Fake Churchill Calumny: Subsidiary Emissions from the Odd Crater

Fake Churchill Calumny: Subsidiary Emissions from the Odd Crater

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.

Reader response

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

A five-year-old arti­cle in The Diplo­mat was linked recent­ly in anoth­er Churchill attack:
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.”
But The Diplo­mat made clear what this new attack didn’t: Churchill was abhor­ing the des­e­cra­tion of Mus­lim graves, and pun­ish­ing the des­e­cra­tors. It’s always best to let him talk for him­self. From his despatch to the Dai­ly Tele­graph, pub­lished 9 Novem­ber 1897 (Cohen C48) Churchill wrote:
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.
So the “per­ni­cious ver­min” Churchill spoke of were not the “Pak­istani peo­ple.” They were the bar­bar­ians who des­e­crat­ed the graves of Mus­lim and Sikh sol­diers. He hoped for “the hap­pi­ness of human­i­ty.” He said they didn’t respect their own reli­gion. Which is approx­i­mate­ly what many Mus­lims say about ter­ror­ists who don’t respect their reli­gion today.

The “stone him” crater

BBC “Civ­i­liza­tions” offered a delight­ful arti­cle. “Churchill, on the pedestal…stone him.” This arti­cle repeats the charges Andrew Roberts refut­ed last year,  and takes a stab at Roberts’ Churchill biog­ra­phy. I think the prob­lem is that Dr. Roberts devot­ed more space to the Churchill fam­i­ly cat than to the dead in Libya. Not sure, though.

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.

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. As Rex Mur­phy not­ed in Canada’s Nation­al Post, ‘We’d all be wear­ing black with light­ning bolts on our sleeves if Win­ston Churchill—old, white, and male—had not pos­sessed the sta­mi­na, courage, deter­mi­na­tion and the ora­to­ry to take on Hitler. Churchill took no knee.’ 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:

Zareer Masani: “Churchill a War Crim­i­nal? Get Your His­to­ry Right.” A his­to­ri­an and broad­cast­er, Dr. Masani is the author of three books on India and is the biog­ra­ph­er of Indi­ra Gand­hi.
Amman Mer­chant on Red­dit: An India-based writer who thinks for him­self and goes to the sources to debunk pop­u­lar mythol­o­gy in a Churchill attack on Red­dit.
Tirthankar Roy: “The British Raj Accord­ing to Tha­roor: Some of the Truth, Part of the Time.” Dr. Roy is a pro­fes­sor of eco­nom­ic his­to­ry at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics and author of How British Rule Changed India’s Econ­o­my: Para­dox of the Raj (Pal­grave, 2019).

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.

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