OAH Annual Meeting: What Historians Against the War Want


Mr. Shenkman is the editor of HNN.

Friday night, April 4, at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), Memphis, Tennessee, downtown Marriott.

After a feisty debate, a group of some fifty historians decided to try to persuade the executive board of the OAH to adopt the following resolution in support of free speech:

In view of the threat to free speech in the current climate, the OAH executive board affirms the centrality of dissent in American history and the necessity of open debate over important issues of public policy, including U.S. foreign policy, for maintaining the health of this democracy.

The resolution was approved by the group shortly after 7pm at a meeting arranged by Historians Against the War (HAW), an organization formed in January at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

Several of the historians present initially pressed for more radical action, hoping to persuade the OAH executive committee to pass a resolution opposing the war. But this approach failed to win the support of even Sixties radical Straughton Lynd, who said it was difficult to know at this stage in the conflict--when it was unclear whether this war would end quickly as in 1991 or drag on as in Vietnam, or end in Lebanese chaos--what approach would be best."I am sorry to be an agnostic on that question," he said,"but I wanted to say how much it means to me to know that there are historians against the war within this organization." In 1969 Lynd walked out of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association when Harvard historian and AHA president John Fairbanks refused to support a resolution opposing the Vietnam War.

Jesse Lemisch, another Sixties radical, said he was gratified that the leadership of the OAH had passed out of the hands of the royal court, but averred that this"greening of the OAH" had not resulted in more vigorous action against the war. He said that Ira Berlin, the president of the OAH, told him that the war had not even come up at any of the meetings of the executive board. Another historian quickly added,"But it's only Friday." The annual meeting goes through Sunday.

The most combative member of the group was Blanche Wiesen Cook, the biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, who noted that at the 1969 meeting Eugene Genovese had said,"We should put them down now and put them down hard and put them down forever." Earlier in the meeting she predicted that the"occupation will be disgusting" and charged that"every bomb that falls on these open cities is a war crime." Later, she observed that"we had an impeachment of a president because he used his cock. Now we should impeach a president for being brainless." She referred to this as"the organ approach to history," which got a long laugh.

Cook suggested that the group try to persuade Berlin to denounce"the mindless misuse of history" by the Bush administration during his scheduled Saturday night address, when he would be guaranteed a large audience."I don't like the idea of crawling to Ira to do this," Lemisch objected. Cook responded,"We don't have to crawl."

Alan Dawley (College of New Jersey) pressed the group to focus on the"alarming threat" to free speech. This approach elicited a favorable response from most participants. Sandi Cooper (College of Staten Island) said that at CUNY administrators had fired an Egyptian translator merely because he had worked with the radical lawyer recently indicted by the federal government. Cook complained that people seem to be intimidated by the Bush administration, citing as evidence the refusal of the New York Times to publish Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s latest op ed, in which he claimed that the invasion of Iraq is"our day of infamy." It was eventually published by the LA Times. Jon Wiener (UC Irvine) recalled that just last week a community college in Irvine decreed that professors could not talk about the war in their classrooms unless the subject was part of their syllabus.

Others shared concerns about the media. Alida Black (George Washington University) expressed consternation at the media for passing along bogus analogies and misinforming the public. Singling out the Washington Post, she said that the Cuban analogy the paper has repeatedly invoked was preposterous."Kennedy and Khrushchev," she said,"wanted peace. Bush wanted war."

Cook, noting that many of the most vociferous antiwar activists are old--Robert Byrd, Schlesinger, Zinn, Lynd--cracked,"You have to be eighty in this country to take a stand." Somebody else then cried out,"Never trust anybody under 80," which drew laughs.

After the group approved the resolution, Jim Livingston (College of New Jersey), who helped arrange the meeting, suggested"we organize a politburo" at which point he was cut-off by someone who asked,"Can't we use a different word?" A murmur of assent went through the crowd. Instead of appointing a politburo, they would establish a"steering committee."

