Just finished reading a newspaper commentary.
It’s more than 74 years old, penned by Roscoe Drummond for the Christian Science Monitor … and shared with newspapers across the country.
It’s about war. And peace. Feels like an old song now. I’ve heard it so many times before.
Yet, this echo from the past seems fitting during this week of Thanksgiving.
Because history is a wise old lady. Like your Mamaor Grandma, leaning toward you, eyes centered, her finger pointing, saying, “I told ya so.”
The newspaper piece was written in August 1945 right after a significant, historic shift in civilization.
Drummond began this way: “There was a dramatic and revealing coincidence in the news in Washington, Aug. 6, 1945!
“Senator Hiram Johnson of California, the last great and unyielding isolationist of World Peace One and World Peace Two, died in the Capital.
“President Truman announced that the first atomic bomb in history had been dropped on Japan.
“Political isolationism and atomic bombs cannot exist together in the world of 1945 — and after. That point is now settled — dangerously settled.”
Historians, authors, journalists, politicians, and citizens all have dissected that decision to detonate two nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and then Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9.
Drummond quoted President Truman: “The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.
“A single atomic bomb already has more power than 20,000 tons of TNT, is 2,000 times greater in power-blast than the largest bomb ever used before in the history of warfare … .
“Improvements are forthcoming which will increase several fold the present effectiveness … Even more powerful forms are in development.”
Feels uncomfortable and awkward to hear words like “improved” and “effectiveness” attached to something designed to kill people.
“It is an awful possession,” wrote Drummond, adding, “Every community in every country on every continent will be in almost instant bombing range from any point in the world. …
“It makes it evident beyond dispute,” he said, “that in the world of 1945 and after, a there can, under no conceivable circumstances, be peace for one great nation unless there is peace for all.
“The atomic bomb and political isolationism cannot exist in the same world.”
Truman used the bomb to end war. It then became a weapon to force peace. Peace through fear.
Drummond quoted a newspaper colleague: “At 11:13 o’clock on Aug. 6, 1945, mankind was provided with the means for its self-destruction.”
“But it need not be,” said Drummond, trying to be optimistic.
“The universe, including man, is not, in truth, ruled by atomic force, but if it takes an awful peril to scare mankind into choosing higher law — the rule of humanity and brotherhood — then the atomic bomb is the peril which will force men, in this fearsome extremity, to make the choice: one peace or one war for one world.”
Drummond quoted Secretary of War Henry Stimson: “Multiple benefits for all mankind will ultimately flow from this spectacular new discovery in the field of science.”
“But only if the world remains at peace,” wrote Drummond.
“There can be no atomic peace, no all-powerful weapon which will be the exclusive property of the peacemakers.”
He wrapped it up this way: “Everything which had to be done to maintain world peace before the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima Sunday has still to be done.
“Men will either observe the law of brotherhood because it is natural for them to do so or because they are scared into doing it. The atomic bomb should be a sufficient peril to create a desire for a real peace.”
It’s worth noting that Roscoe Drummond became well known for “State of the Nation,” a political column he wrote for 50 years, syndicated through the Los Angeles Times.
From 1949 to 1951 he served as European director of information for the Marshall Plan and founded Freedom House, which advocated democracy, political freedom and human rights.
Ahhh, Mr. Drummond, you had a vision but a lot has changed. And some things have not.
Fear of the bomb still exists. As you knew it would.
Many nations now have what we call “weapons of mass destruction.” And others want the fearsome weapons. All for the same reason. So there is no “real” peace.
The first atomic bomb was a “peacemaker” that ended many lives — somewhere between 129,000 and 226,000 people.
War has not ended. At least war as you remember it. There are no more “world wars,” yet worldwide people still are dying … in the name of peace.
Today countries are shouting across closed borders. The raised fist seems more common than the extended hand you hoped for.
Your hope for brotherhood is still just hope. Something in songs and poems and make-believe … and watered down in treaties.
And now and then a lament still woven into commentaries by newspapermen like you, Roscoe Drummond.
LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to email@example.com or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.