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Historians to ask the AHA to condemn Iraq War practices in violation of "open inquiry"

HNN EditorHistorians opposed to the Iraq War plan on asking the American Historical Association to approve a resolution at its upcoming annual meeting critical of many of the practices associated with the war. Alan Dawley, a leader of Historians Against the War (HAW), told HNN in an email that the resolution will be presented at the AHA's business meeting:

The resolution is being spearheaded by Historians Against the War and has been signed by more than 80 historians (of whom more than 60 are AHA members). It calls attention to the ways the US government has violated both AHA professional standards and the broader principles of open inquiry necessary to the health of a free society. It links these violations to the prosecution of the war in Iraq, which, along with the so-called war on terror, has been used as a pretext for denying foreign scholars entry to the United States, re-classifying formerly unclassified documents, secretly spying on internal communications, and practicing torture to secure information. ...

Should the AHA take this historic step, it would contrast with the decision at the 1969 annual meeting to squelch a much more sharply worded resolution (available on the HAW website) in opposition to the Vietnam War. We believe history will not repeat itself. To the contrary, we believe that despite the controversial nature of the resolution, the strong support of AHA members, including former presidents of the AHA and the OAH, is likely to result in its passage.

In 2004 HAW petitioned the Organization of American Historians (OAH) to investigate reports of repression involving historians. The executive committee of the OAH agreed to do so. In 2003 the OAH executive board approved a resolution sponsored by HAW in support of the right of dissent. HAW was founded in January 2003 to oppose the plan to invade Iraq.


Whereas, The American Historical Association’s Professional Standards emphasize the importance of open inquiry to the pursuit of historical knowledge;

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

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

*excluding well-recognized foreign scholars;
*condemning as “revisionism” the search for truth about pre-war intelligence;
*re-classifying previously unclassified government documents;
*suspending in certain cases the centuries-old writ of habeas corpus and substituting indefinite administrative detention without specified criminal charges or access to a court of law;
*using interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, Abu-Ghraib, Bagram, and other locations incompatible with respect for the dignity of all persons required by a civilized society;

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

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

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

1. To take a public stand as citizens on behalf of the values necessary to the practice of our profession; and

2. To do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion.

Read entire article at Press Release -- Historians Against the War (HAW)