Historians Against the War: Pro





Mr. Montgomery is Farnam Professor Emeritus at Yale University. He is a past president of the Organization of American Historians.

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Earlier this month frontpagemag.com published an article by Greg Yardley criticizing Historians Against the War. This is Mr. Montgomery's response to that article.

At the time the American Historical Association held its annual convention in January 2003 a worldwide outpouring of protests and demonstrations sought to dissuade the government of the United States from launching a war against Iraq. Historians from more than 40 universities, colleges, and secondary schools, who were attending the convention, gathered at an open, informal and well-publicized evening meeting to discuss ways in which they as individuals might add their voices to this historic mobilization for peace. Discussion at the meeting soon made it evident that the participants, while sharing a desire to restrain our government from unleashing a bloody war, held many different political views and advocated a variety of courses of action. After an extensive debate, the participants agreed that, whatever the immediate future might hold, the advocates of unilateral use of the military might of the United States to reshape political and economic life around the world would be in the ascendancy for a long time to come. Concurring in the need for an organization of their own through which historians could join the efforts of other Americans from all walks of life, and of men and women throughout the world who were struggling to preserve their own lives and liberties against a pending armed assault on Iraq, and against its probable sequel of an expanding series of wars in that region and elsewhere, the assembled individuals decided to organize a new national network named Historians Against the War.

After considerable debate the assembled historians agreed not to present a resolution against the pending war to the business meeting of the AHA. Although the small attendance customary at such meetings made it quite likely such a motion would pass, that prospect also made it likely that debate on the issue at the business meeting and afterwards would turn on the propriety of the professional society's taking such a stand and the circumstances under which it was adopted. Historians Against the War were determined to focus future discussion among historians and the citizenry in general on the pending war and its consequences, not on controversies over the proper role of the AHA.

Consequently, the founders of the HAW decided simply to inform the business meeting of their deliberations and concerns, to participate in public discussions around the country, and to arrange a large and well-publicized meeting at the forthcoming April convention of the Organization of American Historians (where again and for the same reason no effort was made to put the organization on record concerning the war, despite abundant time to do so). Most important, they drafted a concise petition to circulate at and after the AHA convention, as a way for individuals to express their views and to establish a nation-wide network of historians with many different political beliefs and specialties who agreed with this statement:

We historians call for a halt to the march towards war against Iraq. We are deeply concerned about the needless destruction of human life, the undermining of constitutional government in the U.S., the egregious curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and the obstruction of world peace for the indefinite future.

Nothing that has happened since January has diminished the validity or importance of this statement, except that our government launched its attack in defiance of world opinion. Secretary Rumsfeld's "shock and awe" assault did oust Saddam Hussein's regime, but the bloodshed continues, reminding many historians of the three-year war needed to suppress the Philippine independence movement, after Manila crowds had welcomed America's victory over the Spanish empire. Immigrants, and especially Moslem immigrants in the U.S. have lost constitutional guarantees of due process. Huge popular mobilizations have blocked the enactment of new security laws modeled on the USPATRIOT Act in Hong Kong and Kenya, but the act remains law in our country.

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Historians and other academics who oppose the military unilateralism hailed by some administration spokespeople as "assuming our imperial responsibilities," find themselves repeatedly denounced in the columns and book advertisements of Front Page and kindred well-financed campus papers as a "Fifth Column" and "the enemy within," while columnist Greg Yardley proclaims: "Broader civil society needs to reform the professorate and correct these abuses." Not only is that "reform" currently backed by well endowed foundations, but it reminds us all too vividly of the World War I purge of pacifists, socialists, and Germans in general from textbooks and the academy, and of the silencing of dissenters during the 1940s and 1950s by the dominant "revisionists" of the age, who insisted on the patriotic duty of historians and historical societies to celebrate the American political tradition, redeem the reputation of business leaders, and recognize the merits of war..

Historians have long engaged in political debates and served in public office. Indeed it is the right and the responsibility of knowledgeable people to do so: historians as well as nurses, lawyers, carpenters, service workers, and military personnel. Moreover, it is far from surprising that current events have very often framed the questions historians have asked of the past. In our own time many of the best analysts of earlier epochs have been political activists (as have some of the worst).

Historians Against the War not only upholds the right and responsibility of historians to participate publicly in policy debates, it also encourages the exchange of knowledge and ideas within its own ranks. It was, for example, of critical importance that historians of the Middle East and other parts of Asia, of Europe, and of Latin America took part together with Americanists in shaping the HAW petition and strategy for its use.

The honorable standards of the historical profession do not demand silence, intellectual conformity, or avoidance of current controversies. They do require three attributes in all our research, teaching, and writing: honest and rigorous adherence to documentary evidence, a keen sensitivity to the distinctive structures and dynamics of societies and historical epochs that have differed from our own, and open exchange of ideas, within and between our various historical specialties. All these canons of serious scholarship are put in jeopardy by war and by wartime calls to "reform the professorate." In times of war civil liberties are quickly lost. Decades of struggle have always been needed to win them back again. That is why both HAW and the OAH took this occasion to reassert their defense of open debate within the historical profession and in society as a whole.


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CJ Griffin - 8/24/2003

50 million murders by Hitler? That is a ridiculous figure. Most historians put his actual MURDER toll at 10-25 million:

"HITLER TOTAL:
Courtois: 25,000,000
Rummel: 20,946,000 democides
Brzezinski: 17,000,000
Urlanis: 15-16,000,000 (11-12M civilians + 3.9M POWs)
MEDIAN: ca. 15.5M
Our Times: 13,000,000 (6M Jews + 7M others)
Compton's: 12,000,000
Grenville: 10,000,000, including 2M children.
NOTE: These numbers only include outright murders, but keep in mind that some 18M civilians and 17M soldiers died in the European War. That's 35,000,000 deaths which can probably be blamed on Hitler to one extent or another." - http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm

Stalin's murder total is somewhere between 15 and 50 million, most likely around 30 million:

"AVERAGE: Of the 15 estimates of the total number of victims of Stalin, the median is 30 million." -
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm

The greatest mass murderer in history is the Chinese Communist despot Mao Tse-tung, who even had the privilege of being #1 in the Guinness Book of World Records under the catagory "mass killing." The Black Book of Communism puts Mao's death toll at 65 million.

Communism worldwide has killed an estimated 100 million people - more than both world wars combined!

http://hometown.aol.com/redhoiocaust/


NYGuy - 7/30/2003

Ralph and others,

If you want to see what a real organization is, go to:

http://www.psr.org/home.cfm?id=home

You will see they have a BOD, a management team, a board of sponsors, etc. A real organization, not a cheap wanabe organization that is a parasite on the AHA and dishonest in its potrayal as an organization of professional people.


Peter N Kirstein - 7/28/2003

Sir,

Greatness is not predicated upon omnipresence. In any event, I thought Dr. King and Abernathy demonstrated intrepid support of the Freedom Riders in the latter's Montgomery church in May 1961.

However, in keeping with the spirit of this thread’s colloquy, I quote a sentence from Dr King’s Riverside sermon when he emerged as an antiwar advocate.

“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’”

I guarantee you Dr King would have supported HAW.

On your castigation of “picture book history,” kindly consult a picture (different sequences) of Dr King and me.
http://www.sxu.edu/~kirstein/

Peter N. Kirstein


NYGuy - 7/28/2003

Subject: lies, false implications, anecdotes that don't prove generalizations
Posted By: Josh Greenland
Date Posted: July 15, 2003, 11:10 PM
I just read through Radosh's article.

"I'm not an academic" but know a fair amount about WWII and the decade preceding it.

NYGuy

Josh you don't have to tell us you are not an academic. We can tell by the quality and intellect of your posts.


Josh Greenland - 7/28/2003

You were right about NY Troll when you called him an anonymous mush-brain. Of all the things he's gotten himself called here, that's the most accurate. Clearly he has some kind of mental problem, while still being a garden variety troll.

I tend not to read what he writes. It saves a lot of time.


NYGUY - 7/27/2003

Ralph,

It all depends on the meaning of "is". Just trying to confuse the situation. You show me website that says AHA passed resolution. So what was organized. If it was organized then there was no need for the resolution to piggy back off with a "network". You can't explain what the organization is and no one else can. To be organized suggest that some formal structure has been put together. Do they have a charter? No. Do they have a BOD? NO. Do they have a management? NO. Do they tie themnselves to a historical organization like AHA to get legitimacy? Yes. So what have you got?

If you can show any organization beyond AHA I would like to see it. If you are just going to cope out, don't bother anwering, we already know the answer.


Derek Catsam - 7/27/2003

Professor Kirstein --
So are you really saying that King deserves credit for ending "American Apartheid"? I admire king as does any scholar of civil rights, but as someone writing a book on the Freedom Rides, I have a slightly less romanticized version of King, admire him though I do. king had virtually nothing to do with the Freedom Rides -- in fact he solidified his less-than-admiring nickname "De Lawd" when he imperiously told the students about to meet their fate on the rides that he would "choose the time and place of my Golgotha." One can credit the student movement of 1960 and beyond, the Mississippi Freedom Summer campiagn, and a whole slew of other civil rights actions that ended "American Apartheid" (a phrase i have always been uncomfortable with, by the way)to a whole range of actors beyond, and sometimes simply other than, King. None of this is revisionist history. It simply takes it out of the realm of picture book history.


NYGuy - 7/27/2003

Dr. Westerman,

If what you say is true, "you laud HAW", then why don't they be honest and say there is no HAW organization. More important if you and others feel the same way why not be honest and form an organization named HAW, not be a parasite of the AHA.

Is "Physicians for SocialResponsiblity" a true organization, that has a charter and has actual members or is it another organization open to anyone who wants to sign on.

There are those who have real concerns for retailiation if they used their real names. Meanwhile they still make meaningful contributions to the board.

You might contrast their thoughtful comments with a liberal who uses his real name constantly:

Column: Is Bill Bennett A Hypocrite?
Subject: The History of Slots vs. Bennett's hypocrisy?
Posted By: Stephen Kriz
Date Posted: July 22, 2003, 10:23 AM

Editor: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED. IT DOES NOT MEET HNN'S STANDARDS OF CIVIL DEBATE AS OUTLINED HERE:

http://hnn.us/articles/982.html#civil

By the way can anyone join PSR? Do you have to be a member to participate and do you have to pay dues? Or can anyone join?


Brandt Westerman, M.D. - 7/27/2003

"Upscale" was in reference to professional dialogue where sheltering one's identity as a mode of communication is not condoned. I made no claim to social class nor even professional
competence since I do not possess a degree in history. Compare the tone of this website with that of FrontPagMag, the favorite link of HNN's editors.

While anonymity may confer a modicum of comfort and protection for those who seek it, it has a tendency to foster commentary that is thoughtless, provocative and frankly irresponsible. One should question the motivation for an individual to communicate publicly without attribution.

I laud HAW as I did Physicians for SocialResponsiblity in the 1980s freeze movement! I also admire those historians who dared take professional risks in denouncing the conflict and the militarization of American life.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/27/2003

YDT:
You're getting too trolly and windy for me. HAW was organized at an AHA convention, but it isn't sponsored by or have any official connection to the AHA. You are making a mountain out of an ant hill. Get a life.


Arch Stanton - 7/27/2003

Another amusing thread. The illiterate condemns anonymity as insufficiently upscale.


NYGuy - 7/27/2003

Ralph,

If what you say is true, why do you refer me to a website that gives the legitimacy of HAW to a resolution passed at an AHA meeting?

Aside from this resolution to set up a "network" under the AHA umbrella, where else do we find any evidence of an independant orgranization, for this Political Action Committee. Seems like setting up a PAC on the cheap. And, do you agree that all the subsiquent actions of HAW were what the historians had in mind they passed this resolution. If it was that important and because of it broad scope why was it not brought before the entire AHA body? We know the answer, but others try to carry on this phantom organization based on a house of cards.


NYGuy - 7/27/2003

Ralph,

Neat. Your point is that at the AHA meeting:

At a meeting on the evening of Friday, January 3, at the 117th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago, historians from more than forty colleges and universities agreed to form a new national network, "Historians Against the War." Ralph, is a network a new organizational form?

