Historians Against the War

Iraq War Teach-Ins
October 17 - November 7, 2006

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Reports on the October–November 2006

Iraq War Teach-Ins



Note:  This web page contains the written reports that were received by Historians Against the War (updated as of January 8).  Click here for a complete listing of the events of which we have been informed.


Binghamton University
Chicago (Academic Freedom Forum)
The College of New Jersey
Franklin & Marshall College
Gainesville, Florida
Georgia State University
Henderson State University
Montana Tech
Mount Holyoke College
NorthWest Arkansas Community College
Salem State College
Salt Lake City
San Francisco State University
Southwest Minnesota State University
University of Delaware Teach-In
University of Louisville
University of Maine
University of Pittsburgh, Titusville Campus
University of Texas at El Paso
Wesleyan University
Whitman College
Williams College Teach-In

Binghamton University Teach-In, October 18


We held our teach-in at Binghamton University at 8:00 P.M. on Wednesday, October 18 and felt it was successful beyond our most optimistic expectations.  The event drew an audience of more than 150 people, primarily students and faculty, but with a significant number of community people.  Four speakers from the History Department made presentations:


Donald Quataert, “Iraq and Its Neighbors”

Thomas Dublin, “How the U.S. Got In, and What It Means”

Kathryn Kish Sklar, “Why Is the U.S. Military Budget So Large?”

Herbert Bix, “The Case for Withdrawal”


The four presentations lasted about an hour and they were followed by about 45 minutes of discussion, questions, and comments from members of the audience.  In addition, there were two videographers recording the event, which will be aired on a public-access station on the local cable TV system.  In addition, there was excellent coverage from the local newspaper and at least one television station as well as the Binghamton University student paper.  There had been good publicity for the event in advance and the size of the audience and the media attention reflected that fact.  I think we all felt that the time was ripe for the event and that in Binghamton there are a lot of people eager to support the antiwar cause.


The discussion that followed the presentations provided further evidence of the general interest and concern.  Questions provided good back and forth on the analysis offered, prospects for the future, what can be done to turn things around.  While a variety of perspectives were represented, there was a sense of optimism at the gathering, a general belief that the administration’s policy is discredited and that the American people are increasingly willing and able to oppose the war.  There is considerable hope that the upcoming elections can make a difference and place Bush and others on the defensive.  People left the meeting energized.


Tom Dublin, <tdublin@binghamton.edu>

History Department

Binghamton University




Chicago Academic Freedom Forum, October 16


In Chicago, sponsored by the Roosevelt Adjunct Faculty Organization (RAFO), IEA/NEA, we had a forum called “Academic Freedom Under Fire” October 16.  The speakers included NEA President Reg Weaver, United Faculty of Florida Pres. Tom Auxter, Kathy Sproles of NEA’s National Council on Higher Education, Roosevelt professor Emeritus Jack Metzgar, and academic freedom scholar John K. Wilson.  It was well attended, over 70 and house was full. 


The impetus for the event is a major grievance RAFO has been fighting for a year over the academic freedom violation in the firing of Douglas Giles, an adjunct philosophy instructor who was terminated, essentially, for allowing free discussion of Islam, Judaism, Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his world religion class.  We were able to announce a near-settlement of the case at Roosevelt, but the forum revealed that attacks on academic freedom nationally, especially around issues of Islam and the war in the Middle East, are increasing. 


We are encouraged by the response at the forum, but, as noted by many of the speakers, the dangers of restricting discussion on campus are getting more severe, especially for those majority of college teachers who are not tenured or tenure-track.  This also restricts the academic freedom of our students as well, since faculty teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions.


Joe Berry, <joeberry@igc.org>

RAFO Department Rep and Executive Board

Chair, Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor





The College of New Jersey Events, October 18

On October 18th, there were two events at The College of New Jersey dealing with the war in Iraq.

The evening event consisted of two talks, one by a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the other by Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal.  These were followed by a showing of the film “Iraq for Sale.”  The event was very successful, judging by the spirited discussion among some 60 participants and a raft of follow up compliments.  The educational value is reflected in this comment in a student response paper:  “The idea that the war in Iraq is actually denying democracy to the Iraqi people rather than allowing it was a very fascinating concept to me that, before this presentation, I had not considered.”  

In the afternoon students organized a Speak Out with music, poetry, short quotes and brief talks from faculty.  Although well organized, attendance was low (30 at most), perhaps because the organizer of the event, the Progressive Student Alliance, did not want to give a platform to supporters of Democratic or Republican candidates.