Lynd and Lemisch agreed to serve as honorary cochairmen. The other members include: Livingston, Cook, Wiener, Black, Dawley, Ben Alpers (University of Oklahoma) and Gretchen Eick (Friends University).

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Nour A. - 4/19/2003

from this recent war I could conclude that there is a big difference between the US army and the English one , the later has a good behaviuor but the US army shoes nonmoral behaviour, so I suggest both to sit together and discuss getting rid of
forest manner of life in 2003!!!

Suetonius - 4/10/2003

I would pay money to see Baghdad Bob deliver the keynote address at the next OAH...but only if I got to sit next to the likes of these professors so I could watch their reaction.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/9/2003

I'm afraid that some of the comments about Sahaf found in your article are, in fact, a threat to dissent -- just as the OAH so presciently stated. I'll be sending around a petition.

Tacitus - 4/9/2003

What about.......
(April 8) - The television pictures of U.S. tanks in Baghdad seemed undeniable, but Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's spokesman denied them anyway - with his usual flair for insult.

``There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad,'' Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf asserted outside Baghdad's Palestine Hotel on Monday.

"The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad," he told reporters gathered on the roof of the Information Ministry. "As our leader Saddam Hussein said, 'God is grilling their stomachs in hell.' "

Undeterred by the black smoke billowing behind him over central Baghdad, and the sound of fighting echoing around the capital, he declared the city was safe and protected.

Wearing his trademark green military uniform, with a pistol at the hip, he hurled abuse and insults. The American forces, he said, were "sick in their minds."

A day later, when the hotel came under U.S. tank fire, the Iraqi information minister had to admit to the journalists staying there that coalition forces were in the capital. But, smiling, he made it sound like it was all part of Iraq's plan:

``We blocked them inside the city. Their rear is blocked,'' he said in hurried remarks that were a departure from his daily news conference.

Sahhaf, 63, who kept a low profile before the war, has become an unlikely media star and a hero to many in the Arab world, at the same time as Western audiences gasp at his bravado.

Across the region, Arabs hoping for victory over the United States - hated for its support of Israel and portrayed as attacking Iraq only for its oil - embrace Sahhaf's version. And even when they can't believe what he is saying, they like the way he says it.

They get a kick out of the way he ridicules President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in daily news conferences, broadcast live. Some call it the ``al-Sahhaf show.''

Sahhaf has even introduced insults virtually unknown to the Arab public. His use, for example, of ``uluj,'' an obscure and particularly insulting term for ``infidel,'' sent viewers leafing through their dictionaries and calling TV stations for a definition.

His enemies are never just the Americans or the British. They are ``outlaws,'' ``war criminals,'' ``fools,'' ``stooges,'' an ``international gang of villains.''

Sahhaf has singled out Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, describing him as a ``crook'' and ``the most despicable creature.''

Sahhaf's face, clean-shaven in contrast to most Iraqi officials who sport Saddam-style mustaches, has become a TV fixture, along with his black beret and green Baath party uniform.

``American cruise Tomahawk missiles bomb Iraq, and al-Sahhaf missiles of words deafen the American and allied ears,'' read a headline in the Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

Viewers don't ``pause at what he (Sahaf) says as much as they are eager to listen to his funny words,'' wrote Faisal Salman, managing editor of the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, in his daily column.

"I believe Sahaf exaggerates a little, but he needs to do that to reassure his people," said Hazem, a 25-year-old security guard in Cairo. "Of course he knows that he is talking to the American soldiers as well, so his words are part of the psychological war that's going on."

Abdul-Aziz, a Saudi writer who would not give his last name, said: "Sahaf is vulgar but he is a brave liar...If the rest of the Iraqi government or army were this brave, they would inflict many more losses on U.S. and British forces."

The view is different in the United States and Britain.

"With regard to the information coming out of Baghdad, spin is all very well and to be expected but it has to keep links with reality," said Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold, director of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank.

Some Arab commentators have dubbed Sahaf the ``Iraqi Goebbels,'' after Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's master propagandist.

Sahaf is no stranger to the media and its impact - and to Iraq's rough politics.

