Historians Against the War Antiwar Resolution Adopted at A.H.A. Also Comment on Speech Codes Resolution.

A Dove

The Historians Against the War presented an antiwar resolution on Iraq at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The resolution was adopted on Saturday, January 6, 2007 at the Business Meeting of the A.H.A. in Atlanta. Full adoption by the diffident A.H.A. was deferred by its Council until the entire 14,000 plus membership is polled:

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

And 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;

And 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:

1) excluding well-recognized foreign scholars;
2) condemning as “revisionism” the search for truth about pre-war intelligence;
3) re-classifying previously unclassified government documents;
4) 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;
5) 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;

And whereas this community of scholars concludes that 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,

Now, therefore, the 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

    Appropriately a right-wing resolution, in the guise of enlightened liberalism, proscribing ANY university-mandated speech codes on campus–even hate speech presumably–was defeated. A compromise resolution prohibiting “Free Speech Zones” was adopted. The latter are nothing more than illusory free-speech space that implicitly bans controversial or intemperate speech in other areas. While I tend to support unfettered speech, having been suspended and reprimanded for antiwar speech in an e-mail to a former Air Force cadet, I cannot a priori ban any restrictions on speech on a campus. In practice, I probably would resist a speech ban but knowing that hate speech directed at students or faculty on a campus by other university persons, for example, can be damaging and destructive, I would be wary of removing any possibility of restraining such verbal abuse. With regard to sanctions against extreme verbal harassment, I would prefer that the harasser be treated in a manner that would foster improvement and greater sensitivity to “the other.” Yet I think hate speech can be regulated in an enlightened manner that protects the academic freedom of the professorate as well as students. I am uncomfortable with speech codes but cannot bring myself to support an absolute prohibition. Can a student shout falsely “fire, fire” in a building full of classrooms to induce chaos and prevent the education of other students? That would create a clear and present danger unlike its original draconian application in Schenck v. United States (1919).

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