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Friday, January 29, 2010

Re: [haw-info] sad news about Howard Zinn

Members and friends of Historians Against the War,

In order to commemorate the passing of Howard Zinn, we have set up a web
page to post memorials in his honor. The webpage is


If you would like to post something to this page, email your thoughts
and memories to HAW's co-chair and web editor Marc Becker at


Historians Against the War

Note: You are receiving this email because you signed a Historians Against the War statement (see http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/) or asked to be including in HAW's informational mailings. If you no longer wish to receive these occasional messages about HAW's work, send an email to haw-info-request@stopthewars.org?subject=unsubscribe.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

[haw-info] sad news about Howard Zinn

Members and friends of Historians Against the War,
For those who have not already heard, we are very sorry to pass along the news that Howard Zinn died today of a heart attack while visiting in California.  He was 87.  There will undoubtedly be many stories in coming days, but the following is one that appeared this evening in the on-line Boston Globe, with basic information and a number of quotes.
Howard was a near-icon among anti-war historians, and HAW was proud to have him as a keynote speaker at our first national conference, in Austin, Texas in February 2006.  We join his legion of friends and admirers worldwide who will miss his eloquent and principled voice.

Friday, January 22, 2010

[haw-info] HAW Notes (with links to recent articles of interest)

To members and friends of Historians Against the War


Here are some notes, followed by our biweekly set of links to history-related articles on HAW-relevant topics.


1.  Talks given at the HAW panel at this year's AHA convention ("Obama's Troubling First Year: What Went Wrong, and What Can Historians Do About It?") have been posted on the HAW web site, at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/aha10.  They include the introduction to the panel by Andor Skotnes and talks by Nelson Lichtenstein and Margaret Power.


2.  Mike Zweig of U.S. Labor Against the War has made a partly historical video entitled "Why Are We in Afghanistan."  The 27-minute video can be seen at http://www.WhyAreWeInAfghanistan.org, and this web page also has ordering information.


3.  The Radical History Review has issued a call for proposals for a special issue on "Historicizing 9/11," focusing on ways in which the September 11, 2001 events have been rendered as history.  The issue will include a section on experiences of people who have taught about these events at the college or K-12 levels. The call for proposals is at http://chnm.gmu.edu/rhr/calls.htm; the deadline is February 15.



Links to Recent Articles of Interest


"No Exit: America Has an Impressive Record of Starting Wars but a Dismal One of Ending Them Well"


By Andrew Bacevich, American Conservative, February 1 issue

The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University.


"Haiti's Troubled History with the U.S. and France"


By Marc Becker, History News Network, posted January 19

The author teaches Latin American history at Truman State University. This article was sent in e-mail form to the HAW-Info list on January 17.


"U.S. Military Escalation in Afghanistan: A Response to President Obama"


By Richard Drake, History News Network, posted January 18

The author teaches history at the University of Montana


[review essay on The Guantanamo Lawyers and Guantanamo USA]


By Jeremy Kuzmarov, History News Network, posted January 17

The author teaches history at the University of Tulsa


"Iran, 1979 and 2010"


By Dilip Hiro and Tom Englehardt, TomDispatch.com, posted January 12


"Nuclear Terrorism: How It Can Be Prevented"


By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted January 11

The author teaches history at Vassar College


"Yemen: The Latest U.S. Battleground"


By Stephen Zunes, Huffington Post, posted January 8


"Obama's Alternate Universe"