He was studying to be an English teacher when he got his start in politics in 1963 by joining a violent group led by Saddam that targeted opponents of the Baath party. After a 1963 coup, he revealed the whereabouts of his brother-in-law, an army general and the country's military prosecutor, who was then killed by Baath party militias. By handing over his relative, Sahaf proved his loyalty to the Baath party.

A Baathist regime was overthrown in another coup the same year, but the party came back five years later. Sahaf was put in charge of securing the radio and television stations and then put at the helm of both. He was known for his temper - even kicking TV and radio employees who displeased him.

Sahaf has been information minister since 2001. Before that, he was foreign minister, from 1993 to 2001. He also has served as Iraq's ambassador to India, Italy and the United Nations.

Although Sahaf has become the most prominent face of the regime of late, he does not have the political or military clout of Saddam's relatives and clansmen.

Sahaf is from Iraq's majority Shiite Muslim community, long dominated by Sunnis like Saddam. He has middle-class roots - the family name refers to his father's bookbinding craft - and comes from Hilla, south of Baghdad, not Saddam's Tikrit power base.

Still, it was Sahaf who delivered a recent message in Saddam's name calling for jihad, or holy war, and urging Iraqis to fight on.

Saddam also used Sahaf to deliver some of his more conciliatory messages. Late last year, Sahaf apologized in a statement in the president's name to the people of Kuwait for the 1990 Iraqi invasion. The statement, though, went on to criticize the Kuwaiti leadership for relying on American help.

xpbc - 4/9/2003

Humorist Blanch Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt, comment "we had an impeachment of a President because he used his cock" would be better said if she could tell the truth in the matter, Clinton, who is well known for having a penis for a brain did not use his cock, Monica did. Get the difference Blanche. Not having read the Eleanor Roosevelt biography I can only wonder what this academic(?)has in store for her readers, the truth I hope.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/7/2003

The threat to dissent aimed at Johnson was all too real. The threat today to dissent of historians is more assumed rather than argued for. Which prompted a response from the OAH? Similarly with Bellesiles. I don't think I could possibly have been clearer on the subject. I have no problem with a statement defending dissent. I do have a problem with the selective defense of dissent, and I do have a problem with the preamble to the OAH statement -- does "current" extend back to the Johnson case? Oh, forgive me, I think I just uttered the politically incorrect notion that threats to dissent can just as easily emanate from the left. Mea culpa.

I make no assumptions about you and the use of "pre-emptive" -- I'm reacting to the comical use of the term, along with "unilateral", by those opposed to the war and speaking at the OAH discussion (check out the proceedings on C-SPAN, and you'll see my point). I might disagree with Jesse Lemisch's principles, but at least he has principles such that one may or may not agree with them. I distinctly remember his petition some time back at the AHA meeting concerning Clinton and Sudan. It actually garnered more signatures than Wilentz's petition decrying the elevation of Bush to President as the greatest threat to democracy since the introduction of chlorinated water. Hats off to Jesse, and those with enough courage to go where their principles demand. On that point what disturbs me most is not that some may have approved one without the other, or that one garners more protest. No, my problem is in the realm of facts -- you can only say that Bush has inaugurated a new policy if one first rewrites history to whitewash Clinton. I shouldn't have to explain to historians the importance of history.

As for Ralph's point about efficacy, I agree entirely -- I just don't want to leave the impression that an OAH position on the Johnson case would have actually detracted from the greater efficacy of the select historians' protest.

