Defcon 1, The Battle for Churchill’s Memory: The Cause Endures

Defcon 1, The Battle for Churchill’s Memory: The Cause Endures

Here­with final install­ments by var­i­ous writ­ers in our two-month defense of Win­ston Churchill’s mem­o­ry. These and the links below cov­er his most pop­u­lar cur­rent sins—even cas­tra­tion and nuk­ing the Mar­alin­ga. So, unless we get a new one, that’s a wrap! RML

Memory: “The stars still shone in the sky”

Lost in the pell-mell rush to den­i­grate his mem­o­ry was the 8oth anniver­sary of Churchill becom­ing Prime Min­ster, 10 May 1940. I thought of his words as I read the igno­rant, ill-informed, false attacks on his char­ac­ter. They occurred amid protest over a trag­ic event that had noth­ing to do with him. He wrote at the end of Their Finest Hour:

And now this Britain, and its far-spread asso­ci­a­tion of states and depen­den­cies, which had seemed on the verge of ruin, whose very heart was about to be pierced, had been for fif­teen months con­cen­trat­ed upon the war problem….With a gasp of aston­ish­ment and relief the small­er neu­trals and the sub­ju­gat­ed states saw that the stars still shone in the sky…. But I and my faith­ful col­leagues, who brood­ed with accu­rate infor­ma­tion at the sum­mit of the scene, had no lack of cares…. The Bat­tle of France was lost, The Bat­tle of Britain was won. The Bat­tle of the Atlantic had now to be fought.

And now his defend­ers in far-spread asso­ci­a­tion have con­cen­trat­ed on the slur prob­lem. The bat­tle for accu­rate infor­ma­tion is still being fought. Who’d have thought his mem­o­ry would ever be in jeop­ardy? Many faith­ful col­leagues have joined the effort. The work goes on, the cause endures.

Letters to the Editors

“Don­ald Trump is no Win­ston Churchill, and the com­par­i­son is ludi­crous.” John Ivi­son, Nation­al Post, 4 June 2020.

Mr. Ivi­son cor­rect­ly writes that a com­par­i­son is ludi­crous. Then he pro­ceeds to state that Churchill was “mas­sive­ly flawed.” He says “Churchill ‘signed off’ on terms at the Yal­ta Con­fer­ence that con­signed tens of mil­lions to Sovi­et Rule.” At that time Sovi­et troops occu­pied almost the whole of East­ern Europe. The only alter­na­tive for Churchill would have been to start a third World War. “Churchill was prime min­is­ter at the time of the Ben­gal famine in 1943 when an esti­mat­ed three mil­lion peo­ple died. His only pos­si­ble defence was that he was pre­oc­cu­pied by the war in Europe.” The fact is that on 8 Octo­ber 1943 Churchill sent an order to Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, on the “actu­al famine,” say­ing “every effort must be made, even by the diver­sion of ship­ping urgent­ly need­ed for war pur­pos­es to deal with local short­ages.” —Ter­ry Rear­don, Inter­na­tion­al Churchill Soci­ety Cana­da

* * *

“Was Churchill a racist? Yes, but he still deserves respect.” —Max Hast­ings, The Sun­day Times 14 June 2020.

Max Hast­ings writes that Win­ston Churchill’s deci­sions at the time of the 1943-44 Ben­gal famine were “the gravest blots on his life­time rep­u­ta­tion.” In fact my great-grand­fa­ther felt strong­ly the respon­si­bil­i­ty of empire and saw him­self as bound in duty to advanc­ing the well-being of its indige­nous peo­ples.

