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Resolution on Dissent, Free Speech, and Open Debate
Adopted by the Organization of American Historians
April 6, 2003

(text available oah@oah.org or 812-855-7311)

In view of the threat to free speech in the current climate, the Organization of American Historians affirms the centrality of dissent in American history, the sanctity of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the necessity for open debate of public issues, including United States foreign policy, in order to maintain the health of this democracy.

Report from James Livingston <living@rci.rutgers.edu>:

Ahoy all,
Historians Against the War sponsored a meeting on Friday night at the OAH. Between 50 and 70 people attended. The spirited and lengthy discussion focussed on three questions: (1) What exactly are we for when the war is over? (2) How to organize and streamline the flow of information from academics like us to the American public, which is apparently convinced by the Bush administration's rationale for war in Iraq (and beyond that, for a radical departure from the principles of 20th century American foreign policy)? The provisional solution was to form a steering committee that would, with the approval of HAW's organizing committee, experiment with new techniques of educating educators (e.g., visits to editorial boards by small groups combining local officials and academics, an idea offered by Gretchen Eick, outreach to high school teachers, etc.). Ben Alpers volunteered to muster a listserv. (3) How--or whether--to take a resolution regarding the war to the larger OAH? The discussion here was animated by the participation of Blanche Wiesen-Cook, Jesse Lemisch, and Staughton Lynd, who remembered the debates on Vietnam at the AHA meeting of 1969. Alan Dawley drafted a resolution insisting on the right of free speech and open debate even in time of war; it was adopted by acclamation. He brought this resolution to the OAH Executive Board, which approved it on Saturday afternoon, just as the ad hoc session on the war, which drew an audience of ca. 250, began.
At the session, Dawley read the draft resolution and announced its approval to great applause; Lemisch, having declared his affiliation with HAW, reminded the audience that the Cold War contained many extravagant idiocies as well as the USSR; Livingston summarized the activities of HAW and passed the sign-up sheet, collecting in all ca. 70 signatures; Jules Tygien cautioned us about the precedents of anti-war movements, proposing a broad-gauged approach to the problem at hand; and so on.
A good time was had by all, it seems.

OAH Annual Meeting: What Historians Against the War Want (report from the History New Network, April 7, 2003)

The OAH has approved a resolution in support of the right of dissent during war-time (History New Network, April 7, 2003)