A "committee was appointed" to draft the following statement, which has been circulated for other historians to sign.

"We historians call for a halt to the march towards war against Iraq. We are deeply concerned about the needless destruction of human life, the undermining of constitutional government in the U.S., the egregious curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and the obstruction of world peace for the indefinite future.
List of signers of Historians Against the War Statement"

On the same website there are examples of HAW putting out press releases, cartons, working with other anti-war groups, everything that an organization would do. But when asked who is this organization and who do they represent you imply it is "a headless wonder".

So what keeps them together, and how do their activities not involve AHA. If they are so organized and have so much appeal they should have the courage of their convictions to form the PAC that they are. The question remains, do they have an independant organization, with a charter, BOD and Management team, or are they just the figment of some AHA members.

I note that the following statement was put forward by a small group of 50 historians that the reconstructed HAW boasts of "signers" who number over 2,000. But if one asks if their are any members, and if there are any dues, I get the blind challenge you are known for.

On April 7th they passed a "free speech" resolution. "At the next meeting they hope to pass a resolution in favor of "Mom and Apple pie." Then they distort the conversation on this board by crying they are being deprived of their free speech. Neat propagandists.

Meanwhile, in a press release dated I think March 17, Prof. Van Goss adds:

"PS. Obviously, to the extent that some senior members of the profession, from the most prominent universities, feel able to join this action (not necessarily risking arrest), that will help greatly in getting press attention."

Seems maybe not everyone from the AHA agrees with HAW. By the way what role in management does Prof. Van Goss hold. Is Prof Van Goss a member of the BOD? Does the HAW have a BOD and a charter?

I could go on. But having experience in organizations I know that most members do not fully partipate in the organization and this allows a small group to take over for their own purposes. Obviously this has happened to the AHA, and then some ask why is our reputation being hurt.

If you read the AHA proceedings put forth on this board you will see that there was great concern about the ability of HAW to exist under the AHA Charter, why the HAW was only able to get the simple statement you provided. They have now created a phantom organization, with press releases, marches, cartoons, teach-ins, cooperation with other groups, etc. From all appearances, they keep refering back to AHA as their source of power, as you indicated.

Since this group of historians have been so wrong in their comments and the war effort, i.e. carrying disgusting signs such as: Bush = Hitler, Bush = F, one can reasonably wonder about their usefulness to the AHA. It is probably more of a negative impact than a positive.

Finally HAW wants to go international and involved anyone who wants to join. This further calls into question if all signers are historians, and are all members of AHA.








B. Westerman - 7/27/2003

I don't know if enraged riposte is the most optimum manner in dealing with areas of disagreement. I think the sarcasm referred to in an earlier missive with regard to this gentleperson is apposite. However, NYGUY and others might reassess the fact this appears to be an upscale website where normal standards of interaction apply. To whit: identify yourself or if that is not your choosing, anticipate being ignored.


Brandt Westerman, M.D. - 7/27/2003

I don't know if enraged riposte is the most optimum manner in dealing with areas of disagreement. I think the sarcasm referred to an earlier missive with regard to this gentleperson is apposite. However, NYGUY and others might reassess the fact that appears to be an upscale website where normal standards of interaction apply. To whit: identify yourself or if that is not your choosing anticipate being ignored.


russ - 7/27/2003


Rob Harbison says:

"Well, AS A LIBRARIAN I have to chime in here. YES we ARE forbidden to say ANYTHING if the FBI invokes the USAPATRIOT Act to view our records. The only person we can inform is our lawyer, we cannot report it to our superior, nor can we informthe person being SPIED upon. This is not the America that I was once proud to say that I was from"

Hmmm, as a librarian one would think you have access to tens of thousands of pages of U.S. history surrounding WWII...

May I suggest you avail yourself of that source?


Ralph E. Luker - 7/27/2003

YDT:
Westerman properly reproves you for the cowardice of your anonymity. If you care to have answers, instead of just trolling, do a decent google search like any grown up would do and go to this website for your answers: http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/ . Otherwise, spare us the ignorant abuse.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/27/2003

NYG: As I have said repeatedly on this website, the signers of the petition made no claim to represent the opinion of the American Historical Association. Why repeat a lie and then beat it to death? Get a life.


NYGuy - 7/26/2003

Brandt,

Another phony. This is a board of ideas. Since you can't defend your position I will take it as an admission of what you represent. After all you have no problem in talking to strangers and others, to sign a meaningless petition, but now you hide behind your principles.

It is still my opinion that HAW is just a cheap attempt to take over AHA. No need to reply to my questions about an illegitimate group, the answer is obvious, you can't.

Keep on walking.


Brandt Westerman - 7/26/2003

I respond to individuals whom at least appear
to stand behind their name.


NYGuy - 7/26/2003

T. Rex,

Montgomery said:
"Concurring in the need for an organization of their own through which historians could join the efforts of other Americans from all walks of life, and of men and women throughout the world who were struggling to preserve their own lives and liberties against a pending armed assault on Iraq, and against its probable sequel of an expanding series of wars in that region and elsewhere, the assembled individuals decided to organize a new national network named Historians Against the War."

NYGuy:

What does your figure of 1,780 historians mean. How do you know if those who signed a petition were historians? Did you do a check of their qualifications, or was this just a petition for the general public as described above? Are these 1,780 signers all members of AHA? Are they all members of HAW? If they are members of HAW, does this make them membes of AHA?

So what we have so far is a group that went out to get people to sign a petition and then concluded, with no evidence, that the signers represent AHA and the history profession? Certainly a questionable assumption.

Did the petition come from an organized group that has its own charter under the heading, Historians Against the War? Is this an officially chartered oranization? Do they have a Board of Directors? If yes, how many and what are their names? Do they have a management team elected by the members? If so how many and who are they? Do those who signed have to pay dues to belong to HAW? If not, then what are the number of dues paying historians in this organization.

My concern in this matter, after reading about the beginnings of HAW, is this is just a parasitic small group within AHA that are using its name for it own political advantage. If I am wrong I would love to be proved wrong.

Any takers?



NYGuy - 7/26/2003

Senator,

Could you please explain what HAW is? Does it have a charter which states its purpose? What are the qualifications to belong? Can anyone call themselves a member? Are they supported by the membership of AHA? Are they, HAW, a legal entity? Are they, HAW, a non-profit organization? Does HAW collect dues and how much are they? Does HAW have a board of directors and how are they elected? Does HAW have a management team, and how are they elected? Except for an illusion, does HAW have anything resembling, "Historian Against the War"?

Inquiring minds want to know.


Brandt Westerman - 7/26/2003

If one were to peruse HNN's list of its 15 Historians on the Hot Seat, most were allegedly involved in plagiarism, lying, falsifying research and other egregious acts. Three were clearly "guilty" of exercising their first amendment rights of free speech and were sanctioned and/or vilified. I want to be careful here--and avoid falling into the Coulter-Yardley trap-- and merely say those three academicians are clearly non-conservative. I could not identify a conservative, or prowar individual, on the HNN list that suffered the consequences of opposing American foreign policy.

While obviously, other data could disprove my point, nevertheless, I would be interested in receiving the names of prowar, or "patriotically correct scholars" who were treated in a similar manner. This notion of a left-wing dominated academy is simply fatuous.

Yardley is anti-HAW because he is prowar! Let's move on.


NYGuy - 7/26/2003

Tom,

You have every right to articlulate various positions within your society. Your Charter does not have the right to give any group power to be a PAC which is what HAW is. Not only do they want to take their ideas outside of the AHA, but they want to arbitraily allow others to become members without any qualifications. Since it was a minority group who put together the statement for a "network" this was what I would interpret to be a dishonest attempt to make a political statement for all the historians in AHA. The HAW does not represent the AHA membership, and those who are members of HAW can not automatically claim membership in AHA.

So what is your legitimacy? You have none and you merely create an unfavorable image for the true historians who care about their profession. But, since many historians are so rabid, the ends justify the means. And historians image get further tarnished.


Thomas Hagedorn - 7/26/2003

Neither Mr. Leckie or anyone else has responded to my assertion that political conservatives are extremely scarce in History departments (and other departments in the Humanities, as well). My understanding of the method and practice of history tells me that this is a problem...a serious problem. But few see the "elephant in the living room" (pun intended). Does anyone deny that the humanities had a homogenous worldview in the 50's when few blacks and women were in graduate programs? So how can anyone defend the "one flavor" political atmosphere on America's campuses in 2003? (Apparently, no one CAN defend this political hegemony)

Last week, the editor of a major historical journal opened a conference session with a gratuitous reference to G W Bush questioning his religious faith but testifying to "W's" faith in oil. How predictable. He was preaching to the choir and knew that his intro would resonate among the Dem's and Green's present. In the last year as I have attended conferences and meetings I have heard many similar comments.

The incredible lack of political and ideological balance on America's campuses today brings Historians' work into question and may even be endangering their funding from public sources. After all, why should conservative legislators fund their opponents? That is politically stupid. Would liberals enjoy funding say, Fox News with tax dollars? They would be outraged, and rightfully so.

For some startling numbers for the uninitiated, see American Enterprise, September 2002, pg. 18-25, "The Shame of America's One Party Campuses". See also, Wall Street Journal, May 11, 1998, opinion piece by Vincent Carroll, "Republican Professors? Sure, There's One"; Wahington Times, December 4-10, 1995 Weekly edition, opinion piece by William F. Buckley, "Diversity of Sorts at Dartmouth".

Anyone want to address my original proposition (see start of this string) or would they rather call names and change the topic...both good ideas when you have a poor argument?


T. Rex - 7/26/2003

I wonder if Mr. Yardley believes all these historians are unprofessional in their opposition to the Iraq invasion? I merely cut and past this too from HNN Grapevine.

HISTORIANS AGAINST WAR WITH IRAQ

We were wondering whatever happened to the anti-war petition that was circulated by historians associated with Radical History Review at the AHA convention in January. So we asked. Here's what we were told. The petition has been signed by 1,780 historians. The organizers have set up a Speaker's Bureau featuring, among others: ELLEN DUBOIS, GEORGE M. FREDRICKSON, JON WIENER, DAVID MONTGOMERY, PETER KIRSTEIN, HOWARD ZINN, H. BRUCE FRANKLIN, NELL IRVIN PAINTER.
Fittingly, the website put together by the anti-war historians includes an archive chronicling the events of the current anti-war movement.

A series of national teach-ins is scheduled for March 27-28.


T. Rex - 7/26/2003

I am not a historian, ok? I did cut and paste Mr. Applebaum's statement from the Yardley con side in case some missed it:

Yardley's description of the teach-in process and the June meetings of the HAW steering committee are a fantasy. They demonstrate a failure to verify, authenticate, and determine the accuracy of the account of the events. Yardley needs to read and review the literature on oral history and the fundamentals of professional historical methods. Yardley has not examined the breadth and depth of printed sources used and duplicated for discussion and debate in the teach-ins. He has not examined the discussions about pedagogical approaches designed to yield critical historical thinking for all participants that took place before the events he condemns. He failed to investigate the critical and self-critical assessments made following the teach-ins. Yardley ignored the allocation of university resources supporting pro-war policies and public programs, before, during, and after the teach-ins. Yardley ignores the concerted national efforts to curtail debate, discussion, and dissent on campus. Finally, Yardley fails to accurately represent the debates among historians regarding obligations and responsibilities of professional practice. Yardley's homogenized view of disciplinary debates regarding the interplay of the personal, political and professional is ahistorical. In sum, he gets an "F" in history and an "A" for fiction.


Member - Historians Against the War


S. Styrone - 7/26/2003

Erratum: I meant Dr. De Genova was spared sanctions by the illustrious president of Columbia, Dr. Bollinger. S. Styrone


S. Styrone - 7/25/2003

And a query for Mr Yardley. If you were not a conservative, and a supporter of preemption, would you have still written your article? Can you aver that HAW would have still received your ire had you been ideologically supportive of its quest.

As I recall Dr Kirstein asked you if you would support an imaginary group called HFAIP (Historians for imperialism etc.) or something like that and I did not see a response

Also, if one were to familiarize oneself with the coercion of Professors Berthold, De Genova, and Kirstein, although the former was admittedly spared some draconian sanctions, I think you could very well discern how an an antiwar organisation would also be gravely concerned about the persecution of those who dare condemn the military.


