By Ken Stern 

War reporting, now and then

From the editor—

 

December 13, 2023



For this last subscription drive mailing editorial, because I respect everyone reading this newspaper and take my work seriously, I went to “Deadline Artists,” an anthology of newspaper columns over the last 100 years. The point of reporting is to present facts. The goal of editorials is to make readers pause, reflect and think about important issues of the day, some smaller and local, others larger and global.

The New York Herald Tribune correspondent Dorothy Thompson did that in October 1938, after France and Britain, the world’s dominant powers, signed documents ceding Czechoslovakia to Germany.

The British and French did not face up to the reality of Hitler’s actions or intent in Czechoslovakia and what would happen to that country’s citizens, real human beings. Germany occupied Czechoslovakia colonizing it. The Czech people were not considered.

About the agreement, she wrote, “There is not the most elementary consideration of justice.”

History echoes and seems to rhyme from times past to the present moment. I read that just after the U.S. had vetoed the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Thompson continued, “Not only is Czechoslovakia dismembered: What is left is destroyed as a democratic republic. It will be utterly impossible for the new state to exist, under the conditions created, as anything except a semi-Fascist dictatorship. There will be no civil libraries. There will be enforced labor. There must be – in order to save the nation at all!

“Let us not call this peace. Peace is not the absence of war. Peace is a positive condition – the rule of law.

“This peace has been established on lawlessness and can only maintain itself by further lawlessness.

“This peace has been established by dictatorship, and can only maintain itself by further dictatorship.”

She ends: “This is peace without virtue. Therefore it is not peace – but the initiation of a terrific world crisis.”

Dominant powers leave dust and chaos after their military ventures. Thirty years later for the New York Post, Pete Hamill wrote up close and personal, on patrol with Marines in Vietnam.

“You could begin to understand about Vietnam and the wretchedness of land, if you could see the roads in the morning, clogged by people on the move, all of them old men and old woman and young children. They carry on their backs all that they own: bamboo struts that make up their houses, small sacks of clothing, chickens and an occasional pig. It is all they have. No books, no paintings, no radios, none of the soft ornaments of the 20th century. Last year alone, 750,000 people in this country moved their place of residence, trying to keep a few hundred feet ahead of the violence. The whole country has been doing this for a quarter of a century.”

I see a mirror image in the U.S.’s role with Israel today. Yet is this the wrong topic to end a subscription drive when introducing the Weekly News and asking new readers to consider taking the newspaper out of their mailbox weekly? Or is this an example of the invitation to take up and not turn away from the absolutely necessary news, discouraging and despairing as it is?

This editorial is an example of respecting every adult in greater La Conner, knowing that all news is not good news and all analysis is not to champion approval of the wonders of where we live.

This editor respects the community too much to stay silent on horrific tragedies occurring before our eyes and critical to our humanity.

This is the role of newspapers historically. It is the role of your community newspaper today and into our futures.

 

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