Revolution #82, March 18, 2007


Historians Take a Stand Against Bush and the Iraq War

In January this year, an unprecedented resolution against the Iraq war and the Bush administration was passed at the Business Meeting during the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA). The Executive Council of the AHA decided to accept the resolution, but at the same they decided to send it to the AHA membership for ratification. The AHA conducted an email balloting on the resolution from March 1 to 9.

According to the website History News Network, “The resolution, which was backed by the radical Historians Against the War, urges a speedy end to the conflict and chides the Bush administration for repeated violations of human rights. Opponents of the resolution argued at the Business Meeting that the organization should not spend its moral capital on issues extraneous to the functions of a professional society. Advocates of the resolution retorted that the war has raised important issues vital to the practice of history.” The History News Network reported that this was the first anti-war resolution in AHA's existence.

The resolution, titled “Resolution on the United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession,” appeared in the Letters section of the March 15 issue of the New York Review of Books under the title “Historians Take a Stand,” with a signatory list of over 150 historians.

The website of the Historians Against the War said, “Most of us remain convinced that there is an intimate connection between the war in Iraq and the erosion of civil liberties at home, including attacks on scholarly travel and exchange, the teaching of Middle Eastern history, and access to materials essential to the pursuit of historical research.”

The AHA describes itself as “the largest historical society in the United States,” whose “members include K –12 teachers, academics at two- and four-year colleges and universities, graduate students, historians in museums, historical organizations, libraries and archives, government and business, as well as independent historians.”

The following is the text of the AHA resolution, which is available at the AHA website:

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Resolution on United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession

Whereas the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct emphasizes the importance of open inquiry to the pursuit of historical knowledge;

Whereas the American Historical Association adopted a resolution in January 2004 re-affirming the principles of free speech, open debate of foreign policy, and open access to government records in furthering the work of the historical profession;

Whereas during the war in Iraq and the so-called war on terror, the current Administration has violated the above-mentioned standards and principles through the following practices:

Whereas a free society and the unfettered intellectual inquiry essential to the practice of historical research, writing, and teaching are imperiled by the practices described above; and

Whereas the foregoing practices are inextricably linked to the war in which the United States is presently engaged in Iraq; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the American Historical Association urges its members through publication of this resolution in Perspectives and other appropriate outlets:

  1. To take a public stand as citizens on behalf of the values necessary to the practice of our profession; and
  2. To do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion.

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