Alan Dawley, adawley@tcnj.edu
History Department


Franklin & Marshall College Debate on Iraq, November 6


It took almost two months to organize this debate because of the difficulty in finding speakers and a format that would provide genuine debate.  Very few people wanted to argue for any version of the war or maintaining the occupation, and colleagues on my side of the argument ultimately pressed for making it a two-person affair, so as to guarantee fairness but also real contention.  They proved to be right, as I think students heard a much more direct and hard-hitting (if completely dignified and collegial, since Rob Bresler and I like and respect each other) set of arguments around the three questions:


How to end the war? 

How to protect ourselves from terrorism?

What will happen next?  What should happen next?


As usual at F&M, the College was completely supportive, as shown by Provost Ann Steiner (a classicist) not only sending out all the email notices to faculty, staff, and students, but welcoming the audience, with appropriate comments about the importance of unfettered debate to liberal arts education.  Joel Eigen, one of our most senior scholars here, did a great job of keeping us on track with a “clicker,” to enforce time limits.  We each made seven minute opening statements, and then we each were allowed a 2 minute rebuttal.  Joel then collected questions from the audience, which took time but avoided it turning into a free-for-all as people made their own statements.


About seventy people were in attendance, mostly students.  It got an excellent, extremely detailed write-up in the College Reporter, which was a plus since that doesn’t always happen.  I think it served to keep a focus on the profound crisis of the war.


Van Gosse, van.gosse@fandm.edu

History Department




Gainesville, Florida (Santa Fe Community College, University of Florida) Teach-In, October 18


“Vital Issues of War and Peace” (teach-in title lifted directly from call by HAW) filled a 170-seat classroom at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, FL, on Thursday evening, 10/18.

The panelists, in order of their talks, were David Price (Assoc. Prof. of History & Political Science at SFCC & Adj. Instructor of International Relations at the University of Fla); Brian Moore, independent candidate for United States Senate; Donna Waller, Assoc. Prof. of History & Political Science at SFCC; and Scott Camil, Marine veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam and long-time peace activist.  The event was co-organized by the Santa Fe College Global Society, Democratic Saints (the SFCC student Democrats), and Gainesville’s Community Coalition Against War & Terrorism (CCAWT).

Price and Waller, panelists for a pre-war CCAWT teach-in four years previously, reviewed their predictions in comparison with actual events, finding that their warnings had been proven mostly accurate (except that not even a few “weapons of mass destruction” were found in Iraq, and that turmoil has (so far) not spilled beyond Iraq’s borders).  Moore pointed out the complicity of both parties in America’s illegal invasion & subsequent atrocities, and outlined many of the difficulties in resolving the present chaos.  Camil provided gripping parallels between Vietnam and Iraq as experienced by combat troops as well as on the geopolitical level.

The following Q&A period was wide-ranging and diverse, generating concepts for at least two possible future teach-ins (focusing on presentations by veterans of Gulf Wars I & II, and on Iraqi civilians’ perspectives; Camil is also planning to moderate a screening of Winter Soldier at SFCC soon), and was cut short only by the need of campus security to lock up the building at 10 pm.

Pierce R. Butler <pbutler@igc.org>




Mideast Talk at Georgia State University , November 1

When the call for teach-ins went out from Historians Against the War , plans were already underway at Georgia State University for an educational event on the impact and implications of the Iraq War.  The campus antiwar group, Students for Peace and Justice, co-sponsored a talk by Georgia State political scientist Dr. Rashid Naim on “The Impact of US Foreign Policy on Power Dynamics in the Middle East: A Discussion.”  Other co-sponsors included the Middle East Institute and the Department of Political Science of Georgia State University.  The event was held Wednesday evening, 1 November 2006, in a packed room in the General Classroom Building .

Dr. Naim’s informative and wide ranging talk offered a historically-minded and critically engaged perspective on events since the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq .  The discussion that followed was lively; many students asked thoughtful questions and Dr. Naim’s responses further enriched his presentation. 

Afterwards, and separate from the organization of the event, many free copies of the Fall 2006 issue of War Times/Tiempos de Guerra and Historians Against the War ’s Join Us pamphlet were distributed to interested members of the audience.

Ian Fletcher, icfletcher@mindspring.com
History Department



Henderson State University Teach-In, November 2


The Teach-In on Iraq War was held on Thursday November 2, 2006 from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 pm.  It was sponsored by the Department of Social Sciences.  The teach-in was an academic event with all faculty members invited to make presentations.  There were thirteen speakers from all three colleges representing a range of disciplines and points of view. Henderson State University President Charles D. Dunn sent a message to the teach-in criticizing the war as a costly mistake and government policy as “wrong headed and foolish” and wishing us well but saying that his participation in the event would be inappropriate because it might be construed as support for a political event by the institution.  The event was well attended by students, faculty, and administrators.