Of course Britain did not meet all request­ed food deliv­er­ies in the famine: not only was Japan in con­trol of the Bay of Ben­gal at the time, as well as Bur­ma, Thai­land and Malaya, but as Dr. Tirthankar Roy, of the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, wrote: “The war cab­i­net . . .  believed what the Ben­galis told it: there was no short­age of food in Ben­gal.” And as Arthur Her­man, nom­i­nat­ed for a Pulitzer prize for his book Gand­hi & Churchill, con­clud­ed: “Absent Churchill, India’s 1943 famine would have been worse.”  —Ran­dolph Churchill, Crock­ham Hill,  Kent

* * *

A week lat­er a read­er quot­ed Viceroy Wavell, that Churchill didn’t answer him about food relief, so I had a go. It’s like shoot­ing fish in a bar­rel…

Mr Mac­Shane should edu­cate him­self on what Gand­hi not Churchill did about the Ben­gal Famine. As did Arthur Her­man, Pulitzer nom­i­nee for Gand­hi and Churchill: “For all his rep­u­ta­tion as a human­i­tar­i­an, Gand­hi did remark­ably lit­tle about the emer­gency. The issue bare­ly comes up in his let­ters.” In Feb­ru­ary 1944, Gand­hi final­ly brought him­self to reply to British anx­i­eties about food relief, writ­ing to Wavell: “I know that mil­lions out­side are starv­ing for want of food. But I should feel utter­ly help­less if I went out and missed the food [i.e. inde­pen­dence] by which alone liv­ing becomes worth­while.” Which of them was the human­i­tar­i­an?

* * *

“How Has Win­ston Churchill Become a Cen­tral Fig­ure in the British Black Lives Mat­ter Debate?” —Alex Hud­son, Newsweek, 17 June 2020. 

Churchill was man­i­fest­ly not “a man of his time,” and you incor­rect­ly rep­re­sent his racial atti­tudes. From his twen­ties to his eight­ies, his views on the rights of native peo­ples marked him as a dan­ger­ous rad­i­cal in the estab­lish­ment of the day. Most of his alleged slurs of Indi­ans, for exam­ple, are hearsay from Leopold Amery, who crammed more racist epi­thets into one of his per­son­al diaries than Churchill ever imag­ined. Churchill  mean­while praised “the unsur­passed brav­ery” of 2.5 mil­lion “Indi­an sol­diers and offi­cers, both Moslem and Hin­du [and] the response of the Indi­an peo­ples, no less than the con­duct of their sol­diers,” in World War II. —Richard M. Lang­worth

* * *

“The Churchill fac­tor: Boris John­son would rather every­one talked about Win­ston.” —Otto Eng­lish, Politi­co, 15 June 2020.

Cas­trat­ing peo­ple is a new Churchill outrage—and I thought I’d heard them all. Churchill did not advo­cate for Boer War con­cen­tra­tion camps. In his maid­en speech (18 Feb­ru­ary 1901) he com­pli­ment­ed the Boers’ “unusu­al human­i­ty and gen­eros­i­ty” in the war and urged a gen­er­ous peace. He did fruit­less­ly argue with his Boer jail­er about equal rights for native Africans. He did say dread­ful things about Gand­hi, though the ele­phant crack is pure fic­tion. And he also said: “Mr. Gand­hi has gone very high in my esteem since he stood up for the Untouch­ables.” (Gand­hi replied with a “good rec­ol­lec­tion” of Churchill and opined “that I can always rely on his sym­pa­thy and good­will.”) Gand­hi took a regret­tably detached view of the 1943 Ben­gal famine; Churchill didn’t. Arthur Her­man, biog­ra­ph­er of them both wrote: “Absent Churchill, Bengal’s Famine would have been worse.”

The Mau Mau upris­ing in Kenya had more native oppo­nents than sup­port­ers. Both it and the local gov­ern­ment indulged in atroc­i­ties, though the Mau Mau’s were worse. If Mr. Eng­lish would con­sult the cab­i­net min­utes, how­ev­er, he would find only two instances where Churchill men­tioned the Mau Mau. In one he was con­cerned over loss of life. In anoth­er he warned against “mass exe­cu­tions.” Jomo Keny­at­ta, father of mod­ern Kenya, said: “Mau Mau was a dis­ease which had been erad­i­cat­ed, and must nev­er be remem­bered again.” —RML

* * *

“What Churchill’s lega­cy means for the coun­try now.” Jes­si­ca Bald­win, Cam­den News Jour­nal, June 18th.

