Historians Against the War reconsidering their mission statement

Historians in the News

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

For the past several weeks the Steering Committee has been discussing revising or updating our policy statement that people have been signing to join HAW. We adopted the current statement on September 21, 2003, and it reads:

"As historians, teachers, and scholars, we oppose the expansion of United States empire and the doctrine of pre-emptive war that have led to the occupation of Iraq. We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history involved in the administration's conduct of a war that violates international law, intensifies attacks on civil liberties, and reaches toward domination of the Middle East and its resources. Believing that both the Iraqi people and the American people have the right to determine their own political and economic futures (with appropriate outside assistance), we call for the restoration of cherished freedoms in the United States and for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq."

Several times since 2003 the Steering Committee has expressed opinions on issues that were outside the literal framework of the founding statement, but that appeared to many people to be related. The Steering Committee criticized US government support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, and for the invasion of Gaza earlier this winter. Last fall we adopted a set of "discussion points" on Afghanistan that called for the US to withdraw rather than to escalate.

More recently, there has been discussion of formalizing a broader scope for the organization, either through a more general statement by the Steering Committee or by a new statement of unity for HAW as an organization. A proposed document that could potentially serve either purpose is included in this message. We invite feedback on either or both of the following points:

-- The substance of the statement: Do you have concerns about the proposed text? Would you suggest revisions?

-- The purpose of the statement: If it were to be adopted after the process of feedback and revision, should it be simply as a statement of opinion by the Steering Committee (parallel to the earlier statements on Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan) or as a re-definition of HAW itself? (If we follow the latter course, it would be subject to approval in an e-mail ballot open to recipients of the HAW-Info messages.)

Please send any feedback to statement@historiansagainstwar.org. This statement is also posted on our blog, and those who so wish can discuss the proposal at

Jim O'Brien and Marc Becker, co-chairs
for the HAW Steering Committee

[Proposed Revision]

As historically-minded activists, scholars, students, and teachers, we stand opposed to wars of aggression, military occupations of foreign lands, and imperial efforts by the United States and other powerful nations to dominate the internal life of other countries.

In particular, we continue to demand a speedy end to US military involvement in Iraq, and we insist on the withdrawal, not the expansion, of US and NATO military forces in Afghanistan. We also call for a sharp reduction of US military bases overseas, and an end to US financial and military support of regimes that repress their people, or that occupy the territories of other peoples. We favor as well a drastic redirection of national resources away from military spending and towards urgently needed domestic programs.

We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history, the repeated violation of international law, and the attack on civil liberties domestically that accompanies the present U.S. foreign policy of war and militarism—a foreign policy that became especially belligerent in the aftermath of September 11.

We fear that the current, rapidly escalating crisis of global capitalism, which is creating suffering worldwide, will lead to escalating wars abroad and intensifying repression at home. We support solutions to this crisis that seek to enrich the lives and increase the power of working peoples globally, and protect their fundamental human rights. We are unalterably opposed to any attempts to solve the crisis at their expense.

We are aware that, in the words of the late historian William Appleman Williams,"empire as a way of life" has characterized the United States since its foundation and is not easily changed. However, we are mindful as well that the current conjunction of international and domestic crises offers an opportunity to alter longstanding destructive patterns. As historians, we believe that we can and must make a contribution to the broad, international movements for peace, democracy, and social justice. In pursuing our objectives, we look toward building and joining alliances with a wide variety of intellectual and activist groups that share our concerns.

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