Get Your History Right: Reply to Reader Hasan in “The Blade” (Toledo)

Get Your History Right: Reply to Reader Hasan in “The Blade” (Toledo)

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.”

* * *

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

3 thoughts on “Get Your History Right: Reply to Reader Hasan in “The Blade” (Toledo)

  1. The igno­rance and big­otry of some peo­ple is almost beyond belief. The hatred of some towards Churchill must be a vari­ety of fanat­i­cal Anti-Semi­tism. As Churchill was a Philosemite that alone makes him wor­thy of hatred.

  2. It is of course an uphill strug­gle, but “nev­er give in, nev­er despair”!
    I heard today that a stat­ue of de Gaulle had been defaced in Martinique . . .

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