Martin Halpern, halpern@hsu.edu

History Department




Montana Tech Film Showings, October 17 and 24

Montana Tech’s Peace Seekers Club hosted two Tuesday night screenings of Why We Fight and Iraq for Sale (5 PM to 8:30 each evening) on October 17th and 24th.  One week before the election, the club screened The Ground Truth.  The general public was invited to all three evenings.  History professor George Waring hosted the discussion afterwards.  The average turnout was about 45 per evening.  Students who spoke up expressed concern about a draft, about whether Halliburton was being treated fairly, and why Congress seemed so apathetic in the face of documented corruption.  After the Ground Truth showing a pretty subdued audience expressed frustration about the general public’s lack of concern for the war.

Organizers of the screenings were glad that we could expose a larger audience to the message of these films.  There was a consensus that Why We Fight and The Ground Truth were important films to show here in Butte.

Today I can report that this Montana county voted 3 to 1 to retire Republican Senator Conrad Burns and elect a Democrat who has promised to use Congress’s power to investigate to halt the no-bid contracts in Iraq and wind the war down.

George Waring
Liberal Studies Department
Montana Tech in Butte, Montana


Mount Holyoke College Teach-In, October 17

Our October 17 teach-in attracted a spirited group of 150 people, nearly all of them undergraduates here at Mount Holyoke, the oldest women’s college in the nation.  Organized by Jonathan Lipman, a member of HAW who specializes in modern Chinese history, the event featured four faculty members speaking from a variety of perspectives.

Chris Pyle, professor of politics, offered a devastatingly detailed critique of “A Nation That Tortures.”  Speaking on the same day that President Bush signed the so-called Military Commissions Act, Pyle carefully outlined how the new law gives the executive branch the authority to detain people indefinitely, with no access to the courts to challenge their detention.  He noted as well that the president—indeed any president—now has the legal power to decide how torture is defined.  Pyle also discussed the work of his son Jonathan, an attorney who has been representing the Abu Ghraib prisoners victimized by their American jailers.

In his talk titled “No Weapons of Mass Destruction But Lots of Oil,” economist Fred Moseley insisted that the 800-pound gorilla of Iraqi oil be put back on the table of public debate.  After all is said and done, he argued, the American desire for military hegemony in Iraq revolved around the world’s second largest known reserve of crude oil.  He offered several examples illustrating how the power of Big Oil has consistently and cynically undermined efforts to democratize Iraqi life.  But he also noted that the organized oil workers in the Basra have had some success in resisting that power and perhaps represent the kernel of a more progressive political bloc in Iraq’s future. 

Stacey Philbrick Yadav, a visiting professor of politics, asked, “Does Fighting the Iraq War Mean Losing the Wider War?”  Drawing on her broad knowledge of the region, where she has lived and conducted extensive fieldwork and research, Yadav reviewed the appalling, seemingly willful, ignorance of American policy makers.  Their lack of knowledge and understanding about Iraqi history, language, religion, and culture has contributed mightily to strategic blunders that have in fact strengthened the influence of Islamist extremism.

My own contribution focused on “Iraq and the Shadow of Vietnam,” in which I argued that the continuing struggle over that war’s meaning—the battle for cultural memory, so to speak—has loomed over the Iraq war from the start.  Indeed, I believe the debate—or more accurately, the lack of real debate—that accompanied the decision to invade Iraq reflects just how successful American conservatives have been in winning the war for the cultural memory of Vietnam.  For today’s students, the Vietnam War seems like ancient history.  But the absence of the draft, the promulgation of the POW-MIA myth, the erasure from public discourse of the powerful anti-war movement within the armed forces, the alleged threat of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons as a substitute for the historical reality of America’s massive use of such weapons in Southeast Asia—all of these connections need to be made for today’s students.

We had a very lively and at times emotional Q&A session following the speakers.  I was struck by how worried and even scared many of the students are by the unfolding disaster of this latest American war.  Many asked broad and at times deeply philosophical questions about political activism beyond elections—what can be done to reverse course?  Some of us reminded the students that politics has never been limited to voting.  There was also much discussion about an impending war with Iran and what might be done to stop it before it starts.  We received a lot of positive feedback over the next few days, and we plan to hold another teach-in later this Fall.  Thanks again to HAW for inspiring us at Mount Holyoke and around the country.

Daniel Czitrom, <dczitrom@mtholyoke.edu>

History Department


Additional Note on the Mt. Holyoke Teach-In:


The question-answer session after the talks lasted over an hour.  Student questions ranged from technical inquiries about the role of the United Nations and the power of diplomacy to emotional outbursts about feeling alienated, isolated, and misunderstood as a result of the war.  They pushed us on issues as diverse as environmental impacts of the war and of American consumption patterns, racism and religious fundamentalism, and governmental duplicity.  Panel members responded, as did other faculty who attended. 


