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 offers a familiar litany of Churchill mythology, citing alleged sins which have long since been refuted by reputable historians.
- Bengal Famine, 1943: In fact, without Churchill’s intervention, the famine would have been worse.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”