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Historians, Repression, and the Iraq War

New Politics; New York Vol. IX, Iss. 1,  (Summer 2004): 101.

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ACADEMICS AND INTELLECTUALS across various disciplines and from around the country have been increasingly alarmed about the impact of the Patriot Act, threats to scholarly inquiry, blacklists, Bush administration deceptions and distortions, restrictions of access to government records and a number of other recent measures which impinge on civil liberties and the free practice of their work. Historians, led by a new organization, Historians Against the War, have expressed these concerns at annual meetings of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians since 2003. As a result, on March 25, 2004, the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) met in Boston and created a committee "to investigate reports of repressive measures having an impact on historians' teaching, research, employment, and freedom of expression."(1) The committee is to "collect and verify reports of actions by the government, officials of schools, colleges and universities, and self-designated groups dedicated to political surveillance, and report its findings periodically in the OAH Newsletter and in any other form the Executive Board deems appropriate." The OAH (www.oah.org), "the largest learned society dedicated to the study of American history," recently appointed David Montgomery, a distinguished Yale University labor historian, to chair this committee.

In setting up this committee, the OAH responded to an initiative originally taken in February 2004 by Historians Against the War (www.historiansagainstwar.org). HAW was founded at the American Historical Association meeting in January 2003, when it began circulating a statement asking for "a halt to the march toward war against Iraq" and expressed concern over "the undermining of constitutional government in the United States, the egregious curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and the obstruction of world peace for the indefinite future" (2,200 people ultimately signed this). HAW's activities have included a traveling...