Feedback has been generally positive, with many students thanking the faculty for taking the time to be available and for making clear their personal opposition to the war.  One thoughtful student argued that the program was too centered on the USA rather than “what’s actually going on” in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We had actually chosen to focus on the USA, but the second teach-in, which we hope to run in early December, will include more expertise on the Middle East and be more in the nature of a “what’s going on?” session.


Jonathan Lipman, <jlipman@mtholyoke.edu>

History Department




NorthWest Arkansas Community College Teach-in, October 17–19


Last week’s mid-term election was an exciting moment in history.  The overwhelming call for change nationwide was encouraging. It suggests that our Constitutional system of government still works and that the American people have finally taken back the reins of government.  We’re pleased to know that today’s college-age generation has had the opportunity to learn that their participation in the democratic process can really make a difference.  We like to think that our event played a small role in that process.


The teach-in about the War on Terrorism was sponsored by Historians Against the War, the Omni Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology, and the Honors Program at the college.  The focus of the event, which took place on October 17-19, 2006, was “Separating Fact from Fiction” regarding three issues related to the war:  Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and War Profiteering. 


As part of the program, representatives of the three sponsoring organizations were on campus between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. each day to discuss the issues and to answer questions. Students, faculty, staff, and members of the community were invited to drop by the resource center to pick up literature about America and its latest policies, watch informative videos, enjoy some free food, relax in a comfortable setting, and openly discuss the role America is playing in the world today.


The first day of the teach-in got off to a slow start.  We were the best kept secret in northwest Arkansas.  The number of faculty and students who came to the resource room was small but just having the event called attention to the issues and proved to some of our more timid faculty and students that they can come out of the closet with their progressive ideas without having the sky fall down on them.  By the second day, we had a steady stream of students and faculty and had some excellent discussions about the cost of the war – in terms of human lives, the erosion of civil liberties and human rights, and taxpayers’ dollars.


Some faculty sent students to the resource room for assignments or extra credit.  Students especially liked having the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of our Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, and to answer a few simple questions to get their names into a drawing for some great prizes.  For each question answered correctly (literature was available to provide the answers), participants got to put another ticket into the drawing.


But over and above the prizes, there was the wonderful dialogue we entered into with people from different perspectives.  At times, we made good use of the “stress balls” available for the occasion and everyone left the resource room in one piece but with a few ideas they didn’t have when they entered.


Dick Bennett, Gladys Tiffany, and Melanie Dietzel, from the Omni Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology in Fayetteville, Arkansas, made the trip to Bentonville and showed by example how to engage the minds and hearts of those who are not yet convinced of the wisdom of peace, justice, and human rights.


Our screening of Iraq for Sale, the only part of the program that got adequate publicity, was a great success.  We had about 100 participants (a couple even drove down from Missouri) and a wonderful discussion afterwards.  We dispensed with the panel of experts and went right to the audience to hear their thoughts and opinions on the issues.  Tate Marble, the NWACC student who was the inspiration behind the event, gave a wonderful opening statement that I’m attaching.  We’re proud that he had the courage to say what he did before it was clear we were among friends.


Now that the election is over we all feel a little closer to peace than we were last week and would like to continue our awareness program with something a little less elaborate next semester.  Some students are interested in putting on a program to examine the best course of action for our country now that the American people have taken back the reins of government.  One possibility would be “Where Do We Go From Here: Impeachment or Reconciliation?” and include four components:


  1. An introductory statement by one of our students explaining the importance of continuing to take an interest in politics so that our legislators and the executive branch of government remain accountable.  We have a specific student in mind, Sierra Fitts, who is a young wife and mother and probably has less time than any of us, but understands the need for vigilance.  If we can arrange it around her schedule, it’s likely that her comments would have a strong impact on our audience.


  1. Excerpts from a video presenting arguments for impeachment.  There is one we’re considering entitled The Case for Impeachment by Barbara Olshansky and David Lindorff, the authors of a book that presents details about President Bush’s violations of both civil liberties and human rights.  It’s not as slick a production as Iraq for Sale but does present a good case and shows that side of the issue well.


  1. Another video or short presentation by a guest speaker who would present the case for reconciliation (not the same as denial).


  1. An audience-based discussion like the one we had for Iraq for Sale.


We’d like to put this together soon to convince the campus community that this is not the time to sit back and watch but to make participation in the democratic process a regular part of their daily lives.  However, it remains to be seen if we can obtain regular sponsorship for controversial programs like this.  One option might be to affiliate students with the Omni Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology and put on the events as a student organization.