Bill Heuisler - 7/25/2003

Mr. Dresner,
Try Milton Friedman. Massive tax Cuts have stimulated the economy three times in the last century and once 18 months ago.
On the other hand, Tax increases triggered five destructive recessions in the last eighty years. Even Samuelson agrees that Government spending is not as effective a stimulus as private spending because Government spending tends to ignore market forces, drive up prices and undercut small local business - think thousand-dollar toilet seats and fifty-dollar hammers.

You write, "federal government keeping and spending the money" as though it's the Government's money and as though we exist to serve Government instead of the other way around. Tax cuts mean we get to keep more of what we earn. As far as revision of missions, maybe the Government can do with mere ten-dollar toilet seats, cease funding studies of cow methane and stop building tunnels to nowhere in places like Boston.
Bill Heuisler


Greg Yardley - 7/25/2003

Prof. Applebaum:

You defend Historians Against the War because it defends academic freedom and illuminates attacks on free speech - both fine goals. But if that's the actual purpose of your organization, why didn't you call it 'Historians For Academic Freedom,' and why did you call it 'Historians Against the War'?

With regards,
Greg Yardley


S. Styrone - 7/25/2003

It sure was, terrific. This whole thread has been great as well.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/25/2003

Nicely done and nicely written.


David R. Applebaum - 7/25/2003

Thirty years ago, when I arrived in South Jersey, a colleague shared a tenure track evaluation. The document censured use of a monograph by Eugene D. Genovese. Last semester, a student reported that Howard Zinn was labeled "the Helen Gurley Brown" of history. A proposed senior thesis relating to Zinn's work was "inadmissible and unacceptable." Over these three decades, there has been an ebb and flow of events, discussion, and debate about academic freedom. The turning point in the conversations about free speech in history courses came in 1978 when a legal decision proscribed several criteria for evaluation. Key phrases in the settlement were integrated into the statewide contract and applied across the disciplines.

The experience of pursuing an academic freedom grievance and the subsequent addition of contract language is one example that illustrate the efficacy of speaking out from a disciplinary base and identifying intended as well as unintended moments where "power" trumps "knowledge" and academic freedom is abridged.

It was my good fortune, as an undergraduate, to study with a faculty member who assigned Foucault's Madness and Civilization. It was fellow students who were willing to debate the constructions of knowledge and meaning that prepared me to recognize 'the smelly fish.'

The tasks of documenting the abridgement of professional speech, pursuing the case and following up on the decision were time consuming and costly. It required learning to distinguish between historical proof and legal proof. It necessitated mastery of methods from two disciplines - law and history - that were incompatible and, at time, contradictory. It was impossible to reconcile the differences between historical methods as applied to a primary sources and legal methods applied to the same sources. Similarly, the skills and methods developed by researchers in oral history were incommensurate with the dialogic activity of legal questioning. Access to the sources is the key. Dissemination of materials and debate about their accuracy, authenticity, and reliability guarantee the integrity of professional research and teaching promised by HAW.

It is my considered judgement, using both historical and legal methods reasoning that we face a significant threat to academic freedom. My concerns pre-dated the creation of HAW as well as the January meetings of the American Historical Association. The local case and interviews with all participants are part of an interdisciplinary honors course that will be offered in the spring of 2004.

In December of 2002, a group of our students engaged in critical research about a campus speaker. They were stopped from distributing literature. Individuals, faculty and students, were threatened with arrest. Policies adopted without public discussion in September of 2002 had been put in place and executed.

Following the events in December of 2002, I pressed forward on two fronts. The first focused upon research about recent development and applications of new policies and practices associated with free speech at other universities. Our university senate took up the issue and censured the actions and application of the policy at the December event. In March of 2003, I participated in a webinar (seminar conducted in real time on the Internet) on campus free speech. The session included speakers from Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There were faculty speakers from small private and public institutions. Campus police and academic administrators added their voices. Stories were shared. Details about national meetings - of the Association of Boards of Trustees and national student organizations, confirmed the fact that our local events were not exceptional, unique, or unusual. New rules and regulations that abridge free speech - inside and outside the classroom - are in different stages of development. I have concluded a) there is change and b) it is a new threat to academic freedom.

Several days later, an exceptional meeting was held on campus. A substantially revised policy on campus speech was put in place. The new rules and regulations are flawed. They are a step in a positive direction.

The birth of HAW and the resolution approved at the OAH meetings took on a different meaning in the context of the local events. Our campus climate is better. We still have a long road to travel. The convergence between the local and the national events were more than fortuitous. Haw spoke out in a timely and forceful way.

It is important for HAW to continue to speak out. It is crucial that we document assaults on academic freedom. It is necessary to continue the illuminate attacks upon free speech. Haw is a forum that links and connects seemingly isolated individuals and events. Haw can sustain efforts to defend our profession and resist anyone engaged in concerted efforts to silence dissent, suppress or destroy evidence, and massage documentary resources. We occupy a unique place in the professional world. We can support the bi-partisan effort to share documents and provide the historical perspective needed to sustain the links between honesty, transparency, and democracy.



Jonathan Dresner - 7/25/2003

Mr. Heuisler,

Yes, the money continues to move around. But my debt paydown is a very weak stimulus compared to a rise in active consumption. It's not clear to me (or any economist I've heard) that this is better than the federal government keeping and spending the money. For example, in the absence of federal help many (probably most) states are going to have to raise taxes which will quite effectively offset the federal cut.

Frankly, the tax cut as economic stimulus is very weak: it's a psychological move more than an economic one. Especially since it doesn't come with any revision of the government's key (or subsidiary) missions that would offset the lost revenue.


Bill Heuisler - 7/25/2003

Mr. Dresner,
Weren't you saying, "...my tax cut is not going into new spending or investment."?
Do you really think your debt-paying-money just disappears; that
those banks and financial institutions are burning your checks? Your tax cut went into some teller's paycheck. She spent it on food, lodging and Ann Coulter's new book. Now don't you feel better? Your tax cut really is spurring the economy.
Bill Heuisler


NYGuy - 7/25/2003

Jonathan,

The Clinton Recession peaked in March 2001, two months after GW took office. It was a difficult time for the nation and required great leadership, which GW provided. Even with the 9/11 situation GW kept us steady and we were able to begin an economic recovery 8 months later in November 2001. This confidence set the stage for the strong stock market recovery this year. While you may dismiss the “wealth effect” it is an important factor in providing further confidence for the consumer since nearly half of all U.S. households are stockholders. Meanwhile the combined benefit of GW’s tax cut and the “wealth effect”, which should continue to expand, will be the 1-2 punch for a strong economic recovery in 2004. And with Iraq now being rebuilt, we should start to see increasing oil shipments out of Iraq in the second half, which should lead to lower oil and gas prices and add another stimulus to economic growth.

So I have to disagree with your forecast. The year 2004 will be one of strong economic growth, thanks to GW


Bill Heuisler - 7/25/2003

Mr. Dresner,
Even if you gave your tax cut away somebody would spend it on food or lodging. So may we assume you're burying your money in a can? Lighting cigars with twenties? You're too intelligent. So tell me how you're not spending or investing your tax cut. Don't say saving, because the bank invests that new money and uses the multiplier effect of interest/investment to expand the economy.

We know you don't want to admit President Bush's first tax cut is what pulled us out of the recession 18 months ago.
Bill Heuisler


MA Rubinstein - 7/24/2003

Let take another tack with this discussion, one which will raise Citizen Huisler's ire no doubt. The war in Iraq is a shell game--an ultimate example of wag the dog. While we concern ourselves with it, the Bush regime (and that is the proper word in this case) is taking our country back to the 1880s: A destruction of the budgetary surplus, an end to social security(it goes up in smoke at the clip of 4 billion per month)Opening the way for environmental destruction, no hard policies on food and drug safety, no sanctity for public lands--take them all and the public be damned...and to go on a bit further---reduction of civil rights specified in the Constitution and its Amendments--all engineered by a head of the Justice Department that makes John Mitchell look like a paragon of clean government and civil rights(read the new fund raising mailing from the ACLU). What a lucky man is President W to be the recipient of the great gift of 9-11 and a tragic moment for the rest of us, especially in my fair city). I might add that Rudy G. our former NY mayor was lucky as well--but he is a real hero, blemishes and all not like W the pilot...The sins of the past are now the sins (and the presidential policies) of the present. Canada and France and the Netherlands look better all the time for some of on the sane(and facing and embracing Europe)coast. Where is a charismatic Democrat or Republican (like John McCain or Colin Powell) when we need him?




Wilson - 7/24/2003

Well, I think comparing Hussein to Hitler or even, his avowed model, Stalin, is like comparing the NYPost to a respectable newspaper. The comparison is always made to incite fear and emotion, not to prove or illuminate anything. There's so many straw men in this debate. Few, very, very few, opponents of the war ever defended Hussein or his brutality. The opposition has coalesced around the Bush Administration's corruption, malfeasance, and astounding pattern of mendacity. Finally, saying it is ok to call someone a fascist just because the Left misuses the term with equal silliness is not much of an argument.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/24/2003

You're trolling, but I'll take a shot.

Well, no economist I know would claim that either of those statistics, either alone or together, indicate any sort of recovery. New jobless claims are a very weak statistic: most analyses use total joblessness, divided into short-term and long-term, instead. And the "wealth effect" is only useful for those people who have wealth, which is a lot fewer of us than it used to be.

And, if you were paying attention, the recession was declared to have ended over 1.5 years ago, long before any of the current administrations policies were even articulated, much less implemented.

You also have to factor in absymally slow job creation (increases in productivity through technology or technique mean fewer jobs), and the very slightly improved "consumer confidence" figures. And the international demand for US products, which is weak, and the energy market, which shows strong signs of cutting into profits and disposable income.

And I don't know about you, but my tax cut is not going into new spending or investment, so there's very little economic boost there.

The president's economic policies have not been either a success or failure. They have been irrelevant to the short-term economy, and are likely to be harmful in the long term.

I predict that the economy in 2004 will look a lot like it does now: high levels of long-term unemployment, weak consumer confidence, irrational swings of the markets, great uncertainty about international markets and relationships. It'll be bad.


Elia Markell - 7/24/2003

The idea that I am trivializing fascism by using the term to describe the horrors of Saddam and sons is an absurd one. First, regarding Hitler and fascism itself, let me be clear. The fact, and it is a fact, that Stalin killed more innocent citizens than Hitler does not at all undercut the horror of what Hitler did. In fact (and like Conquest, by the way), I still regard Hitler as worse (marginally) than Stalin. Not on the numbers, however. As for Iraq, my point is not to engage in silly debate about whether Saddam is worse than Hitler or Stalin. It is to call the left to account for so monumentally failing to abide by its OWN fundamental principles, which should have led it to work for the overthrow of the Baathist tyranny, especially at a point in time when that overthrow was historically realizable (now). It is in fact the left that trivializes fascism and Hitler by flinging around odious comparisons of Bush to Hitler on the basis of absolutely nothing more than its sour dislike of the America he represents. This is the disgrace. You keep diverting attention back to me and my views, but the blood won't wash off the hands it is really on.


NYGuy - 7/24/2003

Since historians have this ability to take the past and project forward. What is their interpretation of today's sharp fall in jobless claims, the sharp rise in the market this year which is producing a wealth effect for Americans and the tax relief that they are now receiving.

Has GW's policies been a failure in getting us out of the Clinton recession? What can we excpect in 2004 for the deficit?

The average joe wants to know.


Thomas M. Ricks - 7/24/2003

Thank you, David Montgomery, for your articulate review and commentary on the rights to dissent within our society AS historians. I agree and join HAW in its work.

Tom


Stark - 7/24/2003

Your attempt to blame the United States for the deaths in various parts of the world while simply ignoring the culpability of other states weakens your position.

The United States went to war in Southeast Asia to try and prevent communism from spreading. After years of domestic protest, the United States withdrew from Vietnam. Our abandonment of that region to the communists led to the deaths of some 2 million Asians from 1975-78. Those people didn't die because of US policy; they died because the weakest elements of our own society thought protecting them wasn't worth the effort.

