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Audience at RoundtableRadical History Review / Historians Against the War Roundtable
Imperial Crisis and Domestic Dissent
Saturday, January 10, (2:30-4:30, Omni Shoreham, Congressional A)
Irene Gendzier, Carolyn Eisenberg, and Staughton Lynd
Andor Skotnes, Chair

Irene Gendzier
3 themes: 1) we are sitting on a volcano; 2) historians have been complicit; 3) disengagement.
Historians are responsible for the marginalization of the middle east from discussion. Crime of silence and complicity in leaving discussion of the area to the specialists. The result has been allowing events to go forward rather than stopping them. The information is out there for those who want to know. This is part of a war that begin in 1979 with the revolution in Iran or the 1953 overthrow of the government. At present, 2 extremes: those who talk about empire vs. those who are less interested in the theoretical issues and just want to get on with it. What is left out is what is happening on the ground, including close to 11,000 U.S. casualties (dead and wounded) according to occupationwatch.org (Pentagon does not want to track Iraq casualties). Also of concern is the state of Iraq’s economy, esp. efforts at privatization. Politically, sectarianism is growing and is promoted by coalition forces. This results in an absence of security. Where does this lead us? We need to know what is happening, and we are responsible for that information.

Carolyn Eisenberg
Place Bush’s policies of intervention in historical context. We are at an exceptionally dangerous moment in history. 3 related problems: 1) does doctrine of preemptive attacks depart from previous policies? 2) how does this policy illuminate previous Bush policies? and 3) what are the implications of this for our actions? Plan to attack Iraq, and if this works pursue attacks elsewhere. But is this break from the past? Containment and deterrence are terms of aggression. Furthermore, previous actions can be see as preemptive (Grenada, Panama, Cambodia, Laos, etc.). But what is different is Bush’s overt embrace of preemptive attacks as preferred policy, and this is break from the past. And they are not looking for quick and easy strikes (i.e. Grenada and Panama), but sustained attacks. Conditioning public for accepting sustained military action. U.S. Cold War actions where not exclusively designed to protect capital, but also to defend nation-state. Military actions not exclusively result of economic expansion. 4 features inherited from cold war: 1) centralization of power in presidency and ability to shape int’l powers; 2) national security officials concerned with defending nation-state; 3) military industrial complex has grown since Eisenhower and influences U.S. policy; and 4) all this makes the world a more dangerous place. Helps explain why collapse of USSR does not lead to disarmament. To understand this, we need to go beyond politics of oil. U.S. calls to overthrow Saddam Hussein before 9/11 attacks, which reveals that concern is more than terrorism. Rather, result of ideologically extreme goal to remake world. We are not at the tail end of an Iraq campaign, but at the beginning of an extreme militarization. 3 quick propositions on resistance: 1) we need to resist; 2) some presidents are more dangerous than others; 3) as historians we urgently need to educate the public.

Staughton Lynd
Will talk about domestic policies for three reasons: 1) agree with previous 2 speakers; 2) Supreme Court yesterday rebuffed Bush policy of detention of enemy combatants; 3) Bush’s departure on domestic policies are even more dramatic departure from previous policies than foreign policies. Cf. South Africa where indefinite detention was introduced slowly, rather than quickly as now with Bush. Geneva Convention accords are violated with detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere. Policies are also break from habeas corpus. For the time being, it still is the norm in the U.S. Supreme Court decision during Civil War declared that only Congress and not president can withdraw the writ of habeas corpus.

Suggestions on resistance: as important as it is to recruit distinguished intellectuals, it is more important to approach people in service as well as their families. We need to listen to what they have to say. Combine model of teach-ins with winter soldier forums. This is most important. Need to defend principles of academic freedom.

Marty: peaceful tomorrows is website of relatives of people who died in 9/11; also need to reach out to them. How do we educate public? This is a very difficult job in front of us.

*: Geneva does not apply to Guantanamo because they were not part of a recognized army of a recognized state. Furthermore, soldiers tend to be ideologically right-wing and can’t be appealed to as with draftees during the Vietnam War.

Rich Moser: Opinions of people in the military will be divided as in the broader society, and a lot of anti-war vanguard from Vietnam was from patriotic enlistees who became disillusioned.

Van Gosse: Finance capital has detached itself from state on profound level. Policy is not so coherent–completely detached from Wall Street.

Renate: With cuts in veterans’ benefits, how will they feel about these policies?

*: upcoming large troop movements from and to Iraq will be good opportunity to engage these issues.

* from American Psychological Association: Need to build coalitions between similar groups to work on these issues.

* Tom Murphy: works with the military, and sees complex socialization process within military and this is played out in tension with reservists. Sees opposition to policy from within military.

Marty Sherwin: impact of training on ideology of people in military.

Carl Mirra: Dangers of hysteria within military–psychological operation against dissent.

Taylor P.: We need to speak to people within structures who might be sympathetic.

Stefan: challenge to concept of revisionist.


Irene: Oil still is important issue. It is a mistake to see Iraq as a significant military power. Nor is it only an issue of corporate control.

Rusti: Military power is used more aggressively than in the past. Is Bush’s foreign policy harmful to business?

Staughton: Idea of doing oral histories and/or speaker’s tour of returned military. Contact salynd@aol.com.

Rusti: Need to organize teach-ins in March to try to get more movement on campuses.