Vox Non-Populi: More Churchill Mythology

Vox Non-Populi: More Churchill Mythology

Win­ston Churchill was no saint; it is a dis­ser­vice to pre­tend he was. But he is too com­plex  to be pigeon­holed by writ­ers who crit­i­cize selec­tive­ly. Hills­dale College’s Churchill Project responds to the mythol­o­gy. Read full arti­cle.


Win­ston Churchill is in the news, as is often the case.  On Feb­ru­ary 11th, Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bernie Sanders had words of praise for Churchill’s war lead­er­ship. Vox Media has crit­i­cized him and Churchill in sharp lan­guage.  Are the crit­i­cisms of Churchill true?

Dur­ing the Demo­c­rat debate on 11 Feb­ru­ary 2-16, can­di­dates were asked to name two lead­ers, one Amer­i­can and one for­eign, who would influ­ence their pol­i­cy deci­sions.  Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders chose Franklin Roo­sevelt and Win­ston Churchill.

Fair enough, we thought; they saved west­ern civilization.

But Churchill? Of course he mount­ed the effort to defeat Hitler, Vox said, but Sen. Sanders put his cred­i­bil­i­ty on the line. He praised “a chem­i­cal weapons enthu­si­ast and unre­con­struct­ed racist who cut a swath of suf­fer­ing and death….” Churchill’s fight against tyran­ny in Europe “doesn’t look quite as prin­ci­pled when con­trast­ed with his com­mit­ment to main­tain­ing it elsewhere.”

Vox Mythology

Vox offers a famil­iar litany of Churchill mythol­o­gy, cit­ing alleged sins which have long since been refut­ed by rep­utable historians.

  1. Ben­gal Famine, 1943: In fact, with­out Churchill’s inter­ven­tion, the famine would have been worse.
  2. Chem­i­cal war­fare, 1918-20: What Churchill referred to as “poi­soned gas” was “lachry­ma­to­ry gas” (tear gas). There is no evi­dence that he was an “enthu­si­ast” of chem­i­cal weapons, in fact quite the contrary.
  3. Black and Tans, Ire­land, 1920-22: Churchill did not per­son­al­ly pro­pose the Black and Tans, though he stub­born­ly defend­ed them despite atroc­i­ties that exceed­ed their remit. Against that, cred­it him with a lead­ing role in forg­ing Ireland’s independence.
  4. Mau Mau, Kenya, 1950s: The Mau Mau upris­ing had as many or more native oppo­nents as it had sup­port­ers. Both it and the colo­nial gov­ern­ment indulged in atroc­i­ties. Exam­i­na­tion of the Gilbert Papers yields only two instances where Churchill men­tioned the mat­ter in Cab­i­net; in one he warned against “mass exe­cu­tions.” Jomo Keny­at­ta, the father of mod­ern Kenya, said : “Mau Mau was a dis­ease which had been erad­i­cat­ed, and must nev­er be remem­bered again.”

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