The litany of abuses wreaked upon the world by many other nations far surpasses the mistakes our 227 year old country. British imperialism, Soviet communism, Nazism, Fascism, ethnic cleansing, etc are all the product of other socities. If our history disqualifies us from acting in the world, what countries do have the moral right? Germany, perhaps? Can we bring up all of their mistakes whenever they act on the world stage, or is their anti-war, pro-Palestinian (anti-Jew, chillingly familiar) credentials enough to erase 6 million dead?

It is important to look at our history objectively so we can learn from our mistakes, and we have made them. Equally, we should celebrate those elements of our past that do us honor and give us strength in the present day.


Richard Dyke - 7/24/2003

Mr. Blyhe, I do not doubt that this country has made its share of mistakes and that some people have paid dearly when we did or did not fire across the bow. Unfortunately, life and politics are a little like the politics of the chicken coop, if you have ever been in one. Chickens are not nice and there is a "whole lot of peckin' goin' on" all of the time until the "pecking order" is established. After that, there is little violence unless the pecking order (who eats and drinks first) is upset. It's a very fluid environment, just like with people. Everybody wants to be king of the mountain, and whether you like it or not, someone is going to be. If not you (because you have moral or scruples), then someone else, and they will most assuredly "nix" you if you are in their way to the top of the mound.

I am not trying to paint a pretty picture. Life is competitive, and the argument I hear from you is "It serves us right that our citizens got killed because we have been king of the mountain and hurt others in the process." Actually, we have probably hurt mainly those who also wanted to be king of the mountain and got in the way, or attacked us. When you are shot at, Mr. Blyhe, do you shoot back or call the police? Both are hostile actions, because they may lead to your adversary getting hurt. Does that make you a bad person, because you took the action? You seem to be saying it does, if I follow your argument, and that you deserve whatever fate is meted out. I don't believe that way. I am not, and I think the United States is not, actively trying to hurt anyone. But we have our own interests to protect, economic and otherwise. Sometimes we get hit and we hit back. The sad thing is that innocents get hurt--but they always do, everywhere, in almost every conflict.

From an idealistic point of view, I do not think innocents anywhere ought to pay for what they do not deserve. But the reality is otherwise.


Richard Dyke - 7/24/2003

With all due respect, Mr. Dresner, I think it is you who have missed the point. It does not appear that it can be disputed that the Iraq regime had weapons of mass destruction, which is why we went to war with them. The fact that we have not found any to date does not mean they did not have them. They clearly did have them, based on the examples I cited.

I find your position and the French position in this controversy interesting, but off-base. And while I do not really like to say it, it should be clear that the U.N. can be as much of a hindrance as it is a help in international relations. We talked and talked for months on the Iraq question with virtually no progress. The same was true with Bosnia and Kosovo, while thousands of people perished. While we may have acted unilaterally, it was necessary, unless we wanted ourselves talked into complete inertia. I don't think it was pointless unilateralism. Would you want your firemen to discuss and discuss rather than putting out a dangerous fire?

I am sure you are aware that the Rwanda massacre (the deliberate and planned slaughter of half a million Tutsis by Hutus) could have been stopped if the U.N. was an effective international peacekeeping institution. More and more it seems that it has become a place to talk and talk and talk and do almost nothing.

As for the rhetoric behind the war, war always leads to overinflated rhetoric. Anti-German sentiment in this country was so pronounced in some places in World War I that study of the German language was banned in the high schools. And I hardly need to make reference to the Japanese internment as evidence of the public's and government's feelings at the beginning of World War II. My point is that war rhetoric quite naturally takes on the nature of propaganda in its purest sense. The idea is to win and justify the win. While the Bush administration blundered with regard to its estimations of Iraq's nuclear intentions and has paid for it in the press, overall its justification was solid. That we made mistakes in war preparation and estimation of the enemy's strength is a problem that seems to get repeated every time there is a war. Try reading about the mistakes made in the D-Day invasion, or our totally unprepared army at the beginning of the Spanish-American War (we won only because the Spanish were less prepared than we--similar to the Iraq situation you have pointed out).

For me, while I sincerely value legal process and support the legal tradition of this country, there has to be some common sense added in once in awhile. In international relations, legal process should be tried first, but we should not be strangled by it. I think the Bush adminstration took a reasonable common sense approach. It talked and talked and talked and then took action because the talk did not go anywhere. You know the old saying, "Talk is cheap."

I understand where you are coming from (I think) and value the legal approach, but I have seen cases where a totally legalistic framework leads to absurdities.


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 7/24/2003

Firstoff, this is the usual cry of nonsense from the Right.

Since the 1970s, "conservatives"--though they're not authentic conservatives in my book--have found plenty of opportunity to publish without peer review and cash in, nestled in various well-funded think-tanks. One major cause of right-wing underrepresentation in university history departments--though I would like to see cited data on historians' political affiliations--might be structural, and highly selective at that, as it were. To complain that the Right has no voice is plain damned idiocy.

More to the point: It might very well also be that anybody with any sense who explores the historical record knows better than to buy into what passes for "conservative" historical thought these days. But if anyone has a complaint, I suggest they go back to school and get a university job, write and publish, and in venues that expose "conservative" ideas to genuine interogation. Or find a nice think-tank somewhere; but then, you might find the elitism of the think tanks more oppressive than that of a campus anywhere else.


NYGuy - 7/24/2003

Yawn,

Your basic argument follows the Babe Ruth analogy. During his lifetime he struckout 1330 times. Therefore your conclusion would be that he does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Your ding dong comment remeinds me of Shakespeare, "he jests at scars who never felt a wound."

So much for historians who are specially trained for critical thinking and scholarship. ]

Yawn


Jonathan Dresner - 7/23/2003

Mr. Dyke,

You, like Mr. Heuisler, miss the point. Ding, dong, Saddam is gone, yippee; we should have done it years ago, instead of selling him chemical weapons. What I object to is the gross violation of legal process, not to mention half-baked rhetoric and preparations. Isn't it ironic: the only reason we won the war so easily is that the intelligence assessments were absurdly overinflated. Victory through error!

What I object to is that I live in a country that claims the highest ideals of justice but still manages to execute more people, even per capita, than any other country that attempts anything resembling basic principles of due process. I object to a president sending my fellow citizens to make war based on deliberately distorted information. I object to a president leading this great nation down a path of pointless unilateralism.


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Ralph,

I deal with more diversity in NYC in one week than you probably do in a whole year. This is not to demean that you fought a good fight. But to conclude that you are not alone and no one else helped is selfish and makes you a victim which is the area of our major disagreements. I have supported and still do that we treat all individuals the same. Our disagreement is that many of the leaders, not you, are more interested in their own personal lives than the lives of those they support.

And, when I sit in a company run by a black President, where one of the Managing Directors is black and her assistant is black, and the assistant is discussing the need for reparations in front of a recent immigrant asian and a hispanic, I wonder what type of leadership is being provided. Does this create a backlash? I also wonder why the proportion of Asians who get into college without the help of affirmative action is rising. Does asking these question make me a racist, or as we say, someone on the right?

NYC is getting along very well. It is I think about 67% non-white. We interact each day and I watch people of all backgrounds appreciate the greatness of improving oneselve and see those who want to improve their lives succeeding, including many who immigrated to this country from repressed societies.

Trying to put a label on me as on the right is the same as saying that I am a racist. That is what has prevented a resonable discussion on these issues. As I said my grandson goes to a school that is predominantly non-white, because the black principal is someone who does not feel he is a victim, nor are his charges, but he is doing something positive to benefit all through a program of showing them that they should be the best they can be. I agree with his philosophy and that is why my grandson attends and seems to be well respected, as he is of his classmates. These students will all be successful.

Actually my grandson was the bus drive in the class program on the Park's bus sit down. Hmm, wonder if this is racial profiling? No, that is part of the silliness of an open society.

My grandfather was wounded at Gettysburg, my wife's family also fought for equality for all. So I find it difficult for you to claim any moral superiority.

Cheers,

Respectfully,

Your favorite twit.


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Justice"

You said:

"Whether the U.S. is the neatest thing since apple pie is not the issue. The issue is whether any historians, politicians, citizens, etc., have the gonads to acknowledge that we are responsible for what we sow."

NYGuy:

The issue is that the U. S. is the greatest thing since apple pie. The problem is that others, i.e. dictators, represive governments, etc had not seen fit to follow and lack the gonard to provide the freedom, individual dignity to individuals and opportunity that the great old U. S. offers to millions of oppressed people around the world who are trying to come to this country. I don't see the same trend in the countries you like better.

As for the 3,ooo who died their is "no maybe", they did not deserve to die. Putting forth unproven propaganda does not justify your position. The U.N. which so many look to for salvation has not performed the function that many expected. As a result many, as much as 1.0 million die in Africa, and their failure in areas of Timor and other areas of the globe are further proof that they can not do the job.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for you to prove your propaganda rant. Remember" "Money talks and BS walks"

Justice just keep on walking.


Peter N Kirstein - 7/23/2003

Ralph,

I appreciate your response and am glad I misconstrued your intentions. I think I will terminate it on this point.

Cheers,

Peter


Ralph E. Luker - 7/23/2003

Professor Kirstein: No witch-hunting here and, if I were on a witch-hunt, I would look elsewhere because I don't think you are a witch. I _do_ think that a college professor should be giving us something more than knee-jerk clap-trap. There is no intention here to silence you or intimidate you. I've paid my dues many times over, so I don't need instruction from you about Dr. King, racism, or segregation. I simply ask that folk like you on the Left and NYGuy on the Right give us something more than cliches.


Bill Heuisler - 7/23/2003

Ralph,
Mr. Dresner's logic and sentence-structure implied US anti-war demonstrators. Why would a non-Chinese, non-Kenyan President who disdains his own constituents care about crowds in Rome?

According to news reports countries like Cuba, Algeria, Somalia and the Sudan execute a far greater percentage per capita than the US. There are no records kept that would support Dresner's assertion, but there are refugee reports from places like Cuba, Algeria and Somalia that tell of wholesale executions - mostly tribal or political - and the imprisonment of many thousands.

Also, Amnesty International came out last year with horrible stats about both Sudan and Cuba. They reported that (excepting China where no data is available either as to population or executions) Cuba imprisons a greater per capita percentage of population than any other country where numbers are available. Speaking of available numbers, where do you people come up with such specious arguing points? When did you see published reports on Russian prisons, Ralph?

And why bring up such a ridiculous comparison with the freest and (paradoxically) most law-ridden country in the world?

Because Chomsky or Zinn say something in one of their hate-filled tomes doesn't make it true. Use your brain for God's sake. Reason the matter out. How would anyone get accurate statistics from China? Why would Amnesty International lie about Cuba or the Sudan? How can any of you talk about "execution" statistics without mentioning the Central African Republic, Zimbabwe or Liberia? Show me sources before ripping the US.
Bill Heuisler


Peter N Kirstein - 7/23/2003

Dr Luker, My greatest public moment I assure you is the courage to stand up to my convictions and rise from the depths of victimization from a McCarthyite witch-hunt. Your arrogant sarcasm that seems to accompany each of your postings suggests a need for some introspection on your own with regard to "greatest moments." I will not be intimidated or silence by you or anyone else. You might also wish to return to the historical presence of racism, injustice, and apartheid as you ponder the meaning of Dr King and his impact on American history and our lives.


Justice Blyhe - 7/23/2003

Maybe the 3000 who perished in the Towers personally did not deserve to die, but neither did all the citizens of Latin American, South American, Asian, African, and Mid-eastern nations who died because of U.S. policies. It is not a pretty picture, but an objective and honest look at history must note the deaths of innocent people directly attributed to U.S. policies. Southeast Asia and the hundreds of thousands killed by U.S. acts. East Timor where the U.S. stood by while its ally slaughtered an estimated 400,000 people. Latin America - where U.S. policy was responsible for killing thousands again. South America, I could go on, but I doubt it will do much good. Historians seem to ignore the deaths of non-Americans. They apparently don't count. Wake up and smell the corpses. Then we can talk about those in our own country that have been slaughtered. No need to go there either. Whether the U.S. is the neatest thing since apple pie is not the issue. The issue is whether any historians, politicians, citizens, etc., have the gonads to acknowledge that we are responsible for what we sow.