Charles Rostkowski - 4/7/2003

Most of the professors are Boomers and all of the studnets are civics. The disconnect is obvious.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/7/2003

One of the qualities that gave weight to the letter by historians who protested the decision by Brooklyn College to deny tenure to K. C. Johnson was that its distinguished signers represented a cross section of political ideology among historians. See: http://hnn.us/articles/1123.html. Thus, some of those who signed the letter have left the OAH for a variety of reasons. But three historians who signed the letter were on this year's OAH convention program: Alan Brinkley, Professor of History and newly appointed Provost at Columbia University, Fredrik Logeval, Professor of History at the University of California, Sante Barbara, and Frank A. Ninkovich, Professor of History at St. Johns University. Others who signed the letter, such as Dennis Dickerson, Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, are active members of the OAH and were at the convention, but not on the program. It is entirely possible that a letter of protest by a distinguished list of historians is more effective than a resolution by a professional organization.

maxvintage - 4/7/2003

Because of a whole chain of wrongs which none of the people described may have been guilty of? It's typical of the arguments here to link wole chains of supposed wrongs--the leftists and the rightists do it. it's really odd. So if I understand you, you are angry at these guys because they are talking about dissent over the Iraq war but apparently failed to do so over the case of JC Johnson? Or you are assuming that these same people are all the same people who acted wrongly in the bellisles matter? Is that it?

I am really puzzled by the way historian, who should be more sensitive to generalization, jump to wild linkages. For example, you seem to be assuming that because i used the word "pre-emptive" regarding Bush, that I would not use it regarding clinton's missiling in the Sudan. IS there ANY evidence that the people involved favored clinton's use of missles in Sudan? I mean, maybe they did, but is there any evidence? The fact that there was no widespread protest may indicate that your enemies are a bunch of mendacious, dimwitted ariheads with no morals whatsoever, or it may have more to do with the length and scale of Sudan vs iraq, or each of these people may indeed have deplored the missile attack on Sudan but the news of their disapproval may not have reached you.

It's an odd line of argument that makes each person responsible for the "errors" of the entire left and right. It's demagogic, i think

As to the climate of "repression," I have not been personally 'repressed" but the belligernace on Fox, and the "patroit act, coupled with the fact that i just covered the espionage act, the sedition act, and the free speedch cases in class, makes me slightly nervous. Please note: my feeling nervous about the patriot act is by no means an endorsement of limits on free speech imnposed by leftists or anywhwere else, stereotype as you will.

Arch Stanton - 4/7/2003

Or Isaac Bickerstaff or Evangeline Adams?

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/7/2003

There's nothing like being the butt of criticism to sensitize one to threats, real or merely perceived, to the right of dissent. The OAH exhibited an extraordinary sensitivity to Bellesiles' cries of martyrdom, and similar cries by some of the tenured elite at the OAH meeting -- like the martyrs of Toledo, it could be said they fairly leapt to their martyrdom. Yet where was the OAH during the KC Johnson case, when somebody took a real hit from the left-wing commissars of academia? The latest OAH edict follows the Bellesiles model, assuming facts not in evidence: "In view of the threat to free speech in the current climate ... " One would hope this would be the conclusion to an argument, not the assumed premiss it most closely resembles.

Of course, there were other comic moments, not the least of which was the proposition forwarded by more than one professor there, that we were now embarking in the Bush administration on a new era of foreign relations -- one marked by unilateral preemption. I've always been under the impression that 'unilateral' meant 'one-sided', so I guess that the UK has now been incorporated into the US (as well as Australia and Poland). One may argue the merits of applying the term 'preemption', but both 'unilateral' and 'preemption' seem perfectly applicable to Clinton's gift of several missiles to the Sudan -- illustrating once again the studied adoption of amnesia by certain historians in the service of politics.

bill maher - 4/7/2003

Tom Wolfe was right. These folks do worship the great gray cockaloonie flying overhead.

maxvintage - 4/7/2003

A group of historians get together and advance a resolution affirming the right of dissent. This hardly seems like something worthy of denouncing!

It is true that Fox news and it imitators regularly suggest that disagreement about the war is nigh onto treason (watch is you don't belive me, or catch michael Savage on MSNBC), so it doesn't seem unreasonable that one small group would try to affrim the right to dissent. For this they are here denouced as irrelevant, ads airheads, as relics, as fools, etc.

Can some one explain why? What is exactly is so offensive about this mild action?

