December 24, 2007
How Far, O Lord, How Far?

A Sharon friend, who is also a folk singer, recently forwarded me a perfectly astounding quotation from Edward R. Murrow that was broadcast over the BBC in February, 1946, as Murrow left Britain after years of covering World War II from there. Said Murrow: “I believe that I have learned the most important thing that has happened in Britain during the last six years.”

No, Murrow wasn’t speaking of routine courage, or the Blitz, or the Battle of Britain, or El Alamein, or Normandy — important as those facts and events were. He was speaking of the continued British respect for democracy and human rights, in spite of the war. Murrow cited two particular examples, excerpted here:

“Do you remember that while London was being bombed in the daylight the House devoted two days to discussing conditions under which enemy aliens were detained on the Isle of Man? Though Britain fell, there were to be no concentration camps here.”

“Do you remember that two days after Italy declared war an Italian citizen, convicted of murder in the lower courts, appealed successfully to the highest court in the land, and the original verdict was set aside? There was still law in the land, regardless of race, nationality or hatred. Representative government, equality before the law survived.”

Future generations who bother to read the historical record will see that in Britain, during the greatest war of all time, there was no retreat from basic human rights and principles. Isn’t it telling that today our U.S. Supreme Court should have to be even considering whether “detainees” in the so-call “war” on terrorism have the right to fair trial, to habeas corpus, to counsel, or even the right not to be tortured in violation of national and international law?

Surely, this is not our “finest hour.” Compared with our British friends in wartime, how far have we fallen? How far have we yet to fall?

…By Anthony Piel, a former director and legal counsel of the World Health Organization…



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at December 24, 2007 09:31 AM
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How far, indeed? And as Buck posted a few days ago, the Magna Carta itself has just been bought by a war profiteer in the Carlyle Group.

Posted by: Furber on December 24, 2007 9:44 AM

Somebody somewhere has a 16" transcription disc of that broadcast.

I did find the beginning lines on an online MP3 at

Take a listen.

Posted by: Buck on December 24, 2007 2:47 PM

It's a long way from Winston Churchill to Tony Blair, and all downhill. And an even longer and steeper way from FDR down to GWB. God bless us every one, and Tiny Tim.

Posted by: CCRyder on December 24, 2007 4:36 PM

You can actually download the speech at itunes (or only in Internet Explorer). It's in two parts. Total time of both is about 4 1/2 minutes.

Go to itunes, plug in "Edward R. Murrow, A Reporter Remembers"

There are a number of speeches listed that are called "A Reporter Remembers", but you want the one's from February 24, 1946. The second part is the relevant part mentioned in your post. Total cost for both is $1.98.

Posted by: Buck on December 24, 2007 4:47 PM

"... I fully accept that we can’t have any squeamishness if we are to win the war. But against this, if we use their methods we lose our own ideals and become no better than they are. We have already lost."
(Godfrey Smith, long-time editor of the Sunday Times)

Posted by: Peter on December 25, 2007 9:31 AM
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