Richard Dyke - 7/23/2003

Rob, you are correct at least on one point when you write that "This is not the America that I was once proud to say that I was from." This isn't the same America. There are 3,000 more graves in it from the Twin Towers. That's about 3 acres of graves of people like you and me who did not deserve their fate. I don't like some of the new changes, but I am still proud to be an American. Trying times like we are experiencing have unfortunately called for stern measures designed not to take away rights, but to guarantee the physical protection of Americans like you and me. We don't want anymore Twin Towers, and when this thing is over, you will see a groundswell for ending unnecessary restrictions. But not now.


Richard Dyke - 7/23/2003

I am partly amused in reading all of the back-and-forth charges that have been flung by Mr. Dresner and Mr. Heuisler, but I think on balance, Mr. Heuisler wins the day. Dresner is clever enough, claiming millions of supporters for his side, but his argument on judicial executions is misplaced and irrelevant, itself. Judicial executions are miniscule compared to the illegal and repugnant mass murders (political killings) by dictators around the world. It is pretty well accepted that Saddam killed 200,000 or more of his own people since the 1991 uprising, if I read a recent HNN BLOG entry correctly. That is an atrocity that is perhaps ten-fold of what happened in Bosnia, but again, if we are to believe HNN, nowhere near the bloodletting of 3 million dead in the Congo from all causes in the civil war there.

I am an historian, but I was not against the war, and I am hard-pressed to find very many of my acquaintances that were vigorously anti-war. No one wants to see people die, or certainly not most people. Perhaps Mr. Dresner should take note that the dictator he wanted to save from "American imperialism" a few months earlier offered the families of Palestinian suicide bombers $25,000 per hit against Israeli citizens. Whatever else you might think of it, his statement on the world stage encouraged and upheld arbitrary mass murders of civilians. We did not go after a missionary in going after Saddam. And as for the weapons of mass destruction, the jury is still out. Iraq is a very big country, and so far the Sunni portion continues to offer the most resistance to the American military. Saddam's sons were killed only because of a tip by a tipster standing to gain $30 million. Who knows what's hidden from view in Sunni Iraq! We can't find Saddam and many others, let alone all the weapon caches, and friendly neighboring countries could have been involved in assisting the Iraqi leader toward the end. We certainly know that Syria was warned publicly against assisting Iraq. In any event, as I have written on other occasions, Iranian survivors from the Iran-Iraq War will tell you that Saddam used chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction against Iran, and if you choose not to believe that, the televised bodies of hundreds of Kurds (men, women, children, and babies) in Northern Iraq is poignant and convincing testimony that weapons of mass destruction WERE in Iraq and used by Iraqis in the recent past. "Chemical Ali" apparently did not get his nickname from sheer American imperialist legend!


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Rob,

How right you are. This is not the NYC I grew up in either and I am sure people in Washington say the same thing. Sorry for any inconvience you are being put to. Lacking two 110 story building you have nothing to fear but fear itself. Sorry if the child molesters are upset.


Rob Harbison - 7/23/2003

Well, AS A LIBRARIAN I have to chime in here. YES we ARE forbidden to say ANYTHING if the FBI invokes the USAPATRIOT Act to view our records. The only person we can inform is our lawyer, we cannot report it to our superior, nor can we informthe person being SPIED upon. This is not the America that I was once proud to say that I was from.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/23/2003

Bill, Dresner isn't exaggerating the numbers, particularly if you acknowledge the enormous demonstrations against the war in Europe. He may be incorrect about "secret preparations for war," but it puts the lie to the administration's conferring with the United Nations about going to war. Dresner is correct about China being the only country which carries out more judicial executions than the United States. Russia is the only country which imprisons a larger percentage of its population than the United States. That would make Dresner's claim that hundreds of countries are superior to us in some respect accurate.


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Professor Kirstein,

In his earlier post refering to Martin Luther King he says.

"you might reassess your attribution of my using "inflated rhetoric" in describing the greatest figure ever born in the United States."

NYGuy

Bill I am not a great historian but weren't Washington, Lincoln,
Adams, Jefferson and others who helped shape this country born in the good Ole U. S.

This comment in no way detracts from MLK and his accomplishments. He was certainly one of many people who made great contributions to this country. I just find it difficult to accept the good Prof's ranking and makes me wonder what type of American History do they teach in College today.


Bill Heuisler - 7/23/2003

Professor Kirstein,
Your praise of Howard Zinn leads me to wonder about your committment to republican government and what your ideal political arrangement would be.

In January of 2001, in an interview with Joe Lockard, Howard Zinn said, "It's a bad move for progressive organizations to tie themselves to the electoral system because the electoral system is a great grave into which we are invited to get lost. For progressive movements, the future does not lie with electoral politics. It lies in street warfare -- protest movements and demonstrations, civil disobedience, strikes and boycotts -- using all of the power consumers and workers have in direct action against the government and corporations. To sink too much of our energy into electoral politics is a mistake."

Is he an Anarchist? Do you agree with his advocation of class warfare? What would be the final goal of such a struggle?
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 7/23/2003

Mr. Dresner,
I don't give a damn how tired you are. Lies are lies. What makes you think you can get away with extravagant anti-American lies, then modifying your outrageous claims when challenged and then declaring disgust with the discussion when you're proven wrong?

Have you forgotten your second post on this subject?
Let me quote you:
"...our president brushed aside millions of anti-war protesters with a smirk while simultaneously carrying out air strikes in secret preparation for the war."
Millions? Secret preparation? A gross exaggeration and a lie.

"No, we don't execute people for fraud. But the only country which carries out more judicial executions than the US is China. So there are a few hundred countries which can claim at least one element of moral superiority over the US."
The ONLY country? A FEW HUNDRED can claim? Your biggest lie.

"DoJ figures are entirely untrustworthy" Entirely? Another lie.

Next time you depart "real work" to bless HNN with wisdom employ only facts. Lying to make anti-American points is unprofessional.
Bill Heuisler


Thomas Hagedorn - 7/23/2003

I would go further and assert that historians'group opinions should probably be taken less seriously than many other groups in society, due to their rather extreme partisanship. (If you look at current opinion polls, it would seem the public is indeed NOT listening to the current rants of historians)

See my separate post starting a new stream on this.

Free Mumia! (Now THAT is a position that will get historians loads of respect!!)


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Ralph,

Remember the old saying, Keep your mounth shut and people will only think you are stupid, open it and they will know you are stupid. And in keeping with the rabid mentality of your group throwing in a little dishonesty never hurt. Ugh. And people have to pay $20-30,000 to be taught this type of crital thinking and keep this group in their little world of privildge.

Ralph,
"Your line of thinking is brilliant. A)Members of Historians Against War should report all the activities of the organization to investigative agencies of the government;

NYGUY;

When things get tough threw in a few stupid comments by Ralph to change the subject. If you read the intent of the HAW you will see that they are seeking to become a PAC. If they become a PAC they would have to report to the Government.

and b) Members of the organization should be fired or suspended from their teaching positions because they have become partisans.

NYGuy

I read your post on MLK and admired your balanced comments. Since I never said the above I must return you to the group of political hacks who will stop at nothing to get their way. I now am suspecious of anything you write.

Ralph:

I commend you for all of this. 1) Activity reports from every voluntary organization in the country will further Washington's bureaucratic bowels;

NYGuy:

That is a rediculous comment. Perhaps you forgot that voluntary organizations operate under a charter which states their purpose. That is why HAW could not be part of the History organization. By the way if they are organized as a non-profit organization they do have to report to Washington.

Ralph:
and 2) Evenhandedness will require that all historians who support the war must also be suspended or fired because they too have become partisans.

NYGuy

You have missed what this entire discussion is about. Historians are citizens and have a right to express themselves the same as any other individual. So we have no problems here.

When they form PAC"s they move to a new level or fanaticism, which as in the case of the Baghdad Museum reached an unamerican activity that put our troops in greater danger and no doubt helped to contriubute to the killing of U. S. soldiers over the past month.

The claim is made that these and other historians can separate their political activism from their teaching in the classroom. I said they become more suspect, in line with the arguments that were being posted on this board. Out of the blue you throw out this crap.

It is interesting to note that twice in one post you incorrectly say I am advocating firing these people. The communists used a technique which was? If you tell a lie enough times people will start to believe.

This board has provided great insight into the fringe elements like HAW who are trying to take over the profession.



Ralph E. Luker - 7/23/2003

Professor Kirstein:
"the greatest figure ever born in the United States." You illustrate my point by yet another example. I chose to list his defeats rather than to enumerate his well-known flaws because doing so is redundant and is comfort to those with whom I disagree. Yet, your exaggerated rhetoric is how admirers of major historical figures become hindrances to understanding them. I should have thought that your own greatest public moment might have encouraged you to temper rhetorical excess.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/23/2003

NYG:
Your line of thinking is brilliant. A)Members of Historians Against War should report all the activities of the organization to investigative agencies of the government; and b) Members of the organization should be fired or suspended from their teaching positions because they have become partisans.
I commend you for all of this. 1) Activity reports from every voluntary organization in the country will further Washington's bureaucratic bowels; and 2) Evenhandedness will require that all historians who support the war must also be suspended or fired because they too have become partisans.


Thomas Hagedorn - 7/23/2003

I am troubled by the liberal hegemony currently on display within the History profession. HAW has every right to advance their proposition about the Iraq war.

But where is "Historians for the Troops" or "Historians for Freedom" or "Historians Against Terrorism", backing W's policies in Afganistan and Iraq? A case in point is the recent OAH panel on the war at the OAH convention. Of 5 participants, one (from Ohio State) gave an even-handed appraisal of the manner in which historians may view the war in the future. The other 4 were all anti-war, to varying degrees, some quite rabid. Not one panel participant backed Bush's policies.

If you look at some of the studies on political affilliation of history (and other humanities) faculties, you can understand why. They found almost no republicans or libertarians. I would think a caucus of such types at an OAH annual meeting could easily be held in a small broom closet. If you do not think this is a problem, then you do not think that a historian's experiences, philosophy, identity affects his work. Of course, careful as we might be it does. Herodotus knew that and we know it. Liberals, if you expect your work to mean something, you will have to expose it to some debate, lest it be discarded as propaganda (yes, it can be considered propaganda, if part of a state university is controlled and used by ideologues to advanced one political/social/cultural/moral program over all others).


Peter N Kirstein - 7/23/2003

Dr Luker,

I would suggest that a more careful reading of this epic, magnificent figure would not conclude that his failures were equivalent to his successes. I know few other historians who would agree with you at least in the context of your remarks. I think next January as you contemplate his life and the meaning of his existence for the oppressed people of the earth, perhaps, you might reassess your attribution of my using "inflated rhetoric" in describing the greatest figure ever born in the United States.

Perhaps you believe the ending of American apartheid and the creation of a democracy in 1964 and 1965 are vitiated by the racist resistance he encountered in Chicago and Albany, Georgia. That would certainly exemplify revisionist history.

Peter N Kirstein


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

William,

Typical historian, a lot of words but you say nothing. You also betray your elitism since you don't have to read the article under review but can give an opinion.

You say:
"We shouldn't be unkind to NYGuy, by the way, he's just being mainstreamed (egad! he's the product of a liberal idea! we dare not tell him?). The others ought to know better, but authoritarians are seldom self-critical."

NYGuy:
No I am the product of a group of visionaries, some of whom were slave holders, and I appreciate and respect what they have brought forward. Their ideas are older than all but 3-4 countries in the world. They created a society that gave opportunities, freedom and dignity to millions of people. They created a nation that is envy of the world.

Some people are myopic and therefore don't get the meaning of what the U. S. represents in the history of mankind.


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Prof. Kirstein,

When all else fails read the instructions:

"Discussion at the meeting soon made it evident that the participants, while sharing a desire to restrain our government from unleashing a bloody war, held many different political views and advocated a variety of courses of action. After an extensive debate, the participants agreed that, whatever the immediate future might hold, the advocates of unilateral use of the military might of the United States to reshape political and economic life around the world would be in the ascendancy for a long time to come. Concurring in the need for an organization of their own through which historians could join the efforts of other Americans from all walks of life, and of men and women throughout the world."