Ms. Bald­win says it is immoral to look at the “real­i­ty” of Churchill “and still believe him to be unsul­lied.” Of course he was sul­lied. She cor­rect­ly notes his sup­port for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli oper­a­tion and the Black and Tans. As to the rest of her cat­a­logue, Churchill once said: “…it would hard­ly be pos­si­ble to state the oppo­site of the truth more com­pen­dious­ly.”

Churchill didn’t “par­ti­tion” Ire­land. He nego­ti­at­ed the Irish Treaty which gave the Repub­lic inde­pen­dence. Tanks to Tony­pandy? They hadn’t been invent­ed yet. In cab­i­net he spoke of the Mau Mau twice, once to warn against “mass exe­cu­tions.” Ben­galis starved from sev­er­al fac­tors, despite Churchill’s efforts. (What was Gandhi’s posi­tion on the famine? Detached and non-com­mit­tal.)

Britain didn’t go to war “to save the Jews” but to save lib­er­ty. Churchill jailed Britain’s lead­ing fas­cist Oswald Mosley—an odd act for an alleged fas­cist. The colo­nial war effort was often cit­ed by Churchill. He praised “the unsur­passed brav­ery” of 2.5 mil­lion “Indi­an sol­diers and offi­cers, both Moslem and Hin­du.” Seri­ous inquiry will show that Churchill believed peo­ple of all col­ors should enjoy the same rights, and that it was the mis­sion of his coun­try to pro­tect those rights.

We can believe Churchill was always right, and we can believe with Ms. Bald­win that we’ve been “fed a line.” Churchill him­self offered a third approach: “It seems to me, and I dare say it seems to you, that the path of wis­dom lies some­where between these scare­crow extremes.” —RML

“Nuking the Maralinga people”

In March I pub­lished a mod­est glos­sary,  “Churchill Derange­ment Syn­drome: A is for Aryans, R is to Racism.” How far “CDS” has pro­gressed since may be seen by a cor­re­spon­dent who replied: “N is for nuk­ing the Mar­alin­ga peo­ple.”

I seri­ous­ly inves­ti­gat­ed this charge, which was new to me.  I care­ful­ly read the link above, and about Aus­tralians who wit­nessed the 1952 nuclear tests and pre­served them in mem­o­ry. The Churchill Doc­u­ments and sev­er­al schol­ars offer accu­rate data. Con­clu­sions:

(1) You can’t have nuclear weapons with­out test­ing whether they work. (2) Aus­tralian per­mis­sion for test­ing in the unin­hab­it­ed Monte Bel­lo islands was sought in 1950 by Prime Min­is­ter Clement Attlee. (3) Churchill had replaced Attlee when the tests occurred: two on the islands in 1952, two in the Great Vic­to­ria Desert in 1953.

* * *

Moral con­sid­er­a­tions were con­sid­ered, but they involved wildlife, not peo­ple. On 21 May 1952 Lt. Col. Lip­ton (Lab., Lam­beth Cen­tral) ques­tioned Churchill over the destruc­tion of ani­mal life. Churchill replied, try­ing to be humor­ous:

The report of a recent spe­cial sur­vey show­ing that there is very lit­tle ani­mal or bird life on Monte Bel­lo Islands was one of the fac­tors in the choice of the site for the test of the Unit­ed King­dom atom­ic weapon. I should add, how­ev­er, that an expe­di­tion which went to the  islands fifty years ago report­ed that giant rats, wild cats, and wal­la­bies were seen, and these may have caused the Hon. Mem­ber some anx­i­ety. How­ev­er, the offi­cer who explored the islands recent­ly says that he found only some lizards, two sea eagles and what looked like a canary sit­ting on a perch.

Emrys Hugh­es (Lab., South Ayshire) was not amused: “There are still civ­i­lized peo­ple in this coun­try who are inter­est­ed in bird and ani­mal life.” This final­ly pro­duced a men­tion of humans—by Mr. Churchill: “Cer­tain­ly I think every­thing should be done to avoid the destruc­tion of bid life and ani­mal life and also of human life.” Churchill may been refer­ring to his well-known belief that the bomb’s apoc­a­lyp­tic nature might dis­cour­age its use.

