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Historians' Petition on War with Iraq: Breaking News

The entries on this page are listed in reverse chronological order. As we learn of breaking news, this page will be updated.

Full coverage of the Historians' Petition: Click here.

10-2-02 5:30 pm PST

Joyce Appleby issued the following statement:"Members of Congress are now listening to constituents who telephone them; the House information number is (202) 224-3121. Historians might emphasize how unusual it is for the United States to make a pre-emptive strike."

9-20-02 9:30 am PST

Joyce Appleby issued the following statement:"We urge all of you who signed the American historians petition to take one more critical step. Call your representatives and senators now that the debate before Congress has entered a crucial stage. Whatever your opinion, let them hear it."

9-17-02 noon, PST

Nine historians, led by Joyce Appleby, met on capital hill today to present the historians' petition to Congress at a media event arranged by Congressman Robert Filner (D-CA). Four members of Congress appeared including Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). The media contingent included ABC News and NPR.

The nine historians included: Ira Berlin (University of Maryland), Roy Rosenzweig (George Mason University), Michael Johnson (Johns Hopkins), Barbara Clark Smith (National Museum of History), James Banner (History News Service), Linn Shapiro (independent historian), David De Leon (Howard University), Susan Armitage (Washington State University).

In the afternoon Appleby and others in the delegation distributed copies of the petition to the offices of various members. (Members are returning to work today following a long 4-day weekend.)

The event was staged to coincide with Constitution Day, which is held on the day the Constitution was signed in 1787.

Appleby encourages historians to write Congress in support of the petition.

This morning the Los Angeles Timespublished an op ed by Appleby and Ellen Carol Dubois in support of the petition. Appleby told HNN that the paper considered pulling the piece after Iraq announced it would allow inspectors from the United Nations to return. She said she wasn't sure the piece would run until she saw it in the paper this morning.

The article begins:

The constitutional issue raised by the possibility of invading Iraq without congressional approval has not been put to rest, although the crisis may be forestalled by Iraq's agreement Monday to readmit U.N. arms inspectors.

The question remains: Is it possible to amend the Constitution through an act of collective forgetfulness?


On Tuesday September 17 the Historians' Petition on Iraq was featured in a TomPaine.com advertisement on the op-ed page of the NYT. 9-15-02

The San Francisco Chronicle published an editorial written by Ruth Rosen in support of the historians' petition on war with Iraq. Rosen observed:

Many Americans apparently do not remember who has the power to declare war."It is striking," Appleby told me,"that after a half century of the Cold War's covert operations and proxy wars that few remember that the Constitution unequivocally gives the war-making powers to Congress."

It's not that this country never declares war. But ever since the end of World War II, we've only declared war on intractable social problems such as poverty and drugs, not when actual military force is used.


The New York Post published an article by historian Ronald Radosh critical of the historians' petition. The article noted:

Appleby and her colleagues are, it seems, living in a dream world - one in which the evil United States is oppressing every nation, and those resisting its grasp are simply opponents of a new imperialism.

Sorry, Ms Appleby. This historian does not buy your arguments. As Larry Miller wrote in The Weekly Standard last Jan. 14,"No matter what your daughter's political science professor says, we didn't start this." Change that to your son or daughter's historian.

Sean Wilentz, a signer of the historians' petition, objected to Mr. Radosh's characterization of Ms. Appleby's position. Mr. Wilentz emailed Mr. Radosh with his objections. Mr. Radosh subsequently included Mr. Wilentz's email in a mailing to HNN.

I have no idea what Joyce's views on going to war with Iraq are, or what she expects, wistfully or otherwise, will be the outcome of that vote. That's all beside the point. I, for one, fully expect that Congress will vote to go ahead. Fine. I have no problem in trying forceably to curtail weapons of mass destruction. But when Bush through Fleischer announced he's going ahead without Congress, I was alarmed. Even if one is a fervert Bush supporter -- which obviously I'm not either -- to lead the country into this kind of war without Congressional approval would be politically dangerous (for Bush) as well as constitutionally dubious. You've read much more into the thing I signed than is there, I think -- and to link it with the moron anti-war left is unfair and misleading.

Joyce Appleby, one of the two organizers of the historians' petition on Iraq, appeared Friday 9-13-02 on the PBS show, the Newshour.


On Tuesday September 17, the historians' petition to Congress will be the subject of a quarter page ad on the op-ed page of the New York Times. This"op-ad" will be sponsored by TomPaine.com, a public interest journal published by John Moyers. TomPaine regularly runs ads in the NYT on behalf of public causes. A typical quarter-page ad on the op-ed page of the NYT costs more than $20,000.

Moyers delayed a decision to run the ad after President Bush suddenly announced that he wanted to get Congress's approval in advance of taking action in Iraq. Moyers decided to go ahead after Joyce Appleby convinced him that the president's reversal was less significant than it appeared.

"Why should conservatives and liberals join together to oppose President Bush's willingness 'to consult' Congress about his plans to attack Iraq?" Appleby asked."Because he's flouting the Constitution of the United States which explicitly gives to Congress, not the president, the power to declare war."

The historians' petition will be presented to Congress on Tuesday September 17, as previously reported on HNN. A small delegation of historians will make the presentation, including Appleby, Ira Berlin and Roy Rosenzweig.

(Disclosure: The editor of HNN formerly edited TomPaine.com.)

As of September 13, nearly 1,300 historians had signed this petition. All fifty states are represented.


In the 9-11 edition of Newsweek Joyce Appleby, was critical of the Bush administration's purported Cold War outlook.