Crater eruptions: “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!” —Churchill’s reply to the son of a harsh critic, freshly elected to Parliament, who immediately began attacking him.
From one crater to another
No sooner does the campaign for Churchill’s memory quell emissions from one crater than another one erupts. The campaign to delegitimize Churchill as Hero continues, but the main volcanos have already erupted. Now we have the odd subsidiary crater spouting the same old stuff. Not much is new, so this is only for the record.
On July 1st in Forbes emitted “Churchill the Failure: The Paraxodical Truth about the Best and Worst Leaders.” This was sent to their corrections department (no reply):
* * *
The author makes insightful points about leadership. He then constructs a narrative about Churchill based on the eruptions of critics who crop evidence to suit themselves. (1) Racial slurs in Churchill’s conversation are extremely rare. (2) Without the diaries of Leo Amery, hearsay evidence cited to show Churchill’s “hate” of Indians would not exist. Indeed, Amery’s own diaries include racist terms Churchill never used. (3) Churchill in WW2 praised “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.”
(4) Amery’s alleged Churchill quotes are all from 1942-44. In that period, according to Indian historian Tirthankar Roy: “Almost everything Churchill said about Indians was related to the nationalist movement. Negotiating with nationalists during the war could be pointless and dangerous because the moderates were demoralized and the radical nationalists wanted the Axis to win. No prime minister would be willing to fight a war and negotiate with the nationalists at the same time.” (5) In truth, Churchill and his Cabinet pulled out every stop to alleviate the Bengal Famine. Arthur Herman, Pulitzer nominee for Churchill and Gandhi, writes: “Absent Churchill, the Bengal Famine would have been worse.”
If we condemn Churchill for the rare racial epithet, should we also condemn Amery, who made them wholesale? What about Gandhi, who said nothing about the famine? In South Africa Gandhi wrote that whites should be “the predominating race.” Blacks, he said, were “troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.” Gandhi racist? Surely not. We must look at the total picture of every historical figure. Amery served honorably. Gandhi led India to independence. Churchill saved civilization. All three were good and decent men. But there are differences.
The Crater Halifax: death of a thousand Post-It notes
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, protestors surrounded the Nemon statue of Churchill in a “Walk Against Winston.” There was no spray-paint or attempts to pull it down. These polite folk were armed with Post-It notes. They included the familiar litany of false charges, out of context quotes. Of course there was hearsay from Leo Amery (see above): “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
Terry Reardon replied on behalf of the Churchill Society Canada: “Attacks on Winston Churchill in the Canadian media are nothing new. On our website are replies to articles in the Toronto Star and the National Post.”
Reardon referenced Arthur Herman’s definitive article on the Bengal famine (above). It laid out fact after fact on the causes of, and Churchill’s actions to alleviate, food shortages. He also attached Churchill’s 8 October 1943 directive to the new Viceroy, Lord Wavell, which is even more definitive. From The Churchill Documents, vol. 19, 421:
Every effort must be made, even by the diversion of shipping urgently needed for war purposes, to deal with local shortages…. Every effort should be made by you to assuage the strife between the Hindus and Moslems and to induce them to work together for the common good. No form of democratic Government can flourish in India while so many millions are by their birth excluded from those fundamental rights of equality between man and man, upon which all healthy human societies must stand…. The declarations of His Majesty’s Government in favour of the establishment of a self-governing India as an integral member of the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations remain our inflexible policy.
* * *
The reply, from one of the Walk Against Winston organizers: “Churchill and his government’s policies directly and unquestionably contributed to massive death and suffering in the case of the Bengal Famine. While Churchill’s role in opposing Hitler is significant historically, I don’t think the masses of brown and black people who he and his fellow ruling elites colonized, dispossessed, exploited, and consigned to oblivion would agree with your laudatory and rose-coloured characterization.”
How do you answer people who refuse to rebut or even acknowledge facts? They know what they think. They’ve read their Twitter and Facebook. It is all generalities, without a source or a reference. Don’t bother them with the truth. They’ve already made up their minds.
Déjà vu all over again
An article called “Rethinking Churchill” ran on ORF, a website founded in 1990 “at the juncture of ideation tempered by pragmatism.” In a two-part article, the author repeated the same charges refuted three years ago by Soren Geiger for the Hillsdale College Churchill Project: “By my count, he makes twenty-two distinct claims about or against Winston Churchill in his 900-word article,” Mr. Geiger wrote. “I could deal with each of these one at a time. But here I will examine some of the most serious. In so doing, I aim to reveal his allegations against Churchill as unfounded and his historical analysis as embarrassingly sloppy.” To read, click here.
In ORF, the author adds another one: “The vaingloriously self-serving but elegant volumes [Churchill] authored on the World War II led the Nobel Committee, unable in all conscience to give him an award for peace, to grant him, astonishingly enough, the Nobel Prize for Literature — an unwitting tribute to the fictional qualities inherent in Churchill’s self-justifying embellishments.”
This may play well in the Twitterverse. Few there will know that Churchill’s prize in literature came before his vainglorious self-serving WW2 volumes were complete. The Nobel Committee cited his works of “historical and biographical description.” They particularly singled out Marlborough and My Early Life. You can look it up. So much for that crater.
Mr. Geiger’s article above is entitled, “Winston Churchill the Racist Warmonger.” Scroll to the comments and you will find a reader reply. It mainly repeats all the above points, which the reader had clearly accepted. I responded. Most of it you’ve heard before. But for ease of reference, I include it here:
Dear Reader: Thank you for reading. Not a bad idea at all.
