munich by invading Germany. We do know what happened to Japan. Whether the conquest of Iraq has saved the so called "Free World" or not remains to be seen. And saved from what?

SS:

....who is to say what Saddam Hussein, or someone under the protection of his regime, may have done....

JW:

Or not done. The case for what he might have done looks weaker every day. What is apparent is that the administration did not care what he might or might not have done as they were determined to find a reason to go to war with him anyway. Besides, who wants a system based on paranoia with policy formulated to over react to every fear, founded or not.

SS:

Certainly, the people of Iraq will indeed be able to determine their own political and economic future now that he has been removed.

JW:

And I thought that Bremer and company were setting up the parameters for their economic future. I even read that Garner was relieved because he did not want to privatize their economy but let them make their own decisions. Some self determination for Iraqis.

SS:

We should be thankful we live in a democracy that allows us to be historians....

JW:

And eternal vigilance, not faith in reactionaries like the Cheney bunch, is our best hope to maintain our independence to research and present history as we see it.

Of course being thankful about our good fortune has nothing to do with Saddam or one's view of the Iraq Attack.

Personally I am glad we do not live in a regime like Pinochet's Chile, and I am offended that we created it. So much for our commitment to democracy and all of that stuff. The only part that it plays in US foreign policy is window dressing when convenient.


Richard Henry Morgan - 3/26/2004

The poor babies!! Does it hurt? Mommy will make it better, don't worry. I can't sleep at night knowing that historians are suffering the "repression" of "systematic denunciation" by private groups. Something must be done. This kind of real repression dwarfs the ersatz kind that independent librarians in Cuba have suffered -- you know, imprisonment. I want to congratulate the OAH for focussing on the real source of evil in the world -- the group NO Indoctrination. Venceremos!!


Steve Sagarra - 3/26/2004

In the interest of dissent, which the OAH & HAW understandably uphold, and as a member of the OAH, let me just state that not all historians are opposed to the actions of the United States in Iraq. It is ironic that both organizations would utilize wording such as "maintain the health of this democracy" and "in order to safeguard the health of democracy," since the very people we are fighting against in a supposedly "unjust" war would like nothing better than to destroy that very democracy. How many historians have made their career based on the pre-emptive strike against Hitler at Munich that never happened? Yet, here we are again debating the very opposite - a pre-emptive strike that did happen which very well may have saved the free world in the near future.

Historians are not prophets - who is to say what Saddam Hussein, or someone under the protection of his regime, may have done in the near future against the United States and its allies. We will never know, but I sleep better at night knowing that one less man like Hussein is no longer in power. Certainly, the people of Iraq will indeed be able to determine their own political and economic future now that he has been removed.

Whether opposed or not, historians should be as apolitical and objective as possible. Of course, this is nearly impossible being that historians are also human beings. That is what I was taught though, and something I attempt to maintain. It is not a new phenomenon that civil liberties are obstructed in the name of national security, and historians have battled it every time. History has continued on though, as have historians. As a profession, we will just have to do what we always do - deal with it. We should be thankful we live in a democracy that allows us to be historians - you would not be so lucky under a Hussein-like regime. Who are the first to always be killed by such when it comes to their legacy? First the historian and then the history teacher. Remember that when protesting the actions of the United States.