* * *

(4) The next tests occurred in 1956, on the Monte Bel­los and Aus­tralian main­land. These did pro­duce fall-out expo­sure for some peo­ple (the num­bers are uncer­tain). The buck stop­sp with the Prime Min­is­ter, but the PM was now Antho­ny Eden. Churchill was over a year retired. (5) There­fore, Churchill did not “nuke the Mar­alin­ga peo­ple.” (6) Mas­sive deserts and unin­hab­it­ed islands are obvi­ous­ly the best places for nuclear test­ing. (7) Six­ty years lat­er, some Aus­tralian vet­er­ans who wit­nessed the orig­i­nal tests devel­oped can­cer. Their opin­ions were divid­ed as to why they con­tract­ed it.

(8) The tests led to the nuclear umbrel­la Britain and Amer­i­ca pro­vid­ed Aus­tralia, con­sid­er­ing the prox­im­i­ty of two expan­sion­ist com­mu­nist states. (9) The Sovi­et Union’s last nuclear test was in 1990, the UK’s in 1991. Amer­i­ca stopped in 1992, France and Chi­na in 1996. The Com­pre­hen­sive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty of 1996 placed a de fac­to mora­to­ri­um on test­ing. India (twice), Pak­istan (twice) and North Korea (six times) have since vio­lat­ed the mora­to­ri­um.

“Subsidiary craters spouting forth”

Churchill said when attacked by the son of a harsh crit­ic: “Isn’t it enough to have this par­ent vol­cano con­tin­u­al­ly erupt­ing in our midst? And now we are to have these sub­sidiary craters spout­ing forth the same unhealthy fumes!”

To Arthur Herman’s truths about the Ben­gal Famine, a read­er asked about Japan’s post-inva­sion plans for India, on which I had offered the Japan’s occu­pa­tion of the Philip­pines:

A bet­ter exam­ple would be Malaya where there was a large res­i­dent Indi­an com­mu­ni­ty. How many Indi­ans did the Japan­ese slaugh­ter there? And how could the Japan­ese have topped the British record for allow­ing famines in its colonies? While you’re at it, could you please present any evi­dence that Japan had actu­al­ly intend­ed to con­quer India and had the capa­bil­i­ty to do so with­out com­pro­mis­ing its main objec­tive in Chi­na?

Ever obe­di­ent to read­ers’ every whim: Impe­r­i­al Japan sought to change Malaya’s offi­cial lan­guage to Japan­ese. Malayans were expect­ed to bow to Japan­ese. Chi­nese fared par­tic­u­lar­ly harsh­ly, but Malays and Indi­ans were not exempt. The 11/43 Greater East Asia Con­fer­ence did not include Malaya because the Japan­ese mil­i­tary wished to annex it. Japan’s plans for India are well detailed. Of course, in the eupho­ria of 1941, Impe­r­i­al Japan believed it could do much that turned out to be a lit­tle opti­mistic.

The occu­pa­tions mod­er­at­ed when Japan start­ed to lose the war. Thanks, in part, as Churchill said, “to the unsur­passed brav­ery” of 2.5 mil­lion “Indi­an sol­diers and offi­cers, both Moslem and Hin­du [and] the response of the Indi­an peo­ples.” As Arthur Her­man wrote, in the 20th cen­tu­ry in peace­time, the Raj “han­dled famines with effi­cien­cy.” For bal­anced pros and cons on Britain’s role in India see Dr. Tintharkar Roy, How British Rule Changed India’s Econ­o­my.

 

2 thoughts on “Defcon 1, The Battle for Churchill’s Memory: The Cause Endures

  1. Well said Sir! I hope the many Hills­dale schol­ars emerge in the com­ing years with a sim­i­lar knowl­edge, elo­quence and desire to defend the true nature and lega­cy of Churchill for gen­er­a­tions to come. We for­ev­er need to expose these out­ra­geous­ly unfair slurs against one of the great­est humans to ever grace the earth. ✌🏻

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