Ellen Dubois and I have organized a teach-in for Thursday, April 10, 4-6pm at UCLA. Participants will be historians Joyce Appleby, Gabi Piterburg, Nikki Keddie, and a colleague from law.
The UCLA HAW teach-in, which we advertised as "The War in Iraq: A Teach-In" took place on Thursday, April 10, 4-6 p.m. The room we had booked seats 180 people and throughout the two hours it was full, as students, faculty and staff moved in and out during the proceedings. Ned Alpers opened the program by briefly recounting how HAW was formed and reading the HAW statement. Ground rules for the teach-in were 15 minutes for each speaker, two minutes maximum for questions or statements from the floor, a bias towards student respondents, and grouping of 4-5 questions before returning to the speakers for their responses. Ellen DuBois introduced each speaker in succession. Gabi Piterberg, who teaches Ottoman history, posed the question of "Why the Shi'is Aren't Welcoming the Americans." In his talk he sought to complicate official U.S. readings of Sunni and Shi'i rivalries by examining changes over time in Iraq, while also citing the example of Lebanon as a comparative case study. NIkki Keddie, distinguished historian of Iran and of women in the Middle East, talked about "U.S. Plans to Remake the Middle East." In her talk she drew upon news reports of interviews with significant policy makers or consultants, like Bernard Lewis, who represent a neoconservative perspective on the Middle East that parallels hawkish Israeli perspectives. Joyce Appleby, past President of both the OAH and the AHA, shifted the focus to the impact of the war on the United States in addressing "War in Iraq and U.S. Constitutional Traditions." She focused her attention on the emergence of an imperial President in recent decades, pointing out that the power to make war belonged constitutionally to Congress, although the last President to seek such approval was FDR in 1941.
The discussion that followed was lively and reflected a very wide range of (mainly student) opinions. The atmosphere was lively and the tone generally respectful. In the end, we were able to accommodate more than a dozen questions from the floor with time for response from the three speakers. At least one person told one of the organizers that it was the best Q&A he had heard on the war, while individual feedback was unanimously positive. The UCLA Daily Bruin carried a quite positive front page story the following day.
Edward A. Alpers