By Scott Ritter, Truthdig.com, posted January 8



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

[haw-info] call for candidates for the HAW Steering Committee

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,
In a few weeks we will conduct e-mail voting for members of the HAW Steering Committee.  The Steering Committee, elected once a year, makes decisions for HAW in between the annual meetings at the AHA.  Aside from one face-to-face meeting in the summer, the SC conducts business through e-mail and occasional conference calls. 
Eligibility to run, and to vote, will depend on being a member of HAW at the time of the actual election.  (See below.)
If you would like to run (and we encourage you to consider it) or if you would like to nominate someone, let us know. 
If you are nominating yourself, please send a brief description, using the template at the end of this message, by January 25 to either of the current co-chairs (addresses are below).  If you are nominating someone else, please send us the name and e-mail address sooner so we can contact them and see if they are willing.
If you have any questions, feel free to write to either of us with questions.
Thank you,
Jim O'Brien (jimobrien48@gmail.com) and Marc Becker (marc@yachana.org)
current co-chairs of the HAW Steering Committee
* Last spring HAW (by a referendum vote of 196-14) adopted a new defining statement, with the specification that membership would now be open to anyone who is in "substantial agreement" (self-defined) with the statement and wants to be considered a member.  The statement, and an on-line form for joining, are on the HAW home page at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/statement.html.  A list of people currently registered as members is at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/aha10/members.html.
Historical Specialization:
Political Background:
Reason for Running:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tet in Kabul...

This morning over breakfast I am watching reports about the battle in Kabul on CNN International. I have no way of knowing what is really happening, which reports are true, exaggerated, or misleading. I am not accusing CNN of anything, nor praising them. But the resemblance to discourses surrounding the Vietnam war is striking, despite the evidence that this is, at least in scale, nothing on the order of the spring, 1968 Tet offensive, involving only a few dozen Taliban at most.

- One reporter speaking live from Kabul made the point that the Taliban has shown that it can go on the offensive in Kabul and penetrate deep into the capital and secured areas. This is precisely the claim made during and after Tet. The U.S. military claimed, quite plausibly, that they had won the battle militarily (and that will probably be the case this time as well). They thwarted all attacks and the Vietcong made no permanent gains. But it was the demonstration of offensive capability, after months of U.S. military claims that they were winning and breaking the Vietcong, that supposedly turned Tet into communist/nationalist victory. Thus, according to the mainstream American narrative, the media turned a military victory into a military defeat by interpreting it as a defeat (for example in this blog story about media coverage).

- There are vague and speculative reports on CNN about where the Taliban penetrated and how far they got in. How far into the presidential compound did they get? How many layers of security did they penetrate? This sounds exactly like discussions about how many Vietcong got into the U.S. embassy compound and how far into the compound they got (how many meters beyond the wall, whether they got into the building, if so which story they reached, etc.). Together with coverage of the My Lai massacre, reports from the media which exaggerated Vietcong successes in the U.S. embassy in Saigon are now the centerpiece of claims that the U.S. media lost the war for the United States and the Republic of South Vietnam, for example in the 1984 documentary, Vietnam War - The Impact of the Media, hosted by Charlton Heston.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

[haw-info] Haiti

I returned from Haiti just a couple of days before a powerful earthquake rocked the country on January 12. I was in Haiti on a solidarity delegation to document human rights abuses by the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) and to observe preparations for February's legislative elections. Other members of the HAW Steering Committee encouraged me to share my thoughts with the broader HAW membership and friends on the historical background to this catastrophe.

Many people have observed that the Haitian earthquake was more a political disaster than a natural one. The similarly powerful 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California killed 63 people, while the death toll in Haiti appears as if it may soar over 100,000. Our experiences in the country confirmed that the solution to Haiti's problem is political in nature.

Two hundred some years ago Haiti was the richest colony in the world, but today it is the poorest and most unequal country in the Americas. A successful slave revolt in 1804 defeated the French planter class, but the only other independent country in the Americas, the United States, refused to welcome a Black Republic because of the powerful example it set for marginalized and oppressed people everywhere. The French demanded a 150 million franc payment from the Haitians for losing their prized pearl of the Antilles. Haiti made the payment, strangling any possibility for development, and sacrificing its future so as not to be seen as an international pariah.

In Haiti, we heard from grassroots activists who complained that large international aid agencies collect funds for administrative salaries, vehicles, and office support, but little of this money filters down to the people who need it the most. Dumping cheap rice on the country has destroyed the local agricultural economy. Haiti has a desperate short-term need for assistance, but this aid must be funneled through groups like Doctors Without Borders (http://doctorswithoutborders.org/) and Partners in Health (http://www.pih.org/) that have a track record and distribution networks necessary in place to make proper use of the aid.