What is the purpose of HAW? "Concurring in the need for an organization of their own through which historians could join the efforts of other Americans from all walks of life, and of men and women throughout the world."

If others join who are not historians then they are diluting this base of brillance by bring in others who are not as well trained and intelligent.

What is their purpose?
"After an extensive debate, the participants agreed that, whatever the immediate future might hold, the advocates of unilateral use of the military might of the United States to reshape political and economic life around the world would be in the ascendancy for a long time to come."

Therefore they felt a group to counter this measure was necessary.

To me this is merely another advocacy group and a PAC. Since all historians don't agree with their position it is unfair to create the image that these "special" professionals:
1. Represent all historians.
2. It now changes of the purpose of historians from being teachers to being advocates.
3. Such a trend would make it even more difficult for students paying $20-30,000 per year to get an education that emphasizes preparation for critical thinking.

As you read the answers about what is an historians, you have to laugh at the self importance they put on themselves.

They have a right to free speech as a citizen, but when they become an advocacy group they bring into serious question their ability to be unbiased educators and serious scholars. That became evident with the quotes of many historians during the Battle of Baghdad. Even thought they put the U. S. troops in greater danger they were willing to come forward and make knowingly false accusation that the U. S. was permitting the looting of the museum and saving the oil ministry for Bush and his friends, which have been found to be untrue and unfounded. This is the level of fanaticalism the profession has reached and one of the reasons those espousing your point of view can not be taken as serious historians, but rather as propagandists for a political point of view.


NYGuy - 7/23/2003

Jonathan,

"The point here is that the United States is not perfect. Great, yes. Better than most of the alternatives in most ways, yes. But not perfect."

What the hell are you saying. You make up statements out of thin air and expect people to accept them. The U. S. has been a democracy that has provide freedom, dignity to humans and opportunity longer than 99% of the countries you can name. And, perhaps even today their are only a few countries that might achieve one half of what our method of government has achieved. Since you are so well versed in studying societies why don't you give us examples to show who these "total societies" are. One suggestiong was the Scandinavian countries which is a good place for racists to go since they are an all white culture. Or go to Africa where killing is a way of life. North Korea sounds goods, at least you would know you are protected. China crushes disidents but it has great food, Russia is another good place if they every get their act together and South American offers many opportunities for "smart guys>"

Your words betray you.

These flights of fancy sound good as propaganda, but do not hold up under close scruntiny. It also raises questions about historians being critical thinkings vs. being propagandist.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/23/2003

Hmm. I'm starting to think that you use "nuance" to mean "agrees with me in every particular."

And I'm also very tired of dragging the discussion back to the main point. Cuba is not the issue; I ignored it because it was irrelevant. You seem to think I support Cuba or Castro, but I'm not sure what I've said to give you that impression. Nor are Amnesty International's reports on other countries at issue; I'm well aware of the dismal situations you mention as well as dozens more. But they are irrelevant.

The point here is that the United States is not perfect. Great, yes. Better than most of the alternatives in most ways, yes. But not perfect. I love this country too much to settle for "good, even if we execute more people than any other democracy in the world" or "fine, aside from occasional attempts to silence dissent through intimidation" or "nice, if you don't mind money mattering more than citizens' needs, voices and votes."

Now, I have real work to do.


John Kipper - 7/23/2003

Editor: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED. IT DOES NOT MEET HNN'S STANDARDS OF CIVIL DEBATE AS OUTLINED HERE:

http://hnn.us/articles/982.html#civil


Josh Greenland - 7/23/2003

"How could the members of HAW have found so little room in their frozen hearts to mount any effort at all to unseat this monster or speak out against him as they are so ready to do now against those nations able and willing to do this duty?"

So if a person doesn't call for US overthrow of an objectionable regime, s/he is morally deficient? You and the other pro-war types here seem to have picked up pretty quick on the administration's asserted right to intervene wherever and whenever for moral reasons. Keep in mind that some of us don't just flop back and forth like grass in whichever direction administration-supporting blowhards make the wind go. Some of us have consistent principles, including belief in the sovereign rights of other countries and in the undesirability of offensive military action except as a last resort.

Speaking of consistency and principles, I've noticed that the Support All Republican Wars brigade is quick to proclaim the evil of those Americans who don't jump on the bandwagon for the administration's next invasion or occupation, but they are damn quiet about the horrendous human rights violating regimes, recent past and present, that the US, and especially the Republicans, love to support. I'm wondering especially what you think about Uzbekistan, which is generally considered the worst human rights violator on earth right now, and is a strongly supported US ally (puppet?). Maybe we should invade that country now, or least stop supporting it? How about Burma? How about any number of Latin American regimes? Let's just say I find the pro-war crowd's wish to militarily depose objectionable regimes to be totally determined by the utterances of administration supporters, entirely mindless and not a worthy moral example.


Josh Greenland - 7/23/2003

"And in any case, I do not see how it is much of a misuse of the term [fascism] (except possibly to UNDER-state the evil) to apply it to the lethal totalitarian horror show Saddam and his now dearly departed progeny put on for thirty years running."

Elia, you seem like to trivialize fascist and Nazi mass murder by facilely claiming that other governments killed more than they did. You've made this claim for the USSR under Stalin, and you're doing it now with Saddam Hussein's regime.

I guess I don't understand your need to have people think better of the fascists, including the Nazis, than they otherwise might. But I'd be happy to challenge your fascist-protecting stance in these two cases:

I responded to your last post on Robert Conquest and Soviet death figures in a previous forum, but that forum was unlinked from the HNN home page 2 days later. To reprise a little of what I said then, the Nazis evidently killed one hell of a lot more people than the USSR under Stalin did. A couple quick web-searches showed that people talking about Conquest's death figures were mostly either anti-Communist ideologues who did not deal at all with disagreements with his numbers, and people with expertise in that history, mostly academics, who think his figures are too high. One had Stalin's secret police kill about 800,000 people, mostly in the late '30s, and death numbers for the early '30s farmbelt famine were lower than the 6-14 million that Conquest has put forward. But even granting for a brief moment that your 30 million death figure under Stalin is true, it's still much less than the number that Hitler, dictator of a country 1/3rd the population of the USSR, managed to kill in a much shorter period than Stalin's reign. I do know that the Nazis killed 20 million Soviets altogether, 6 million non-Jewish Poles and 6 million Jews, and they killed many, many more than that. One academic estimate of Hitler's killings is 50 million as a low figure. And note that I'm not bringing Mussolini's Fascists or Franco's Falange into it, nor Imperial Japan.

I'd truly like to know how you can say that Saddam Hussein's regime, as horrific as it was, was worse than the fascists? Do you have any evidence of this?

I'm of the belief that, generally speaking, the more people a government or ideology kills, the morally worse that system is. I think many people on all parts of the political spectrum agree with this, perhaps including yourself. In fact, I think you are fudging reality to be able to claim for some reason that governments you particularly don't like are "worse than the fascists" or "worse than the Nazis." This causes me to think there is something peculiar about your politics that causes you to imply that the Nazis and other fascists really weren't so bad. Am I right?


Ralph E. Luker - 7/23/2003

Professor Kirstein,
"Dr King changed the history of the world through pacifism yet honed with non-violent civil disobedience."
Much as I admire Dr. King, this strikes me as another instance of the exaggerated rhetoric which gathers around him and obscures real understanding of his much more limited accomplishments. His failures (for example, Albany and Chicago) bode as large in his career as his successes (for example, Birmingham and Selma). It is important to recognize the failures in order to learn from them and inflated rhetoric about world historical change seem to me to be of very little benefit. In fact, they seem to me to be very detrimental.


Peter N Kirstein - 7/23/2003

Two points.
A citizen, regardless of her station or position, does not need an excuse to engage in political activism. We should expect our educators, to whom we entrust our children, to have some say, to have some impact on public policy.

While historians should not claim, nor do they, that their training confers upon them a superior wisdom over other participants in civil society, efforts to apply historical knowledge in a manner that is accessible and that can enrich the public's understanding of the present is laudable and should be encouraged.

Students frequently ask me, "Is history relevant?" One way for the profession to address that, is to demonstrate by word and action that it is. Professor Zinn presented different views when he taught, and encouraged open and lively debate in class. I had him in 3 courses and model my teaching after him and Dr Patrick Dougherty who taught at Saint Louis Univ.

Peace,

Peter N Kirstein


Elia Markell - 7/23/2003

I will leave it for Greg Yardley to say what he thinks of the great Howard Zinn. I do not want to descend into ad hominem here since the tone is in fact civil.

I do want to comment on this of Kirstein's, which seems to go to the heart of the matter between him and Yardley:

"Intellectuals have a moral responsibility to address and lead their publics on issues of the day. Historians are especially trained for this, due to their knowledge of the past."

Historians are "trained" to dig up information on the past and interpret it within the developed frameworks of their field. They are most certainly NOT trained to "lead their publics on the issues of the day." This is exactly Yardley's point. They are absolutely entitled to take a stand on anything -- as citizens. They are not entitled to assert, or even hint, that their expertise as historians makes those views any more or less credible than anyone else's. Obviously, HAW does exactly that. I would think the fact that historians of every political stripe exist and do acceptable work as historians would itself indicate how utterly irrelevant training as a historian is to the case one makes for any political position.


Bill Heuisler - 7/23/2003

Mr. Dresner,
There are no, "roughly equivalent industrialized democracies,".
In population, India? In system, Germany? Forgetaboutit. And you evidently ignored my mention of Cuba. Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned Castro's Paradise for imprisoning more per capita than any other country except China, for concentration camps in the Sierra Maestra dedicated to homosexuals, for executing dissenters and forbidding citizens to leave.

Amnesty International also has condemned numerous Muslim countries for slavery, summary executions etc.

Mr Dresner, no matter how hard you (and HAW) strain, the United States is not the problem in the world; it is the solution. Were you all to take a more "nuanced approach" toward W and our United States, you might find more agreement from me.
Bill Heuisler


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 7/23/2003

It seems to me that the very fact this discussion is taking place ought to be disturbing.

I cannot imagine a historian in any capacity treating the past in a way that is not somehow "political." That said, it by no means implies some sort of relativist free-for-all, although exploring that matter would actually distract us from what really is in the complainers' craws: When historians are explicitly political, they had better follow a party line or be ready to catch hell, vide the occupant of the Oval Office and his sneer at "revisionist historians."

The US Right is predictably boring and in unison about so much--rather like the Chinese waving Mao's little red book--it can be almost charmingly naive about its stupidity and hypocrisy. At least somehow Bill Clinton hasn't--at least yet--been blamed for all that's wrong here.

Had the AHA come out and cheered Bush and Company on in Iraq, we wouldn't have heard a peep from the Right, and all gestures we now read toward principle and procedure would never have even occurred to them--though not much does anyway until the cue-card-Fox-screamer buzzwords came down from on high--strike that--down low. We shouldn't be unkind to NYGuy, by the way, he's just being mainstreamed (egad! he's the product of a liberal idea! we dare not tell him?). The others ought to know better, but authoritarians are seldom self-critical.


Elia Markell - 7/23/2003

And it is Fascism -- Not Fasciam. Sorry.


Elia Markell - 7/23/2003


Given how often the term fascism is flung about by people on the left -- attached to everything from Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush, from proposals to slow the growth of school lunch program spending to country music fans smashing their own Dixie Chicks CDs -- I suppose a bit of caution in using the term is called for. However, I stand by it in this case. Baathist ideology is directly and explicitly linked with the Nazis. And in any case, I do not see how it is much of a misuse of the term (except possibly to UNDER-state the evil) to apply it to the lethal totalitarian horror show Saddam and his now dearly departed progeny put on for thirty years running. I guess I could be persuaded to follow Christopher Hitchens' example and call Saddam a follower of Jeffrey Dahmer, not Adolph Hitler, if that would please people.

The point is the same. How could the members of HAW have found so little room in their frozen hearts to mount any effort at all to unseat this monster or speak out against him as they are so ready to do now against those nations able and willing to do this duty?