Tacitus - 4/7/2003

Below is news that may well portend how ridiculous some of the political posturing was at OAH. Some of these folks seem to have taken nostalgia for the 60's to the extreme.
KERBALA, Iraq (April 7) - First tests on substances found at a military training camp in central Iraq suggest they contain a cocktail of banned chemical weapons, including deadly nerve agents, U.S. officers said on Monday.

Maj. Michael Hamlet of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division told Reuters that initial investigations of 14 barrels found in the camp on Sunday revealed levels of nerve agents sarin and tabun and the blister agent lewisite.

He said the find could be the ''smoking gun'' that proved U.S. and British charges that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been hiding banned weapons of mass destruction -- the central plank of their case for military action to overthrow him.

A team of experts would carry out further tests as early as Tuesday on the substances, discovered at the camp in Albu Mahawish, on the Euphrates river between the central Iraqi cities of Kerbala and Hilla, site of ancient Babylon.

''If tests from our experts confirm this, this could be the smoking gun. It would prove he has the weapons we have said he has all along,'' Hamlet said. ''But right now we just don't know.''

The substances under investigation were found in three 55-gallon barrels and 11 25-gallon barrels, he said. He could not say whether the levels of each agent registered in the test were lethal doses.

''They look like cocktails. They look like they've all got a bit of each in them,'' said another officer.

Iraq is believed to have used sarin against Kurdish Iraqis in the 1980s.


The United States invaded Iraq on March 20 to overthrow Saddam and prevent him using banned chemical weapons. Many other members of the United Nations opposed the attack, saying U.N. inspectors should be given more time to disarm Iraq.

No chemical or biological weapons have yet been fired at U.S. troops in 19 days of fighting, even after advance forces entered Baghdad in recent days. Some American soldiers have even been ordered to discard their chemical protection suits.

The U.S. news station National Public Radio, reporting what appeared to be a separate discovery to the one in Albu Mahawish, said U.S. forces found a weapons cache of around 20 medium-range missiles equipped with potent chemical weapons.

NPR said the rockets, BM-21 missiles, were equipped with sarin and mustard gas and were ''ready to fire.''

It said the cache was discovered by Marines with the 101st Airborne Division, which was following up behind the Army after it seized Baghdad's international airport.

Officers from the 101st Division and the 3rd Infantry Division at the airport were unable to confirm the report. U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar had no immediate comment.

On Saturday, a U.S. officer said first tests of a suspicious white powder and liquid found on Friday in thousands of boxes south of Baghdad indicated it was not a chemical weapon.

During the weekend, U.S. Marines in the central Iraqi town of Aziziya began digging up a suspected chemical weapons hiding place at a girl's school.

''We have always expected that this regime has chemical weapons and also possesses the will and means to use it,'' Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a news conference at Central Command in Qatar.

He said the U.S.-led forces' advance inside the country had removed some of the means and its blizzard of leaflets and messages warning Iraqi commanders not to use weapons of mass destruction had removed much of the will.

There had also been strikes early on in the campaign, he added, against Iraqi missile capabilities -- such as al-Samouds -- which could have delivered chemical or even biological weapons into neighboring countries.

''That work continues but there's also still capability,'' he said. ''While it hasn't been found we're reminded that because we haven't found it it's still there. That's the approach we take.''

Reut14:10 04-07-03

Herdotus - 4/7/2003

Do these people even know who Creswell was?

Arch Stanton - 4/6/2003

At the annual meeting of the Organization of American Astrologers, many renewed their demand that the Bush administration stop the Iraq war. The Isaac Bickerstaff Professor of Aquarian Studies at Columbia noted that "Although Iraq may not be a center of important work now, it was in Babylon that the foundations of modern prophetic science were laid." The Creswell Professor of Microcosmological Studies at UCLA condemned the Bush administration's "mindless misuse of astrological analogies" in defending the war. The Evangeline Adams Professor of Epherimides Analysis at Harvard reported that her charts were beginning to reveal ""a threat of biblical proportions" to the prestige, credibility and free speech rights of the astrological community.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/6/2003

I couldn't agree more when it comes to consideration of the 104 turnipheads in Congress -- or should I say the 104 who revealed their status on this occasion? And yes, there is hardly an organization without turnipheads (though I might suggest the Jason Group as a candidate). Actually, I'm all for the anti-war crowd speaking out, since the more they do, the stronger the support for the war seems to be.