Edrene S. McKay, EdreneMcKay@cox.net

History Department




Salem State College Teach In, Speak Out, October 17


At Salem State College we held a Teach In, Speak Out on the evening of October 17, 2006.  It was sponsored by our newly founded college peace club, Students of Salem for Peace, shortened to SOS for Peace.


About 70 people attended including faculty, students, and activists from the community.  Nearly 20 people spoke out.  People told stories about being in New York City on 9/11, about friends and friends of friends killed and wounded in Iraq, and voiced opposition to US policies in Iraq. We even had a student who said instead of speaking out, he wanted to sing karaoke two peace songs, which he did.


In addition, after many people had spoken out, an African drummer from Senegal played the drums with his troupe.  He said he wanted to speak about peace with his music.  Everyone loved the drumming so much they jumped up and danced.  This was a lively and unforgettable “break” during our Speak Out.


Finally, we ate pizza generously donated by a local pizza shop and also had a large cake decorated with a white peace dove with an olive branch in its mouth.  Everyone loved the delicious food.


In summary, our event turned out to be informative, lively, and very social.  Everyone seemed inspired and pleased by the entire evening.  We’re grateful to Historians Against War for the idea to hold a Speak Out and the chance to get together and share our views.


Hope Harmeling-Benne

History Department




Salt Lake City Teach-In, October 19


Right on to Historians Against the War, the stand you’ve taken and your call for the teach-ins.  We in the Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice in Salt Lake City/northern Utah were thinking along similar lines and organized a public forum for Thursday evening October 19 in the Salt Lake City public library.  We had 50 people come out, not the usual crowd, many participating in their first anti-war event.  It was a good step forward for the peace movement here.


peace and solidarity,

Dayne Goodwin, <dayneg@aros.net>




San Francisco State University Teach-In, October 25



INTRODUCTION: Dean Joel Kassiola, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences


Panel 1)   10:10-12   The Iraq War and American Politics

                                 “The Nature of Iraq”  Maziar Behrooz, History

        “Where We Went Wrong”  Mark Sigmon, History

                                “Anti-War Strategies: Vietnam and Iraq” Jules Tygiel



Panel 3)    12:10-1     The Iraq War and Civil Liberties

                                  “A Personal Saga,” Mohammad Salama, Foreign Languages

                                  “Torture and Popular Culture,” Laura Lisy-Wagner, History                               


Panel 4)   1:10-2     Organizing Workshop

                                Code Pink; California Peace Action


Panel 5     2:10-3     Open Forum

                                Moderators: Jules Tygiel

                    David Caploe  Princeton Club/Harvard Club



I put out a call to members of the History Department to see who was interested in participating.  The response was somewhat disappointing. Only five people expressed an interest.  We did not seek speakers from outside of the department mostly because we had recently organized a September 11 forum of Middle Eastern specialists and we did not want to duplicate this event.  I did ask Mohammad Salama of Foreign Languages, who had recently been detained for three months in Canada and not allowed to re-enter the U.S. to speak of his experiences.  My colleague Sherry Keith arranged for Code Pink and California Peace Action to do an organizing Workshop.   We also brought in David Caploe, who has been giving talks about the Middle East under the rubric of the Princeton and Harvard Clubs, to help chair the final session.


We had a rather small group to work on organizational details and especially publicity.  Most publicity went out through e-mail requests to announce the event in classes and flyers posted around campus.  We received a great deal of help from the Dean’s office.  The Dean of our college not only distributed e-mails on his extended list, but volunteered to open the teach-in with introductory remarks.  In the future, however, far more advance publicity is needed.  We will need more lead-in time and to recruit students to help with the posting of flyers.




The teach-in started out quite well, with the morning session attended by about 35 people.  I had anticipated that during the course of the day, students would leave to go to classes and others would take their place.  This did not happen.  Many of the original group stayed through most of the day.  Few students dropped in over the course of the day.  Hardly any faculty attended. The afternoon sessions were very poorly attended.  I would guess that we had, in addition to the presenters, about 50 people who attended overall.




The most surprising element of the day was the reasons that students came.  Since the San Francisco area is extremely liberal and the campus population even more so, we anticipated that our audience already had fixed ideas in opposition to the war and our job was to offer information that the attendees needed to get out into the community and mobilize.  The students who did attend, however, sought information, not motivation. Many remained highly conflicted about the war, particularly about what the U.S. role should be in the future.  There was no general sentiment, even among the panelists, favoring an immediate pullout.  Future forums will have to keep this focus in mind.   The most spirited discussions came in the morning session and revolved around the issues of neoconservatism and where U.S. policy went wrong.  I expected more of a response to the session on civil liberties and torture as both presentations were quite good, but the students did not really engage.


