Tuesday, December 19, 2006

American Historical Association Against the War

Historians Against the War is going to present a resolution at the Business Meeting of the annual American Historical Association confab in Atlanta. Here's the proposed resolution:
Resolution on United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession (this resolution did not appear in the print version of the December Perspectives)

Whereas, The American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct 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.
Now, it is curious that the "anti-war" resolution was somehow left out of the printed version of Perspectives, the AHA's monthly magazine while a rather mundane Informed Meetings Exchange resolution and a more important (and less controversial) "Resolution Opposing the Use of Speech Codes to Restrict Academic Freedom" were included. But I don't want to conspiracy monger...perhaps there was a technical delay or something.

I added the hyperlinks in a good faith effort to help explain the "story" that lay behind some of the specific charges. Specifically, I can understand why the AHA would be concerned with the first three issues listed as justifications for part 1. of the resolution. But I don't get the particular significance that the 4th and 5th justifications--in concert with part 2 of the resolution--have to practising History. Don't get me wrong, the AHA and its memebers have every right to make a political statement, but, to put it bluntly, I don't think anyone particularly cares whether or not the AHA wants people "[t]o do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion." In fact, I doubt if most people find the AHA any more or less worth listening to on the subject. To Joe Sixpack, this statement is about as relevant as if the local little league said the same thing. Just another bunch of pointy-heads throwing in their 2 cents. But I guess if it makes everyone feel good...

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