The longer term solution, however, is political. Already conservative pundits are proclaiming that the earthquake is an opportunity to remake the country along neoliberal lines. But the extraction of natural resources, creation of low-wage jobs, and privatization of government functions are factors that have left Haiti incapable of responding to a natural disaster.

Haiti has never recovered from the ostracization it faced from the French and United States governments at independence, and ongoing international policies appear to be designed to sink the country deeper into debt. The U.S. marines occupied the country from 1915 to 1934, and the earthquake seems to provide a convenient excuse for the United States once again to land military troops and reassert its imperial control over the country.

In 2004, the French, United States, and Canadian governments removed popular leftist president Jean Bertrand Aristide who promised to shift resources to the most marginalized sectors of society. They have insisted that the current government ban his Fanmi Lavalas, the largest political party in Haiti, from participating in electoral contests.

The solution to Haiti's problems is to allow the country to develop its own economy and political system without constant outside intervention. Otherwise, Haiti's next natural calamity will be worse than this one, and the country will continue to sink deeper into poverty,inequality,
and social exclusion.

Marc Becker Associate Professor of Latin American History
Truman State University

More information is available on his website
http://www.yachana.org/reports/haiti/. For more in depth information on the historical background and current events in Haiti, see:

C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins; Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2d rev ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1963).

Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Amy Wilentz, In the parish of the poor:
Writings from Haiti (Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 1990).

Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Laura Flynn, Eyes of the heart: Seeking a path for the poor in the age of globalization (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000).

David Patrick Geggus, Haitian revolutionary studies, Blacks in the diaspora (Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press, 2002).

Garry Wills, "Negro president" Jefferson and the slave power (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: the breached citadel, Rev. and updated ed. (Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, 2004).

Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The story of the Haitian
Revolution (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,

Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus, ed., Slave Revolution in the
Caribbean, 1789-1804: A brief history with documents, Bedford Series in
History and Culture (Boston, MA ; New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martins, 2006).

Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti, 3rd ed. (Monroe, Me: Common Courage
Press, 2006).

Randall Robinson, An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from revolution to the
kidnapping of a president (New York: Basic Civitas, 2008).

David Patrick Geggus and Norman Fiering, ed., The World of the Haitian Revolution, Blacks in the diaspora (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).

Note: You are receiving this email because you signed a Historians Against the War statement (see http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/) or asked to be including in HAW's informational mailings. If you no longer wish to receive these occasional messages about HAW's work, send an email to haw-info-request@stopthewars.org?subject=unsubscribe.
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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

[haw-info] HAW Notes (including links to recent articles of interest)

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

Here are some notes, followed by the latest in our biweekly set of links to history-related articles on HAW-relevant topics.

1. For those attending the AHA convention later this week, this is a reminder of the HAW panel and discussion at 5:00 – 6:30 pm Saturday, on "Obama's Troubling First Year: What Went Wrong and What Can Historians Do About It?" It is in the secondary convention hotel, the San Diego Marriott, in the New York and Orlando Rooms.

2. The following scholars have accepted invitations to join a newly constituted Advisory Board for Historians Against the War: Manan Ahmed, Chris Appy, Cemil Aydin, Magnus Bernhardsson, Frank Costigliola, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Irene Gendzier, Marvin Gettleman, Joan Hoff, Marilyn Young, Rashid Khalidi, Peter Kuznick, Vinay Lal, Mark LeVine, Zachary Lockman, Ellen Schrecker, Martin Sherwin, Barbara Weinstein, and Lawrence Wittner.