Jules Tygiel, tygiel@sfsu.edu

History Department




Southwest Minnesota State University Teach-In, November 8


We completed the teach-in as scheduled on the flyer and more than 220 students, staff, administrators, faculty, and community members attended in all. Our largest session had 45 people and the smallest 9. It got good coverage in the local paper, though the student newspaper did not cover it. The Teach-in will be highlighted in the second annual College of Arts Letters and Sciences retreat in January.


Several sessions were attended by veterans of the Iraq War and by the staff person for our Veteran’s Center. This led to some heated discussions in which panelists or speakers were politely challenged or questioned and where veterans engaged each other in discourse.


Marshall, a town of not quite 13,000 continues to maintain a vigil on Tuesday evenings that began before the war and has not missed a week since. No matter the weather (and it is often bad) somewhere between 5 and 25 people stand on the corner of Main and East College Drive from 5:30 PM until 6:00 PM. Organized by the Marshall Area Peace Seekers, members of the peace community sponsor speakers and help families of soldiers in Iraq with household chores, by buying phone cards, and what ever else we can do.


Jeff Kolnick, Kolnick@southwestmsu.edu

History Department




University of Delaware Teach-In, October 18


University of Delaware Our teach-in, organized by four history faculty members, was held in a 50-person classroom that was more than full during the entire two hours. 


Choosing from the Historians Against the War list, we invited David Farber from the Temple University history department; our other main speaker was Kenneth Campbell, of the University of Delaware political science department.  Peter Kolchin, of our own department, served as a facilitator, pointing out the major themes of their talks; Susan Strasser acted as chair of the session.  Our flyers asked “Why Are We At War in Iraq?” and promised plenty of time for discussion. 


Some activists showed up (one from the Green Party and a handful from a weekly peace vigil that starts on campus), along with a few vocal but polite pro-war speakers.  Most of the audience seemed serious, intent on learning something, and appreciative of the opportunity to talk about the war on a normally quiescent campus.  Farber offered an analysis framed by a brief history of the Persian Gulf region between World War I and 1979; Campbell, a longtime VVAW activist, discussed material from his forthcoming book on Vietnam and Iraq as quagmires.  The discussion that followed their 20-minute talks raised a wide range of questions. 


We distributed flyers to faculty in a number of departments; students from the campus civil liberties organization co-sponsored so that we could use university bulletin boards, and they did the posting; one of our organizers spread the word at the weekly vigil, and some of those people helped with further publicity.  The campus paper plans an article after the fact.


Susan Strasser, <strasser@udel.edu>

History Department


University of Louisville Teach-In, October 18

The University of Louisville joined the national teach-in last October with an afternoon and evening teach-in Wednesday, October 18 on the war and the Middle East. We brought together faculty at Louisville and Cincinnati to talk about the issues behind the war, particularly oil, resources and development. We also added a session on the war in Lebanon.


Due to a mixup in who was doing what publicity we did not get the kind of turn out we had hoped. We had about 40 participants in the teach-in. The students were particularly interested in continuing activity.


Louisville has an active anti-war committee that regularly does demonstrations, vigils, etc. As a commuter school most of our students tend to be involved in these activities that are community-based rather than university-based. Our hope is to use the university as a source for information but for the focus of activism to continue to be in the larger community.


As the war escalates we hope to increase our activity perhaps with a spring teach-in linked to a larger community project.


John Cumbler, cumbler@louisville.edu

History Department




University of Maine Teach-In, October 24, “The Iraq War and the Elections”


Our teach-in at the University of Maine on Tuesday evening, October 24, drew about 140 people, including both students and members of the community. 


Brian Clement, an Iraq war veteran and UM student delivered the powerful keynote address of the night.  Clement described his one-year tour of duty in Iraq and detailed how he became progressively more disillusioned with the war effort there.  U.S. forces, he argued, often ended up destroying in battle areas that they had just rebuilt.  Clement also grew skeptical about the amount of time U.S. soldiers devoted to building U.S. military bases and an infrastructure to support the U.S. presence there while Iraqi civilians remained without basic services such as electricity.  Clement spoke movingly about a friend who died in Iraq and noted that he found it impossible to tell his friend’s wife that his death had been for a good cause.  Clement received a standing ovation for his talk. 


Several historians from the University of Maine’s history department also briefly spoke and provided important historical analyses of the war in Iraq that are rarely covered in the media.  Alex Grab argued that many of the problems in Iraq today could be traced back to the way in which Britain artificially constructed that nation in the aftermath of World War I and included within its boundaries groups that had quite distinct heritages and conflicting agendas.  He also explored European and U.S. imperial oversight of the Middle East in the interwar years and their exploitation of the region’s oil resources. 


