Defines itself as a group of “radical scholars and intellectuals . . . deeply concerned about growing repression and, in particular, its impact on critical thought and expression”
Condemns what it calls “the current empire-building and war-making activities of the United States government at home and abroad”
At the 117th annual meeting of the American Historical Association on January 3, 2003, nearly 100 historians from more than 40 American colleges and universities convened to form a new national network, Historians Against the War (HAW). A committee was appointed to draft the following statement, which was to be signed by all attendees in agreement with its tenets: "We historians call for a halt to the march towards war against Iraq. We are deeply concerned about the needless destruction of human life, the undermining of constitutional government in the U.S., the egregious curtailment of civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, and the obstruction of world peace for the indefinite future."
In its mission statement, HAW defines itself as a group of "radical scholars and intellectuals … deeply concerned about growing repression [by the U.S. government] and, in particular, its impact on critical thought and expression." The organization further identifies itself as a member of the Alliance of Radical Academic and Intellectual Organizations (RAIO), whose constituents are "members of scholarly and intellectual groups organized around radical principles [recognizing] that social and economic inequalities are built into the structure of capitalist society." HAW is an organizational member of After Downing Street and the United For Peace and Justice anti-war coalitions.
Within three weeks after HAW's formation, more than 1,000 historians, from 250 colleges and universities in 47 states, had endorsed the HAW statement. By April 28, the number of signatories exceeded 2,200. They were instructed to send their signed statements either to the attention of the Radical History Review (RHR), a leftist publication distributed by Duke University Press; or to Van Gosse, a history professor at Franklin & Marshall College and a frequent contributing author to RHR.
In the spring of 2003, HAW circulated a petition in defense of the “academic freedom” of Columbia University anthropology professor Nicholas De Genova, who, at a March 26 anti-war "teach-in," had told 3,000 students and faculty: "Peace is not patriotic. Peace is subversive, because peace anticipates a very different world than the one in which we live -- a world where the U.S. would have no place. … The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus." This was a reference to a deadly 1993 ambush of U.S. forces by an al Qaeda warlord in Mogadishu, Somalia.
On September 21, 2003, HAW issued a “Statement on the U.S. Occupation of Iraq,” which read: “… we oppose the expansion of United States empire and the doctrine of pre-emptive war that have led to the occupation of Iraq. We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history involved in the administration's conduct of a war that violates international law, intensifies attacks on civil liberties, and reaches toward domination of the Middle East and its resources."
In March 2004, HAW asked the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) "to investigate reports of repressive measures having an impact on historians' teaching, research, employment, and freedom of expression." The request listed eight examples of repression, including “restrictions of research and surveillance of library use under the USA PATRIOT Act”; “reports of teachers … reprimanded or confronted with suspension … for allowing students … to express opposition to the occupation of Iraq”; “flagging and rejection of grants in areas deemed politically sensitive”; “demeaning treatment of foreign-born historians and students by the [INS] and the State Department”; “restriction of historians' access to government records”; “systematic denunciation of historians who have criticized government policy”; “hostile government scrutiny of foreign language and area studies programs”; and “refusals to employ faculty members allegedly on the basis of their views on foreign policy.” OAH agreed to form a committee -- headed by the Marxist labor historian David Montgomery -- to look into these matters.
In a joint effort with the Center for Constitutional Rights, HAW, which views the war on terror as a pretext used by the American government to justify imperialism and militarism, strives to expose "U.S. war crimes and government deception." HAW has developed a nationwide "speakers bureau" of members prepared to disseminate the group's anti-America message to the crowds attending anti-war demonstrations anywhere in the country -- all in an effort to derail what it calls "the current empire-building and war-making activities of the United States government at home and abroad." Dedicated to infusing young people with its spirit of activism, HAW conducts teach-ins and develops special curricula for students at all levels of the educational hierarchy -- primary, secondary, and post-secondary.
As of July 2006, the HAW "steering committee" (thusly named after the organization’s members decided that Professor James Livingston's original suggestion of "politburo" might cause some public-relations problems) is composed of Van Gosse and fellow professors Ben Alpers, David R. Applebaum, Christian Appy, Marc Becker, John Cox, Alan Dawley, Sara Dougherty, Carolyn “Rusti” Eisenberg, Jerise Fogel, Marv Gettleman, Walter L. Hixson, Carl Mirra, Jim O'Brien, Enrique C. Ochoa, Margaret Power, Andor Skotnes, and Kathryn Sukites. The steering committee also includes Nicole Kief of the George Soros Institute and Staughton Lynd of the Worker's Solidarity Club of Youngstown, Ohio.
In early 2004, HAW stated, "Our warnings [about America's post-9/11 military incursions] have been born out. … No-longer secret testimony from prominent officials has confirmed our suspicion that Iraq's alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda did not exist. It is now apparent to most of the public that the administration's public case for launching the war was based on lies." "Here at home," HAW added, "the 'War on Terrorism' has been used to justify secretive internment of aliens, police surveillance of meetings, telephones, and computer use, and Congressional investigation of Middle Eastern Studies programs. While military and occupation costs devour the federal funds, budget deficits drive state and local governments to slash expenditures for education at all levels, and to drive tuition fees steadily upward."
On July 31, 2014, HAW created and began circulating a petition deploring Israel's "ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza." At the time, Israel was engaged in a war against Hamas terrorists who had recently launched thousands of potentially deadly missiles deep into the Jewish state. The petition further condemned "the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza"; the "killing and wounding [of] so many Palestinian children" by "Israeli forces"; and the "desperate conditions in Gaza resulting from Israeli policies." Demanding that American elected officials "hold Israel accountable for such acts," the petition called upon President Barack Obama "to demand a cease-fire, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and a permanent end to the blockade so that its people can resume some semblance of normal life." It also exhorted Obama "to suspend U.S. military aid to Israel, until there is assurance that this aid will no longer be used for the commission of war crimes."