Eric Foner, at one stage of his remarks, asserted that those opposed to the war do not want the defeat of the US (or words to that effect). It seems to me that blanket absolutions are as unjustified as blanket condemnations. Certainly those behind ANSWER (Brian Becker and his crowd), who support the North Korean regime, and De Genova, and those carrying the sign saying "we support the troops as long as they shoot their officers", want precisely what Foner denies the movement wants. Curiously, too, given the speed with which the OAH sanctified Bellesiles' claims of persecution, the OAH did not feel similarly moved to defend K.C. Johnson. Or did I miss one of their ex cathedra pronouncements? Glad to hear the Bellesiles chat room went well. Am expecting a full report.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/6/2003

Would you direct me to the nearest organization which can be certified as including no turnip heads?
Actually, Paul Finkelman and I missed the C-Span coverage of the the Iraq discussions because we were concurrently helping Jon Wiener to understand the problems with ..., well, you know.
It seems to me that resolutions in favor of freedom of speech are appropriate especially during any time of war. If we are not careful, however, the 104 congressional turnip heads will make that foolish young anthropologist at Columbia look like a political martyr and guarantee that any decision about his tenure there cannot be made on appropriate grounds of professional accomplishment, teaching skills, etc. It can become an advantage to have had 104 bought and paid for red, white, and blue public grandstanders demand your ouster.
I taught with Eric Foner's Uncle Phil, by the way, at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University. He was hardly a threat to the American way of life and not, I think, a very careful, but a very productive historian. Eric Foner is clearly a much superior historian.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/6/2003

Would you direct me to the nearest organization which can be certified as including no turnip heads?
Actually, Paul Finkelman and I missed the C-Span coverage of the the Iraq discussions because we were concurrently helping Jon Wiener to understand the problems with ..., well, you know.
It seems to me that resolutions in favor of freedom of speech are appropriate especially during any time of war. If we are not careful, the 104 congressional turnip heads will make that foolish young anthropologist at Columbia look like a political martyr and guarantee that any decision about his tenure there cannot be made on appropriate grounds of professional accomplishment, teaching skills, etc. It can become an advantage to have had 104 bought and paid for public grandstanders demand your ouster.

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/6/2003

You're quite right, Ralph. I should not have left the impression that each and every person there is an airhead. I did catch the OAH discussion on C-SPAN concerning historians and the Iraq War, though, and found it ... enlightening. There was Eric Foner, before a full room, complaining (after a standard apology that some may find his remarks banal while people are dying) that the great threat of the war is a threat to the right of dissent by historians in the US. You get the picture -- criticizing the war is dissent, while criticizing the dissenters is a threat to fundamental liberties. While no doubt there are those who would like war opponents to shut up, and even criticize them harshly and unfairly with that intent in mind, in a rank ordering of things I hardly see this as the thin wedge of fascism (any more than the thin wedge of that other totalitarian ideology that found such devoted expression in the Foner family). Needless to say, nobody at that discussion had K.C. Johnson in mind. And Ms. Cook certainly didn't have Lawrence Eagleburger in mind, who just a few days ago revealed that he was approached by the NY Times to write an op-ed piece -- as long as it was critical of Bush. In any case, my apologies for leaving the impression that the OAH, en masse, has the brains of a turnip.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/5/2003

Mr. Morgan,
Rick's summary of a meeting of 50 of about 2300 historians at Memphis this week hardly is grounds for dismissing the whole lot of us. I had dinner last night with several of the folks mentioned in this summary. The subject of this summary didn't even come up. Of course, the _New York Times_ is entitled to publish what it wishes, tho Howell Raines's judgment seems odd, at _Times_.
By the way, the Chatroom discussion on Bellesiles was remarkably civil. There was no name calling, but no shying away from facts either. Would that HNN discussions were as civil.

mark safranski - 4/5/2003

Good grief, a politburo yet! And these people are historians ! That has to be the HNN money quote of the year.