Nathan Godfried highlighted the U.S. drive for hegemony and oil in Iraq and the Middle East after World War II and discussed the destabilizing effects of these policies as well as the ways in which they provoked anti-American sentiment. 


Beth McKillen talked about what the “losers” in past debates about national security could teach Americans about defining the nation’s security needs in the post 9/11 world.  She particularly highlighted the lessons afforded by socialist and labor opponents of World War I, by the interwar women’s peace movement, and by the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era.


Ngo-Vinh Long offered a sophisticated assessment and comparison of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Iraq.  Long first noted the importance of understanding that Vietnam and Iraq are very different societies—a fact too often glossed over by Americans seeking to draw analogies between the two conflicts.  He also noted that the U.S. casualties in Iraq are still dramatically smaller than they were at the height of the Vietnam war.  But Long argued that the counter-insurgency techniques employed by Americans in Iraq are strikingly similar to those used in Vietnam and will have the same disastrous consequences for the United States. 


Michael Lang spoke on the way the absolutist language of the Bush administration had often undermined democratic discussion of its foreign policies.  He noted, in particular, the use of words like “evil” to describe Iraq and Korea and suggested that such language precluded a sophisticated discussion of the issues at stake and of the range of possible options in dealing with problems posed by the two states. 


Local political activist Scott Ruffner concluded the presentation component of the night by discussing the possibilities of working within existing party structures in Maine to change Iraq policy. 


A lively discussion followed the presentations, with many audience members focusing on what options were available to try to change Iraq policy.  A majority of the audience remained for the entire two and one-half hour session and those of us participating in the panel were struck by our students’ interest in the Iraq issue.  The campus media provided extensive coverage of the event, but we were disappointed that the Bangor Daily News failed to send anyone to cover the event.


Beth McKillen, Elizabeth_McKillen@umit.maine.edu

History Department




Events at the University of Pittsburgh, Titusville Campus


Here at UPT, a branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh (we’re in Titusville, Pa., in northwestern Pennsylvania) our Teach-In took place over several days.  


Two Frontline programs were shown to students: Iraq: The Lost Year and The Torture Question.  They were well-received.  But our big effort was showing Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, the new Robert Greenwald film.  It is powerful, makes its point clearly, and is a great tool for educating people as to the nature of this war.  Students as well as local residents attended.  All were affected by it and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that most were shocked to learn of the level of profiteering and its connections to congressmen and senators.  


As events unfold, we here at UPT intend to hold events that will help bring this horrific war to an end.  It’s amazing what happens to people when the scales drop off their eyes.


Mary Ann Caton, mab7+@pitt.edu

History Department




University of Texas at El Paso Teach-In, October 18–19

The Univ. of Texas at El Paso teach-in was successful.  About 250 people attended the main talk, delivered by Prof. Mark LeVine on Oct. 18, on “The Roots and Uses of Chaos in Iraq .”  Many others came in and out of the various events that took up the entire day of Oct. 19.  One of the challenges we faced here was the pressure to be “objective.”  We made a point of inviting outside speakers who specialized in the Middle East .  We also tried to include veterans and spouses to provide “balance.”  Click here for the full listing of events.

Sandra McGee Deutsch, sdeutsch@utep.edu
History Department



Wesleyan University Film Showings, October 30 and November 6


On Monday, November 6th, Wesleyan Students for Ending the War (SEWI) in Iraq showed the film Sir! No Sir! in the CFA Cinema at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, attracting around 50 attendees from the college and community.  The group distributed information on the growing resistance of U.S. military personnel to the current war [see fact sheet], encouraging those in attendance to make connections between GI resistance during the Vietnam War and the public dissent of current military members like Lt. Ehren Watada.


The film was the second part of the Wesleyan group’s fall film series, following the showing of Iraq for Sale the previous Monday, which drew about 70 people.


On Friday the 10th, the Wesleyan group also organized a demonstration outside the New Haven, CT, office of Representative Rosa DeLauro.  Rep. DeLauro, who was reelected on the 8th, is a Democrat who has consistently voiced an anti-war position but who, like numerous other Democrats, has thus far failed to take any concrete action to bring a speedy end to the occupation of Iraq.  Around 45 Wesleyan students attended the demonstration, in addition to members of the New Haven Peace Council, Yale Peace, and New Haven residents.  SEWI has focused recent efforts on getting Rep. DeLauro to sign H.R. 4232, which would end federal funding for the occupation.




Iraq War Talk at Whitman College, October 18


We had an event on Wed Oct 18, “Iraq and the Unlearned Lessons from the Vietnam War”  About 50 people attended.  An article was published on our website about it.  Here it is.


Elyse Semerdjian

History Department


WALLA WALLA, Wash.—David Schmitz, the Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History at Whitman, drew a number of parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars during a nationwide teach-in by Historians Against the War Wednesday evening.


