Churchill Quotes: “Action vs. Inaction….Religion of Blood and War”

Churchill Quotes: “Action vs. Inaction….Religion of Blood and War”

N.B. We do not see Churchill in Woodville’s dra­mat­ic paint­ing above. He had drawn his pis­tol not his sword, in def­er­ence to his weak right shoul­der. For the skill and dex­ter­i­ty it took to sheath his sword and aim his pis­tol, see my review of Brough Scott’s Churchill at the Gal­lop (with Ben Bradshaw’s paint­ing of Churchill in the charge.)

Action and inaction

Q: Could you ver­i­fy the cor­rect word­ing for the Win­ston Churchill state­ment:  “I nev­er wor­ry about action, but only inac­tion.” There are var­i­ous iter­a­tions among the sources. —S.D.

From Churchill by Him­self, page 190 (note he placed quotemarks around “wor­ry”): “I nev­er ‘wor­ry’ about action, but only about inac­tion.”

Ref­er­ence: 1940s, pas­sim. Mar­tin Gilbert, The Churchill Doc­u­ments, Vol. 15: Nev­er Sur­ren­der, May 1940-Decem­ber 1940 (Hills­dale, Mich.: Hills­dale Col­lege Press, 2011). In his pref­ace, page xvi, Sir Mar­tin writes of Churchill:

Inef­fi­cien­cy, incom­pe­tence and neg­a­tive atti­tudes roused his ire…. He did not take kind­ly to what he called “a driz­zle of carp­ing crit­i­cism.” [He despised those who] “failed to rise to the height of cir­cum­stances.” Among his injunc­tions to his Min­is­ters were, “Don’t let this mat­ter sleep,” and, “I nev­er ‘wor­ry’ about action, but only about inac­tion.”

There are sev­er­al appear­ances of the quo­ta­tion. Here is one in a let­ter, on page 1184 of the above work: Con­cern­ing “Oper­a­tion Com­pass,” the first major British offen­sive in North Africa. Churchill wrote to Gen­er­al Dill on 7 Decem­ber 1940:

…If, with the sit­u­a­tion as it is, Gen­er­al Wavell is only play­ing small, and is not hurl­ing on his whole avail­able forces with furi­ous ener­gy, he will have failed to rise to the height of cir­cum­stances. I nev­er “wor­ry” about action, but only about inac­tion.

“Religion of blood and war”

Q: Did Churchill refer to Islam as “the reli­gion of blood and war”?  —I.L.

Yes, in his first book, The Sto­ry of the Malakand Field Force (Lon­don: Long­mans Green, 1898). Quot­ing from a new­er edi­tion (Lon­don: Leo Coop­er, 1991), page 27:

But the Mahommedan reli­gion increas­es, instead of less­en­ing, the fury of intol­er­ance…. The prospects of mate­r­i­al pros­per­i­ty, the fear of death itself, are flung aside. The more emo­tion­al Pathans are pow­er­less to resist. All ratio­nal con­sid­er­a­tions are for­got­ten. Seiz­ing their weapons, they become Ghazis—as dan­ger­ous and as sen­si­ble as mad dogs: fit only to be treat­ed as such.

While the more gen­er­ous spir­its among the tribes­men become con­vulsed in an ecsta­sy of reli­gious blood­thirsti­ness, poor­er and more mate­r­i­al souls derive addi­tion­al impuls­es from the influ­ence of oth­ers, the hopes of plun­der and the joy of fight­ing…. The reli­gion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace.

It would be inap­pro­pri­ate to quote these words out of con­text because they referred to Pathan war­riors 100 years ago. Their worst atroc­i­ties, Churchill went on, were against fel­low Mus­lims. There are many exam­ples of his praise of Mus­lim fight­ers, notably those in the World War II Indi­an Army. He con­sid­ered Mus­lim Dervish­es pic­tured above “as brave men as ever walked the earth.” Con­text mat­ters.

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