'Peace For Our Time' Voices Echo In New Age Of Anxiety
I promised to lay off topic A--Iraq--until the Security Council makes a judgment on the inspectors' report, and I shall keep that promise.
But I must tell you that throughout the past fortnight I've listened to everybody involved in or looking on to a monotonous din of words, like a tide crashing and receding on a beach--making a great noise and saying the same thing over and over.
And this ordeal triggered a nightmare--a daymare, if you like.
Through the ceaseless tide I heard a voice, a very English voice of an old man--Prime Minister Chamberlain saying: "I believe it is peace for our time"--a sentence that prompted a huge cheer, first from a listening street crowd and then from the House of Commons and, next day, from every newspaper in the land.
There was a move to urge that Mr. Chamberlain should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In Parliament, there was one unfamiliar old grumbler to growl out: "I believe we have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat." He was, in view of the general sentiment, very properly booed down.
This scene concluded, in the autumn of 1938, the British prime minister's effectual signing away of most of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. The rest of it, within months, Hitler walked in and conquered.
"Oh dear," said Mr. Chamberlain, thunderstruck. "He has betrayed my trust."
During the last fortnight, a simple but startling thought occurred to me--every single official, diplomat, president, prime minister involved in the Iraq debate was, in 1938, (either) a toddler (or) unborn. So the dreadful scene I've just drawn will not have been remembered by most listeners. Hitler had started betraying our trust not 12 years but only two years before, when he broke the First World War peace treaty by occupying the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland.
Only half his troops carried one reload of ammunition, because Hitler knew that French morale was too low to confront any war just then and 10 million of 11 million British voters had signed a so-called peace ballot.
It stated no conditions, elaborated no terms, it simply counted the numbers of Britons who were "for peace."
The slogan of this movement was "Against war and fascism"--changed at the time by every Labor man and Liberal and many moderate Conservatives--a slogan that now sounds as imbecilic as "against hospitals and disease."