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

"Serial Catastrophes in Afghanistan Threaten Obama Policy"


By Juan Cole, Informed Comment web site, posted January 4

The $30bn Pair of Underpants


By Mark LeVine, Aljazeera.net, posted January 4

"Obama's Post-Modern War of Attrition"


By Andrew Bacevich, CounterPunch, January 1-3 edition, originally published in New York Daily News

"Catcher's Mitt: Obama, Pakistan and the Afghan Wars to Come"


By Graham Usher, Middle East Report Online, posted December 31

"The Moment That Changed Afghanistan"


By Stephen Kinzer, The Guardian, posted December 28

"The Revolution Will Be Mercantilized"


By Ali Ansari, The National Interest online, Posted December 21

on the Revolutionary Guard in Iran; the author teaches history at St. Andrews University

"The Best Argument for the Afghan War - and What's Wrong with It"


By Jon Wiener, The Nation blog, posted December 17

"Obama's Indecent Interval: Despite the U.S. President's Pleas to the Contrary, the War in Afghanistan Looks More Like Vietnam than Ever"


By Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason, Foreign Policy, December 10

"Was Kosovo the Good War?"


By David Gibbs, Tikkun, July-August 2009

The author teaches history and government at the University of Arizona

Suggestions for inclusion in these lists are welcome: they can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com. Members of the working group for this project are Matt Bokovoy, Carolyn (Rusti) Eisenberg, Jim O'Brien, Maia Ramnath, and Sarah Shields.

HAW is now a "left-wing social club"...

Over at HNN there is an article by a former author of this blog attacking HAW as a "left-wing social club." Read it here:


I posted the following comments in response and wanted to publish those remarks here as well:

Some points:

- I am a member of the SC and yet somehow I am not opposed to libertarians.

- The "many" libertarians who joined HAW are apparently not numerous enough to vote anyone onto the SC. I would encourage libertarians to run for leadership positions and steer the organization in a direction they want. Elections are this month. There are twenty leadership seats to be had. If anyone thinks we're a "left-wing social club," then mobilize! That would be more effective than un-libertarian portrayals of discrimination and one's own victimhood.

- There are numerous "libertarian" posts on the blog. They went on for months and outnumber anything "progressive" on the blog. If ideology were the reason for stopping the two libertarians from posting, then that is indeed a mysterious anomaly. It is interesting that David's article here does not include our main complaint against him in his list of "main complaints against us." It goes unmentioned - not even to deny it or refute it. Read versions of what happened from both sides in the comments to posts at the HAWblog made in March of 2009, especially at http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/blog/2009/03/haw-info-draft-of-haw-statement.html#links. The whole blog issue was very unfortunate and I don't think either side played its cards right in the dispute that flared up last spring. The HAWblog is now admittedly rather stagnant. But it simply isn't the case that the HAW leadership suddenly moved to banish libertarianism and conduct a purge.

- The "blogroll" at the HAWblog has links to several libertarian or libertarian-friendly sources. They were put there on the initiative of David Beito. That is all the more evidence that participation is possible. If someone like David Beito were on the steering committee, even more would happen.

- The word "progressive" in the subtitle on a poster announcing a panel is not a core statement of ideology. Furthermore, the word progressive is followed by the phrase "and historically minded activists." Pouncing on this one word - an ambiguous word - and on a particular blog post is rather odd. It gives the impression that some people need HAW to be a left-wing whipping boy.

- A close reading of the new statement (and as historians, that is how we read documents) shows that it is not a "leftist critique of global capitalism." It expresses hope that the "crisis of global capitalism" - an undeniable fact in the spring of 2009 - not lead to more war and be paid for by the little guy. It does not advocate statist solutions (nor market solutions for that matter). Indeed, the call to not solve the crisis on the backs of the little guy seems very compatible with libertarianism to me. Ron Paul would not favor bailing out the fat cats or seizing resources abroad or some form of Keynesian military spending.

- Membership in HAW does not require signing on to a neo-Marxist agenda. It does not even require total agreement with the new statement - only "substantial agreement." During steering committee votes on the statement, I abstained because of the ambiguous "capitalism" clause. Nonetheless, I can get on board with the general theme. I know of at least one other HAW member who had strong objections to a particular clause (a different one) and yet signed anyway.

If people want to break with HAW because they do not feel it represents them, that is okay. We can go after militarism from different angles. The black-square bishop and the white-square bishop never meet, but can cooperate in checkmate. I think a case can be made that HAW is more "ecumenical" than portrayed in this article, however.

Edited to add: Another attack on HAW has been published at antiwar.com.

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