Peter N Kirstein - 7/23/2003

Pacifism does not mean passivity. It does not mean non-resistance. It does not mean a lack of aggressiveness. It does not mean a refusal to utilize force against property. It does not mean an absence of self-defense. It may mean massive civil disobedience, mass arrests, mass blockages, sit-ins, and chaos. It may refer to a variety of means to combat “evil” short of organized violence. I recognize an unlimited number of scenarios where a strict pacifist position may be challenged. I concede that. However, after Sept. 11, I believe that arrests, policing, international assistance in apprehending those responsible, AND changing the VIOLENT nature of American foreign policy would have been morally superior to war in Afghanistan.

Yet in an operational sense, I take each war individually and condemn it on its own terms as I have done with Iraq. Yet, I am committed to an absolute pacifist position and I believe it is morally and operationally more successful and more conducive to national security than the current obsession with the use of force. Dr King changed the history of the world through pacifism yet honed with non-violent civil disobedience.

Peter N Kirstein


Jonathan Dresner - 7/22/2003

"Speculation about numbers of protestors proves nothing except the inaccuracy of your original swipe at [President George ]W. [Bush]"

No, my analysis of the number of protestors explains that my "original swipe" was justified.

I'll say it again: I have no "child-like faith" in the mainland Chinese government. But I am willing to take a nuanced approach that accepts their small progress towards greater openness while being fully aware of their brutally repressive and frighteningly disorganized approach to 21st century China. Just as I can fully appreciate living in the US (and I've been and studied enough alternatives to know) while being fully aware of its flawed political leadership (not just the current administration, but the whole system) and social ills. Am I a fool to think we can do better? Have we really reached the pinnacle from which we will now descend?

I don't have my sources on executions at hand, but you might try Amnesty International: they keep pretty close tabs on things like capital punishment. And be careful what you wish for: if we compare capital punishment in the US to roughly equivalent industrialized democracies, we look even worse.


Peter N Kirstein - 7/22/2003

Yeah, I know the game. This is a website, not a referee journal, where people write fast. Cheers to all PACIFISTS, many OF WHOM are persecuted due to their resistance to the empire and the murdering of the children of heads of state. PNK


Bill Heuisler - 7/22/2003

Professor Kirstein,
Please indulge my intense curiosity. Does absolute pacifism forswear self defense? If so, and assuming a whole nation were consumed with the gentle phenomenon, wouldn't such vulnerability be suicidal? Orwell commented on pacifism concluding that such withdrawal was possible only in Democracies, weakened their defense and was actually pro whomever was the enemy of said Democracy. It seems to me that a belief in absolute pacifism must coincide with a denial of Evil or assumes an eventual accomodation to, or victimization by, all comers. Am I wrong?

I've never had the chance to ask the question to a real human being who takes such beliefs seriously. Do you acknowledge a problem? How do you resolve the dilemma?
Bill Heuisler


Wilson - 7/22/2003


Not everything that everyone finds objectionable can be labeled "fascism." Hussein was in many ways worse than the fascists, but the fascists were a particular political movement with certain historical characteristics in Europe from the late 1920s throught WWII. The word is not just a synonym for repression or abject violence or brutal regimes.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/22/2003

Professor Kirstein, Your post should say "for those who heed it" and "absolute pacifist who opposes all war."


Bill Heuisler - 7/22/2003

Mr Dresner,
We agree on tripe. Have you tried New England pepper pot soup? The Campbells canned variety is a bit bland.

Sources become less imperfect with corroboration. Speculation about numbers of protestors proves nothing except the inaccuracy of your original swipe at W. However, your judicial execution gibe is so completely wrong I wonder at your source...and your naivete. Do you have a source for that scurrilous affront? Or a reason for your near-childlike faith in the Communist Chinese?
Bill Heuisler


Ralph E. Luker - 7/22/2003

NYG:
Even you know better than to say this sort of thing. Do you report all the activities of all the groups that you belong to to the government? I hope not. Do you think that the government should be monitoring all the activities of all private groups in the United States? I hope not. You dumb twit, it would help the quality of discussion on these boards if you would think about what you're saying before you inflict it on the rest of us.


Peter N Kirstein - 7/22/2003

Fair enough. I think the "calling" is for those whom heed it. For those who do not, fair enough. I am an absolute pacifist that opposes all war. Most are not. I respect that.

Peter N Kirstein


Peter N Kirstein - 7/22/2003

I respect Mr Yardley because he argues in a manner that is substantive and not personal. He eschews bitter, vicious criticism that I assure you I have experienced. Having said that, I think Mr Yardley serious misconstrues the parameters of extramural utterances.

The seminal statement on this matter is the AAUP “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.” The statement requires, among other things, accuracy, respect for other opinions, and an avoidance of claiming to speak for an institution. It also states that professors "when they speak or write as citizens, should be free from institutional censorship or discipline."

While I have no reason to believe that Mr Yardley would disagree with that quotation--he can speak for himself--I do feel that criticism of professors who are exercising constitutional rights of free speech and engaging in patriotic dissent, should not be condemned but praised for their honesty, their courage, and their commitment to living out their dreams and morals.

What kind of country would we have if academicians were constrained from denouncing--past or present--McCarthyism, racism, genocide, sexism, homophobia? What do we wish our professoriate to become: myrmidons for the government? Intellectuals have a moral responsibility to address and lead their publics on issues of the day. Historians are especially trained for this, due to their knowledge of the past. They may be wrong; they may be errant; they don't possess absolute wisdom; they do possess the rights of speech and should be honoured for exercising that right.

Finally, I would ask Mr Yardley to ponder the greatness of Howard Zinn and how he manifests the apogee of wisdom, academic brilliance and a commitment to peace and justice.

Respectfully and collegially,

Peter N. Kirstein


Elia Markell - 7/22/2003

First, I commend you for acknowledging something about Frontpagemag.com not usually acknowledged here. Still, I cannot say I fully comprehend this from you (or agree with what I do comprehend of it):

"To suggest that historians should abandon their moral and ethical calling in opposing war and its manifestations of terrorism, cruelty and suffering, is typical of those who wish to inflict a stifling orthodoxy on the academy. "

Are you suggesting historians as an entire group have a "calling" to oppose war, period? Does this include the Civil War, the American Revolution, World War II, and the Korean War, along with the current Iraq war? If so, do historians also have a "calling" to oppose the "terrorism, cruelty and suffering" that would have ensued had these wars NOT been fought? Or is a concern about that "terrorism, cruelty and suffering" part of the calling of some other profession?


Jonathan Dresner - 7/22/2003

Actually, tripe stew is pretty popular around here, though I've never enjoyed it myself.

Any historian who's worked with sources knows that there are no perfect sources. Historians routinely apply corrective assumptions to historical sources, based on their experience and the background of the source.

My experience and other sources indicates that the demonstrations were underreported and that national estimates were grossly underreported because demonstrations reported (and not all were, either) in smaller regional sources (like the newspapers here) were not included in national news service accounts.


Greg Yardley - 7/22/2003

Excellent – this has substance.

First of all, when a historian makes a public statement as a historian, is he engaging in an ‘extramural utterance,’ or is he representing himself as a professional subject to professional standards?

Let’s use a hypothetical example. Say Nick Riviera publishes an editorial that says ‘everyone should eat three servings of lard daily.’ Now say Dr. Nick Riviera publishes an editorial that says ‘as a doctor, I believe everyone should eat three servings of lard daily.’ I expect the American Medical Association to be more concerned with the latter than the former.

I’ll admit that everyone can call themselves a historian – although the American Historical Association acts as an umbrella professional group, there’s no formal body that decides who’s a historian and who’s not. Therefore a person calling himself a historian isn’t necessarily subject to professional standards. However, most public statements aren’t made by people defined generically as ‘historians’, but by people identified as, say, “Associate Professor of History at Sound Bend University.” When an individual identifies themselves in this way, they’re tying themselves quite firmly to the standards of the professorate, their department, and their university.

Take a look at the signatures on any public petition. If organization affiliations are given, often they’ll be with a caveat – ‘for identification purposes only,’ because people understand quite readily that when an individual publicly identifies himself as a member of an organization or profession, he speaks as a representative of that organization, unless he explicitly states otherwise. Because of this, when a professor and historian identifies himself as a professor and historian, I believe I’m well within my right to expect him to follow the standards of his profession. If he goes unidentified as a professional – for instance, if Van Gosse wrote an editorial as a member of Peace Action – I’d have no problem with it.

Now, the quote “[t]he professors at a university should be judged … by their teaching in a classroom” contains an ellipsis, so perhaps I’m missing something, but I’d argue that the professors at a university should be judged by all aspects of their work, including their research. For instance, the unfortunate Michael Bellesiles might be an excellent teacher, but few would argue he belongs in a university classroom after his embarrassing Arming America. And a historian’s behavior as a historian outside the classroom can most certainly cast suspicions on his behavior within it, and lead to calls for further investigation.

Another analogy: imagine if a pair of detectives sat down and said ‘hmmm – we’ve got several pieces of circumstantial evidence, all suggesting this individual committed a crime, but we didn’t see him commit the crime itself, so I guess he’s not a suspect.’ Their captain would be livid! Instead, detectives with suspicions investigate further, until those suspicions are confirmed or denied.

We should act similarly in our investigations of Historians Against the War (and don’t overstretch the analogy – they’re under suspicion of no ‘crime’ other than unprofessional bias). Members of this organization belong to a group that wants to write curricula and produce scholarship to further its political purposes. The group has organized a number of one-sided public ‘teach-ins’, presenting only half of the issue. The group wishes to lay ‘anti-imperialist’ history, and only that, before the public and editorial boards. In all of these activities, they publicly identify themselves as historians and university professors - and not 'for identification purposes only.' After all this bias, are you seriously suggesting suspicions of bias in their classrooms are unreasonable? Should the public simply ignore these suspicions, or are we entitled to investigate what goes on at a publicly-funded university?

Finally, the statement “I wonder what Mr Yardley's reaction would have been had a group of historians adopted the acronym, HFAIP, Historians for American Imperialism and Preemption” is a bit disappointing. I’d be appalled, of course. I’ll be the first to admit I personally don’t like Historians Against the War’s politics, but I’m not merely plucking arguments out of the air I don’t actually believe in to grind an ideological axe – I’ve got more self-respect than that.

With regards,
Greg Yardley


NYGuy - 7/22/2003

Peter,

While you claim that one's political idealogy can be put aside when he enters the classroom may be true. But, when he/she takes the next step and becomes a member of a Political Action Group his ability to separate the two worlds becomes suspect. Even if he succeeds in the endeavor you suggest, he opens himself up to questions, and chills the students from expressing their true ideas, especially in todays' competition for grades to get into graduate school.

Beside, are the groups he is joining funded by the public or does he pay his own dues to this separte non-profit organization. Does the group report Their activities to the government, or is this a secret organization?

If it looks like a duck, etc.


Suetonius - 7/22/2003

It is one thing to engage in free politicized speech outside of the academy, however unpopular and protected, and another to incorporate politicized material into coursework that is traditionally and inherently based upon dispassionate analysis of the full range of evidence. The historians who are members of this group wanting to stop war and imperialism are perfectly free to do so, so long as it isn't interfering with the education of the students who are paying to learn something and don't already know the subject matter.

If these historians attempt to develop politicized "anti-imperialist" syllabi and use the platform of their knowledge for non-academic purposes (stopping a war which is not the subject of the course), then they're going off the reservation. The criticism here is not against the views of these professors: it's that they're using their professional positions to add the pretence of expertise and sophistication when there is none.

As for the suggestion of a stifling orthodoxy...the sense a casual reader here might gather is that the stifling orthodoxy in the field is one of extreme leftism and anti-American sentiment.


Herodotus - 7/22/2003

Oh, there was that election thingie in November 2002. But perhaps that doesn't count, since the results were at odds with the desires of the anti-war crowd.


Peter N Kirstein - 7/22/2003

I think Mr Yardly makes an inacurate assumption that a historian's decision to engage in extramural utterances can be used to make inferences on the quality of that person's teaching. I would like to reproduce FIRE's Dr Alan Charles Kors statement to the Chronicle of Higher Education, April 17, 2003 concerning this very issue. Professoir Kors is particularly concerned about the perseuction of academics whose extramural utterances may trigger a public clamour for their removal from the classroom.