Schmitz is a nationally recognized authority on U.S. foreign policy and the author of five books, including the The Tet Offensive: Politics, War, and Public Opinion (2005), and The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1965-1989 (2006). His presentation of “Iraq and the Unlearned Lessons from the Vietnam War” at 7 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium was one of 50 teach-ins held on campuses across the country on Oct. 18.


The parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars are “stunning,” said Schmitz, even though there has been almost nothing in the media about the similarities. He attributes the silence to the fact that no one wants to bring back that ugly time in American history when “we were pitted against each other.”


Schmitz, however, found many parallels. Some are listed below.

  • Support for both wars was high in the beginning at about 80 percent approval, but the public gradually withdrew support of them.
  • Both administrations insisted the United States was winning even when it became apparent the opposite was true “Stay the course” was the battle cry of President Johnson before it became President Bush’s mantra.
  • In both wars, soldiers could not easily distinguish between friend and foe and often erred on the side of their own safety, creating more anger from the indigenous population and creating a Catch-22 situation.
  • Both the Iraqi and Vietnamese governments lack(ed) legitimacy.
  • Neither the Johnson nor the Bush administration understood the culture of the “enemy.”
  • Statistics show that in the Vietnam War, and now in the Iraq war, the enemy initiates more than 80 percent of the engagements. “They are in control of the pace,” showing that the insurgents are in control of the war, said Schmitz.

Unfortunately, he added, American leaders have not yet learned the limitations of power even a superpower has. “These are unwinnable wars for superpowers. Can they drive us out? No, but it’s a war of attrition and they just need to wait until support at home wanes and we leave.”


“If in the 2006 elections, voters make a distinction between the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, then it will be a parallel to the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War,” he said, and it will be the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq. Right now, Bush still believes his own rhetoric, said Schmitz, and the president believes the United States can win the war in Iraq.


For more information, or to talk to Professor Schmitz, contact him at schmitdf@whitman.edu.




Williams College Teach-In, October 18


We had a lively, well-attended, thoughtful Teach-In, characterized by an impressive turn-out of local community activists and residents.  The important contributions of activists in Vermont, Williamstown, and North Adams helped give this forum the feeling more of a New England town meeting than an academic debate, energizing most of us there and giving us hope that – with more of such initiatives – we can begin to build a peace movement that can actually have some impact on future government policies. 


Our four speakers, each an activist in his or her own right, helped set the tone for our discussion.  Professor Lawrence Wittner, an historian of peace movements and American foreign policy from SUNY Albany, began by outlining the various times in American history when peace movements have made a difference, influencing and changing government policy, and ended with a brief overview of why and how the United States has gotten into the war in Iraq . Rev. Rick Spalding, Chaplain at Williams College, gave a number of thought-provoking reasons why he did not think this war was primarily about religion.   Ed Bloch, a WWII veteran and a Williams alum, gave a moving account of his own involvement with war crimes – committed in the American army in China at the end of the war – his subsequent life work of atonement, and his important activities in Veterans for Peace, whose membership has quintupled since the onset of the Iraq War.  Finally, Tela Zasloff, a local Democratic Party activist, surveyed a number of important contested congressional and senatorial races in the upcoming elections, focusing especially on a number of races in which veterans are running and their positions on the war.


A very thoughtful discussion ensued with lively audience participation.  A number of speakers expressed concern with the shortcomings of the Democratic Party on the Iraq War and their fear that even should the Democrats win on November 7, we may not see peace in Iraq.  There was an especially intense interchange concerning the case of Lieutenant Watada, who is refusing to serve in Iraq, the adequacy of the preparation our soldiers receive before going to Iraq, and the increasing role of privately employed armed guards in Iraq.  Equally important was the troubling question of youth involvement – or lack thereof - in the anti-war movement, especially compared with the anti-war movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, and the related issue of how much Americans are being asked to sacrifice for this war.  Perhaps the most dramatic intervention was that of an Iraqi, whose moving personal testimony, combined with a strong critique of American actions, such as the early disbanding of the Iraqi army, made it clear to most of us that a quick withdrawal is in the best interests of both Iraqis and Americans.


We urged individuals to sign up to help us plan another Teach-In, to get involved in the Massachusetts referendum campaign against the war, currently on the Nov. 7 ballot in 36 districts, and to attend a free showing of Iraq for Sale at Images Theatre in Williamstown on Oct. 30.  Strong positive response both at the Teach-In and since showed us that although our work has just begun, we have a real chance to build a strong peace movement that will continue to pressure our government to get out of Iraq, to make peace in the Middle East, and to prevent the extension of war to Iran.


Shanti Singham, ssingham@william.edu

History Department