Radical 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
3 themes: 1) we are sitting on a volcano; 2) historians have been complicit;
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.
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.
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
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
*: 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rusti: Need to organize teach-ins in March to try to get more movement on