Frank Lee - 4/5/2003

What drivel these historians spew. Send those academic traitors over to Iraq along side George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, who are valiantly serving there. Let's see who the real patriots are !

Richard Henry Morgan - 4/5/2003

The great thing about Blanche Wiesen Cook is that you can always count on her to say something staggeringly stupid. The evidence, according to Cook, that the New York Times is intimidated by Bush? The New York Times didn't publish Schlesinger's op-ed!! I'm not making this up. I just know that Ralph Luker will correct her, as he did Clayton Cramer, that Schlesinger doesn't have the right to be published when and by whom he wants, and such that failure is not evidence of anything.

Herodotus - 4/5/2003

[irrelevance sucks, doesn't it]

Professors Protest as Students Debate
New York Times | Saturday, April 5, 2003 | By KATE ZERNIKE

April 5, 2003

Professors Protest as Students Debate

AMHERST, Mass., April 4 ? It is not easy being an old lefty on campus in this war.

At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, awash in antiwar protests in the Vietnam era, a columnist for a student newspaper took a professor to task for canceling classes to protest the war in Iraq, saying the university should reprimand her and refund tuition for the missed periods.

Irvine Valley College in Southern California sent faculty members a memo that warned them not to discuss the war unless it was specifically related to the course material. When professors cried censorship, the administration explained that the request had come from students.

Here at Amherst College, many students were vocally annoyed this semester when 40 professors paraded into the dining hall with antiwar signs. One student confronted a protesting professor and shoved him.

Some students here accuse professors of behaving inappropriately, of not knowing their place.

"It seems the professors are more vehement than the students," Jack Morgan, a sophomore, said. "There comes a point when you wonder are you fostering a discussion or are you promoting an opinion you want students to embrace or even parrot?"

Across the country, the war is disclosing role reversals, between professors shaped by Vietnam protests and a more conservative student body traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Prowar groups have sprung up at Brandeis and Yale and on other campuses. One group at Columbia, where last week an antiwar professor rhetorically called for "a million Mogadishus," is campaigning for the return of R.O.T.C. to Morningside Heights.

Even in antiwar bastions like Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison, the protests have been more town than gown. At Berkeley, where Vietnam protesters shouted, "Shut it down!" under clouds of tear gas, Sproul Plaza these days features mostly solo operators who hand out black armbands. The shutdown was in San Francisco, and the crowd was grayer.

All this dismays many professors.

"We used to like to offend people," Martha Saxton, a professor of women's studies at Amherst, said as she discussed the faculty protest with students this week. "We loved being bad, in the sense that we were making a statement. Why is there no joy now?"

Certainly not all students are pro-war or all faculty anti. But "there's a much higher percentage of liberal professors than there are liberal students," said Ben Falby, the student who organized the protest at Amherst only to find that it had more professors than students.

On campuses like Yale and Berkeley, professors say their colleagues are overwhelmingly against the war. By contrast, students polled by The Yale Daily News are 50-50. Interviews elsewhere find students' attitudes equally fractured. Some are solidly for the war. Some are against it, but not to the point of protest.

"Protesting is a niche activity," said Prof. Michael Kazin, co-author of "America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960's." "There are some people who do drama, some people who do protest, other people who drink too much."

At Georgetown, where Professor Kazin teaches history, a handful of antiwar students had a sleep-in last weekend on Red Square, named for the color of the bricks, not the political sentiment of those who gather there. Other students expressed disgust, so much that Professor Kazin said to his students that they seemed more upset about the encampment than the war.

He hears similar accounts in academic e-mail chains across the country. One example was a campus protest that drew 40 students, maybe 60.

