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Historians Petition Congress to Take a Vote on War with Iraq

Following is a press release issued by Joyce Appleby on 9-6-02.

A delegation of American historians will travel to Washington on September 17 to present a petition urging Congress to assume its Constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on whether or not to declare war on Iraq. Over 1,100 historians from every state in the union have signed the petition. The event, to be held at noon on the Terrace of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill, will commemorate America's least celebrated holiday: Constitution Day.

Leaders and members of Congress have been invited to receive the 131-word American Historians' Petition which says that Congressional neglect of its war powers is in clear violation of the Constitution and works to"the detriment of our democracy."

According to Joyce Appleby and Ellen DuBois, the two UCLA history professors who organized the petition drive, the response to their email distribution was immediate and overwhelming with hundreds of requests to sign-on arriving the first day of its circulation. "Apparently others felt, as we did, that the time had come for Congress to soberly assess the risks, costs and wisdom of a preemptive strike on Iraq," they said. "The drum beat of off-hand remarks, speeches and op-ed essays about war with Iraq created what President George W. Bush called 'a kind of churning,' " they remarked, adding, "The American public deserves better."

Asked if the president's announcement that he would consult with Congress had undercut their petition, Professors DuBois and Appleby stressed the inadequacy of this response. "The power to declare war rests with Congress, not the executive. Nor can Congress evade its grave responsibility to vote on declaring war by holding hearings and passing resolutions,." they said.

Among the 1,117 signers are experts in the history of the United States Constitution, American law, and foreign relations during the Cold War when Congress let slide its duty, articulated in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, to be the sole branch of government to declare war.

Appleby will head the delegation gathering on Capitol Hill. Others will include history professors Ira Berlin, University of Maryland; Michael Johnson, Johns Hopkins University; Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University; Susan Strasser, University of Delaware; and Melani McAlister, George Washington University. More than 200 institutions of higher learning are represented by the signers who also include independent scholars, public historians, and librarians with a specialty in American history. A list of the signers can be found on web site of the History News Network.