"There is a categorical difference between a professor's introducing what the AAUP terms “extraneous materials” during a class, on the one hand, and, on the other, a professor's speaking on matters of public concern outside of the class…The professors at a university should be judged…by their teaching in a classroom. One cannot infer what happens in a classroom from what people say outside of a classroom. If a professor brought a wholly closed mind into a classroom, that indeed would be an appropriate manner for evaluation by his [or her] peers. But what a professor says politically cannot be the basis
for such judgments."

Let me be precise. To make an inference on one's teaching effectiveness based upon their extramural utterances is inappropriate and censorial. I wonder what Mr Yardley's reaction would have been had a group of historians adopted the acronym, HFAIP, Historians for American Imperialism and Preemption.

Peter N Kirstein


Greg Yardley - 7/22/2003

Dear Professor Montgomery:

While I appreciate your response to my article, it leaves a few questions unanswered.

1) Not everyone and not every historian agrees that 'a threat to free speech' exists in America today. Since this issue is so contentious, why is it appropriate for a professional body encompassing historians of all political perspectives to pass a resolution that declares a threat to free speech does in fact exist?

2) Is it appropriate for an organization that stands for 'global justice' and denounces an 'American Empire' devote itself to producing classroom curricula? How does the public know these curricula will encourage independent thought and critical thinking, and not merely indoctrinate?

3) Since existence of an 'American Empire' is very debatable, how should the public evaluate the Historians Against the War's decision to research "resistance to the American Empire"? Since this seems to use the existence of 'American Empire' as a starting point, will this not distort the historian's research?

4) As historians, do you have a responsibility to present the public with multiple points of view, evidence both for and against your claims? How does this match with Historians Against the War's decision to place 'anti-imperialist historical analysis before the public' and newspaper editorial boards?

5) Is it appropriate for History departments to sponsor one-sided events like the Historians Against the War's 'teach-ins'? Do these events teach students to think critically, or merely indoctrinate?

6) What steps do members of a partisan political organization have to take to ensure their classroom teaching is fair and objective? Do historians in the classroom have any obligation to be objective at all? Should students be given all the information necessary to evaluate a contentious issue for themselves, or should they simply be taught the historian's own, professional opinion?

7) Do historians employed by the taxpayer or by institutions supported by tax dollars have any obligations to taxpayers? If so, what are those obligations?

I was hoping you'd deal with some of these questions, which must be considered by all politically-engaged historians - I'm hoping you and other members of Historians Against the War will do so in the future.

In your article, there was a slight misrepresentation of my position. Let me be clear, Professor Montgomery - I have no desire to force you to "celebrate the American political tradition, redeem the reputation of business leaders, and recognize the merits of war." All I want is scholarship that starts with documentary evidence rather than ideological suppositions, professional organizations that represent the entire profession rather than a politicized few, and teaching that allows students to evaluate all viewpoints rather than the professor's pet theories. This, I suspect, is what the taxpayers who fund higher education want from a university professor. That means you as a historian might have to present to the public viewpoints that do indeed "celebrate the American political tradition, redeem the reputation of business leaders, and recognize the merits of war," if only to disagree and debate them.

With regards,
Greg Yardley


Bill Heuisler - 7/22/2003

Mr. Dresner,
You say, "It is pointless to make one-dimensional comparisons."
Really? You cite non existant numbers, false statistics and end with a trite conclusion that the Chinese and Kenyan governments are more trusteworthy than our own DOJ.

1) You say millions of anti-war people weren't reported correctly, but offer no corrective sources.
2) You imply excessive judicial executions exist in the US and make vague references to unrealized principles in our society.
"One dimensional"? An exact description of your statement on judicial executions. Do you know about Cuba, for instance?
3) You offer an opinion that China's actions "indicate" they are somehow more benevolent than your own country. Indicate to whom?

Hold the US to a higher standard, Mr. Dresner? No. You hold my country to false standards and then create facts, imagine crimes and compare Communist dictatorships favorably. You offer no evidence for anti-American charges except your observations, opinions and biases. You defend your anti-American statements with "there isn't a lot of disagreement on facts here..." Wrong.

You have no facts. Most historians (Left or Right) would disagree with your numbers, standards of justice and estimation of Chinese benevolence. So. Why vent anti-US spleen on HNN?
Ignorant? Tripe? Precisely.
Bill Heuisler


Peter N Kirstein - 7/22/2003

To suggest that historians should abandon their moral and ethical calling in opposing war and its manifestations of terrorism, cruelty and suffering, is typical of those who wish to inflict a stifling orthodoxy on the academy.

I will say this for David Horowitz and Jamie Glazov of FrontPageMag.com. They are not unwilling to invite views from those whom they disagree. While they clearly have a thematic agenda of ascribing unpatriotic, traitorous motives to the left, they have the integrity to debate directly those whom they so fervently denounce. I was somewhat surprised to be included in a Symposium on the War, and I commend them for exposing their considerable readership to positions that are most likely at variance. This link is for those interested in the colloquy.
http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=8746

Peter N Kirstein
Saint Xavier University


Elia Markell - 7/22/2003

The interim authority in Iraq now consists of nearly all of the key leaders of the Shiites and Kurds, as well as those Sunnis not tarnished with Baathist connections. More than one hundred newspapers and weeklies are now publishing in Iraq without any censorship. Earlier over-hyped reports about hospitals and clinics without equipment have faded from view, as have public demonstrations complaining about a lack of jobs and services. Why? Because these needs are in fact being addressed. Meanwhile mass graves are being dug up by the day from Saddam's fascist nightmare regime. Yet here is how Montgomery describes this fragile, yet incredibly hopeful situation:

"[The U.S.] assault did oust Saddam Hussein's regime, but the bloodshed continues, reminding many historians of the three-year war needed to suppress the Philippine independence movement, after Manila crowds had welcomed America's victory over the Spanish empire."

As one historian, I must say the Baathist dead-enders killing our troops in Iraq now most certainly DO NOT remind me of the Philippine independence movement or any other legitimate or even semi-legitimate rebel organization. What, for instance, Prof. Montgomery, is the program of this "insurgency," pray tell? The reimposition of the policy of gouging out the eyes of children in front of their parents? These Baathist monsters remind me only of the fascist thugs they were and are.

The use of self-serving false historical analogies is a disease of all semi-educated political partisans. One would have hoped that historians would know better. Apparently, they do not.

Even as partisans of the left, for the AHA and HAW to take no interest in their international obligations to aid in the overthrow of fascism and Isalmist totalitarianism, while carping at trivial minutia such as the famouse 16 words, is an obscene abandonment of even their own claimed political duties. Pompous boilerplate posturing, as in "We historians call for ..." do not hide the intellectual shoddiness or moral emptiness of this stand.


NYGuy - 7/22/2003

Jonathan

“It's a matter of stated policy, ideals and principles to which we are not living up as a society.”

NYGuy

While you may be right, the statement is still one of arrogance that only you have the ability to decide if, “we are not living up” to these ideals, but then you go on to say, “as a society”.

While you are entitled to your opinion, I and millions of others disagree with you. So we are not dealing with facts, merely the opinion of one individual, which under our system of government you get the right to express.

But you go on to say, “as a society.” It suggests that there are more perfect societies beyond the democracy that we have enjoyed for longer than 99% of the world’s population.

You however don’t, or perhaps can’t, give an example of this more perfect society you are seeking. Perhaps it only exists in your mind. So you nit pick a little item here, and a little item there, but fail to give an example of the total society that is better.

I understand that you may want to create a more perfect Union. But your conclusions remind me of the “Babe Ruth” analogy. If we look at the number of strikeouts he had we can conclude that he was not a good baseball player. Using the same analysis, and applying the same thinking you conclude that we are not perfect.

Sorry, this is one of the reasons why Historians should not become political figures; it just makes them appear to be a bunch of dunces.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/22/2003

We're clearly arguing about very different things. There isn't a lot of disagreement on facts here, but you insist there is no reason to doubt, question or criticize the US while I insist on holding it to the highest possible standard.

Yes, there were millions of anti-war protesters in the US. The "easily checked" numbers you cite probably come from mainstream news accounts that only counted up the groups in the 5 largest US media markets (i.e. the ones they could get news crews to without spending a lot of money) and ignored hundreds, if not thousands, of smaller protests.

It is pointless to make one-dimensional comparisons between entirely different situations, which is what you're doing with your litany of injustice and barbarism. That doesn't excuse or even diminish the problems of the US justice system: it's not a numbers game. It's a matter of stated policy, ideals and principles to which we are not living up as a society.

And no, I don't take China's government at its word. But its actions, in this case, indicate that they are trying to honor the agreement they made when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule, allowing a distinctly different and more democratic system of government than exists under CCP rule.


Gullible? Ignorant? Lap up? Tripe?

What a waste of time.


Bill Heuisler - 7/22/2003

Mr. Dresner,
We could believe you were just gullible if each of your little flights of fancy weren't so one-sided. Let's examine three:
1) "millions of anti-war protesters"
2) "the only country which carries out more judicial executions than the US is China."
3) "DoJ figures are entirely untrustworthy"

Where do you lap up such lousy, anti-American information?
1) There were millions of US anti-war? In an ANSWER wet-dream, or maybe if you include all the hangers-on (feminists, gay rights greens etc.) Why inflate such easily-checked numbers?

2) Did you forget nearly every Muslim country in the world? In the Sudan they execute rape victims. In Maroc stoning serves to punish homosexuals and errant wives. The Saudis beheaded a Princess for dating a Marine and consider ritual disemboweling or impaling suitable for certain sacrileges. Can you say India? Suttee is still widely practised in rural India and only 70% or so of girl children are said to partake their first meal in more backward areas of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Northern Punjab. Female infanticide and commonly fatal circumcision is widely practised in Africa and slaves are generally allowed to die if they have the bad fortune to become ill. Oh yes, you said judicial, didn't you? Well, Village Chiefs, Mullahs, slave dealers fathers and even husbands have far more awesome powers over life in wide swaths of our cruel world than our rule-bound American Judges. Do you hate the US, or merely civilization?

3) You casually remark how, "Citizens in Hong Kong and Kenya actually persuaded their governments to listen to and address their concerns." Then with a cocky smirk you disparage your own country. Have you forgotten Hong Kong's government is China? Has the Chinese Government confided in you, Mr. Dresner? Have they said they will address their citizens with the same sensitivity they exhibited at Tienemen Square? Are Peking's figures more trustworthy to you than those of your own damned country?

Where do you get your information? Why do you believe such tripe and why must you inflict your shallow ignorance on HNN?
Bill Heuisler


Jonathan Dresner - 7/22/2003

On the other hand, it is even more remarkable that citizens in Hong Kong and Kenya actually persuaded their governments to listen to and address their concerns, while our president brushed aside millions of anti-war protesters with a smirk while simultaneously carrying out air strikes in secret preparation for the war.

No, we don't execute people for fraud. But the only country which carries out more judicial executions than the US is China. So there are a few hundred countries which can claim at least one element of moral superiority over the US.

DoJ figures are entirely untrustworthy as long as it is impossible to independently verify them, and since the PATRIOT act makes it illegal for librarians who have been queried to tell anyone (including their superiors and especially the person being investigated), that is impossible.


Herodotus - 7/22/2003

So is meaningful knowledge of contemporary affairs. This little gem is good:

"Huge popular mobilizations have blocked the enactment of new security laws modeled on the USPATRIOT Act in Hong Kong and Kenya, but the act remains law in our country"

It is silly to compare the United States with Hong Kong under mainland Communist Chinese rule and the increasingly stringent Kenya. Only in the dreamland does one find moral equivalency between the U.S. and such countries. Do we execute prisoners for embezzlement and fraud? Didn't think so.

And the hoopla over the Patriot Act is overrated. For example, DOJ data released earlier this year indicated that the majority of incidents involving reporting of borrowings from libraries were initiated by the librarians themselves.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/21/2003

Awareness of national policy is the responsibility of every citizen. Commentary on national policy is the right of every citizen. Civility helps.


Stephen Thomas - 7/21/2003

Editor: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED. IT DOES NOT MEET HNN'S STANDARDS OF CIVIL DEBATE AS OUTLINED HERE:

http://hnn.us/articles/982.html#civil

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