Amherst's history should make it predictably antiwar. The Vietnam protests were so spirited that in 1972 they swept up the college president, John William Ward, who was arrested in a sit-in at nearby Westover Air Force Base. The protest included 1,000 students, 20 faculty members and the president's wife.

Now, the departing president, Tom Gerety, is firmly antiwar, as are most professors. The students, however, have yet to be swept up. Last month, the Progressive Students Association asked the student government to ask the faculty to take 15 minutes in class to discuss the war. The government refused. Some professors chose to take the time anyway, but many did not, having seen the reaction to the dining hall protest.

"There was a sense this is a different world," said Austin Sarat, a professor of political science who was active in antiwar protests in 1970 as a graduate student in Madison, Wis.

Students opposed to the war say they appreciate the professors' sentiments.

"It's a lonely place to be an antiwar protester on the Amherst campus," said Beatriz Wallace, a junior. In the dining hall, students have set out baskets of ribbons, some yellow, some red, white and blue.

Prowar students say they feel just as alienated. "The faculty, and events, has a chilling effect on discussions for the prowar side," said David Chen, a sophomore.

In a discussion, Professor Sarat began with the proposition that if you love the United States, you must, as an act of patriotism, oppose the war. Students took exception.

"President Bush has taken an imperial position," Professor Sarat insisted.

Michael Valentine, a sophomore, replied: "I don't think it's the dominance of the United States. It's the security of the United States that's at issue. They're saying the only way we can ensure the security of our citizens is to go in there."

"And to make the Middle East safe for democracy," Professor Sarat interjected.

"Professor, that's only because a regime poses a security risk," Mr. Valentine said.

Professor Sarat said the change in tone reflected a larger shift.

"The notion that campuses are awash in political correctness," he said, "is given the lie every day in my classroom."

Still, he and others expressed wistfulness for days gone by.

"In Madison, teach-ins were as common as bratwurst," he said. "There was a certain nobility in being gassed. Now you don't get gassed. You walk into a dining hall and hand out an informational pamphlet."

The students' attitudes have many possible explanations. There is no draft this time. Students on small liberal arts campuses like this one are more diverse than those of the 60's and 70's. More receive financial aid, and many are more concerned about their careers than about protesting. But the students have also been pulled toward a more conservative mainstream than their parents.

"The most left president they know is Bill Clinton, running on, `I'm tough on crime,' " Professor Sarat said. "The Great Society is to them what the New Deal was to me."

John Lewis Gaddis, a professor of history at Yale, agreed, saying: "These are the kids of Reagan. When I lecture on Reagan, the kids love him. Their parents are horrified and appalled."

This generation is also shaped by Sept. 11. When Gary J. Bass, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton, asked his class on "Causes of War" how many students were in R.O.T.C., two raised their hands. The rest applauded.

"I had asked the question before Sept. 11 and not gotten that response," Professor Bass said. "I definitely hadn't expected it."

A nationwide survey of freshmen by the University of California at Los Angeles over the last 37 years reflected other shifts from Sept. 11. This year, more students called themselves conservative than in other recent surveys, and 45 percent supported an increase in military spending, more than double the percentage in 1993.

At a teach-in at Yale, the president, Richard C. Levin, announced that although he was against the war, the speakers were chosen to represent a range of opinions.

At Amherst, Prof. Barry O'Connell, too, tries hard. As he sits in a discussion group with students, he patiently listens to those who argue in favor of the war, even though he remains adamantly against it. Across the hall, a mug shot of Henry A. Kissinger is posted outside his office with the heading "Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity."

"My job is not to get my students to agree with me," Professor O'Connell insisted.

Still, he conceded, `There is a second when I hear them, and my heart just falls."

Herodotus - 4/5/2003

What, pray tell, on earth to these historians think is going on that there's a threat to free speech? What kind of threat is it supposed to be? If anything, it's the oppressive feeling that you can't speak your mind out in support of the administration or of any generally right-leaning thoughts on a campus. If you do, like at Brooklyn College, you suffer an attempt to railroad you out.

Again: WHAT THREAT TO FREE SPEECH? This is a farce.