NPR advances the Zeitgeist; The Blade responds
On a radio talk show distributed by National Public Radio, one Aliyah Hasinah said World War II had been started by a Eugenics-besotted Winston Churchill. On August 8th, the Editorial Board of The Blade replied: “NPR gave airtime to an activist who has a clear ax to grind against Churchill, yet it couldn’t find a scholar or biographer to give us a depiction of the whole man? …. Churchill was not a perfect human being. He was often wrong and some of his failures were spectacular, But for the most part, he epitomizes eloquence, courage and love of country. He also saved Britain and therefore, arguably, the West.” This was soo much for reader Zareer Hasan, who sent a flamer which The Blade published a week later.
Mr. Hasan’s salvo
The Blade, wrote Mr. Hasan on August 16th, “reflects a limited and myopic reflection of history, supporting the romantic adulation of Winston Churchill…. He is responsible for many historical atrocities, from the Afghan wars 1897, Boer War, and support of Apartheid, the persistent subjugation of the subcontinent of India, the failed Gallipoli Campaign, massacre of Greek nationalists on his orders, praise of Nazi collaborators, and engineering the Bengal famine 1944 that left 4 million dead because he ordered the diversion of grain to Europe. Churchill was the biggest impediment towards independence of India and had a disdain for Indians, disparaging their leaders openly. He hated other races with deathly passion….
“His blatant quotations, which are plentiful, express his profound hatred, bigotry, and racism, which was overt…. he could be held today for crimes against humanity and perpetuator of profound racism. And, yet, he is glorified in many an institution. I am amazed that your editorial justifies these actions as ‘mistakes,’ to save Britain and the West. It calls into question your moral standing to ever criticize other bloodthirsty tyrants and evildoers.” There was more along these lines, as the link above will demonstrate.
A reply in The Blade, August 30th
Mr. Hasan reminds one of Churchill’s response to a fulminating critic. “The Right Honorable Gentleman should not generate more indignation than he can contain.”
How to answer this cacophony of generalities without a single reference? Mr. Hasan has read his Twitter and Facebook. He has made up his mind. But facts are stubborn things:
Churchill’s first two books denounced British atrocities in Afghanistan and Sudan. From age 25 he consistently supported equal rights for South African blacks. Aged 80, he refused the Apartheid regime’s demand to annex protectorates like Botswana and Lesotho. He also backed South Africa’s Indian minority, earning Gandhi’s gratitude. (Does Mr. Hasan know they ended respectful of each other?)
Churchill came out for Indian self-government in 1918. Equally, he deplored Hindu-Muslim strife and the dominance of one caste and religion. His wartime outbursts against disputatious bureaucracy in Delhi (reported by only one colleague) did not affect his efforts to ease the Bengal Famine. Churchill scoured the world for grain, getting much from Australia. Indian historian Tirthankar Roy writes that the Bengal government failed to bring food “to the region internally, where there was no famine. The real question is why this didn’t happen, rather than what Churchill did.”
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The Kenya Mau Mau practiced more atrocities than the British and had more native opponents than supporters. British Cabinet minutes show Churchill speaking of Kenya exactly twice: once out of concern over loss of life, once to warn 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.”
Churchill, born when Darwin was still alive, did believe in a hierarchy of races, an idea repugnant and ridiculous today. Nevertheless, his ideas on equal rights for peoples of all colors marked him as a dangerous radical among the establishment of his time. Like all humans, he made mistakes. He also in 1940 made possible the survival of free peoples, including those with lungs powerful enough to witheringly denounce him.
Mr. Hasan should educate himself, simply by googling the works of serious historians. Try Arthur Herman (“Absent Churchill, the Bengal Famine would have been Worse”). Or the Indian scholar Zareer Masani: “Churchill a War Criminal? Get Your History Right.” —RML