(1) Now please read Arthur Herman, “Absent Churchill, the Bengal Famine would have been worse.” (2) Next read “Churchill on India,” particularly Churchill’s words to Gandhi and Nehru—hardly those of a despiser. Churchill believed India should have self-government; what he opposed—and, yes, acted against—was the Congress Party’s Brahmin dominance. Hence Churchill to Ghanshyam Das Birla: “Mr. Gandhi has gone very high in my esteem since he stood up for the Untouchables.” And Gandhi’s reply: “I have got a good recollection of Mr. Churchill when he was in the Colonial Office and somehow or other since then I have held the opinion that I can always rely on his sympathy and goodwill.”
(4) Next, read Indian historian Tirthankar Roy: “Everything [Churchill] said about Indians and the Empire was related to the Indian nationalist movement. Negotiating with Indian nationalists during the war could be pointless and dangerous because the moderate nationalists were demoralized by dissensions and the radical nationalists wanted the Axis powers to win on the Eastern Front. No prime minister would be willing to fight a war and negotiate with the nationalists at the same time.” (5) Before you accept Leopold Amery’s hearsay Churchill quotes, read “Churchill’s ‘Racist Epithets’” to learn how many occurred in Amery’s (but not Churchill’s) everyday speech. Was Amery mouthing Churchill, or himself?
* * *
(6) For what Churchill really thought about Indians read “The Indian Contribution in WW2”: “The glorious heroism and martial qualities of the Indian troops who fought in the Middle East, who defended Egypt, who liberated Abyssinia, who played a grand part in Italy, and who, side by side with their British comrades, expelled the Japanese from Burma…. The unsurpassed bravery of Indian soldiers and officers, both Moslem and Hindu, shine for ever in the annals of war.” This man hated Indians?
(7) On “poison gas,” read “Churchill and Chemical Warfare,” and learn the difference between tear gas (which he unfortunately labeled “poison”) and the gasses Germans began using in wartime. On “Aryan stock,” read “Churchill Derangement Syndrome,” for where and when he said it (and see last paragraph below). In the same piece, note that the “camel dung” crack is hearsay.
Nor is it possible to excuse Churchill as “a man of his time.” In fact he was far in advance of his time. From ages 25 to 80, examples abound of his concern for the rights of peoples of all colors, particularly in South Africa (you can read about that, too).
Bottom line: Churchill was human. He made mistakes, sometimes big ones. His language is almost absent of racial slurs, but he did believe a hierarchy of races existed back then. That is not the remarkable fact. The remarkable fact is that he consistently defended human rights. One has only to read to learn—something besides outbursts on the Twitterverse.
The “pernicious vermin” crater
Churchill massacred the Pashtuns in Pakistan who were mounting an insurgency against British rule. He described the Pakistani people as “pernicious vermin” and recounted his actions as “proceed[ing] systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation.”
Inayat Kila, 28 September— The line of march on the 22nd lay past the village of Desemdullah or Bibot, in which the severe fighting of the night of the 16th had taken place. In company with several officers I rode to look again at the ill-fated spot. [The gravesite] was horrible and revolting. The remains had been disinterred and mutilated. Remembering that a morning journal is read to large extent at the breakfast table, I do not intend to describe the condition in which these poor fragments of humanity were found.
* * *I must, however, invite the reader to consider the degradation of mind and body which can alone inspire so foul an act. These tribesmen are among the most miserable and brutal creatures of the earth…. intelligence only enables them to be more cruel, more dangerous, more destructible than the wild beasts. Their religion—fanatic though they are—is only respected when it incites to bloodshed and murder. [As soon as] these valleys are purged from the pernicious vermin that infest them, so will the happiness of humanity be increased, and the progress of mankind accelerated.
The “stone him” crater
Fighting back: “The truth is great, and shall prevail.” *
Increasing signs that the search for truth survives. *”Don’t bother to read the comments”—same old stuff.
Why Churchill’s Leadership was Indispensable, Joseph Laconte, National Review.
“Churchill Out of Context,” Editorial Board, Toledo Blade
G. P. Taylor: “Stop Snowflakes and BBC Denigrating Winston Churchill,” Yorkshire Post
Cathy Gungell, “Is it Time to Stop Calling Churchill a Racist?“, UK Conservative Woman
Dominic Sandbrook, “Why should we be forced to pay for a BBC that portrays Winston Churchill as a mass murdering racist?”, Daily Mail
Edward G. Marks, “In Defense of Keeping Churchill’s Name on School,” Bethesda Magazine
Bradley Gitz, “The Age of Dumb,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “In London, fake anti-fascists fighting imaginary fascists vandalized a statue of a real anti-fascist who fought real fascists by the name of Churchill. Or as another wag more succinctly put it, ‘Wait till they hear about the guys he fought against.'”
Thoughtful articles by historians
Heartening in the face of all this is the determined pursuit of truth by Indian scholars. Thanks and a tip of the hat to:
Video: “The Case for Churchill”
Churchill historian Andrew Roberts in a fair and balanced interview by Darren Grimes. Among other shibboleths, he covers Churchill “quotes” in his doctor’s diaries (minute 19). These were often imaginative afterthoughts, added twenty-five years later.
Dr. Roberts’ biography, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, calmly lays out the unvarnished truth, including Churchill’s flaws and mistakes. But as Roberts says, it’s easier to scrawl “racist” on a statue than it is to read a 1000-page book.