by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 9, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1442)
Apart from the enlightened few, Winston Churchill, knighted by the British monarch, was and is still viewed by most Britons as a hero. His statues are found all over Britain, including the British parliament at Westminster. His bull-dog face peers down on passersby. Statues of Churchill have also been erected in other parts of the world including Canada, the US, Australia etc. The accolades heaped on him relate to his role in fighting off Nazi Germany.
That both sides committed war crimes is well documented even if not publicly acknowledged. History, after all, is written by the victors. Had the allied powers lost, there is little doubt, Churchill and other Western rulers and generals would have been hauled before a Nuremberg-style war crimes tribunal.
The most gruesome of Britain’s war crime and by extension, Churchill’s, was the three-day bombing of Dresden from February 13-15, 1945. Volker Janssen, writing in history.com had this to say about the allied bombing of Dresden. “As a major center for Nazi Germany’s rail and road network, Dresden’s destruction was intended to overwhelm German authorities and services and clog all transportation routes with throngs of refugees.”
There was also another purpose: “In an effort to force a [German] surrender, the Dresden bombing was intended to terrorize the civilian population locally and nationwide. It certainly had that effect.” So, here you have it. Janssen confirms that it was an act of terror: a war crime for which Churchill was largely responsible.
But Churchill’s crimes were not confined to his role in the Second World War, the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century that resulted in more than 60 million deaths.
Long before his gory record during the war, Churchill had already established his credentials as a white supremacist. He believed the whites were superior to blacks and people of colour.
This was graphically illustrated by Churchill’s stubborn refusal to send food supplies to Bengal where a famine had broken out in 1943. Up to three million people starved to death despite British officials pleading with Churchill for help. Millions of tons of wheat were diverted elsewhere and the rice produced in Bengal was put in storage. He raged that it was the Bengalis’ own fault for “breeding like rabbits”.
In 2015, Britain marked 50 years of Churchill’s passing away (he had died on January 24, 1965). By then, most British colonised countries in Asia and Africa had gained independence. Academics and researchers were also beginning to expose his racist views. Naturally, this did not sit well with Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames. He took refuge behind the excuse that his grandfather “was a child of the Edwardian age and spoke the language of [it].” He called him “one of the greatest men the world has ever seen.”
While claims to ‘greatness’ are highly questionable, it is reprehensible to justify Churchill’s racism, as Soames has done. Let us evaluate Churchill in his own words. The idea of the white man’s superiority was drummed into his head at Harrow, a private school in West London, and then at the British Military Academy at Sandhurst. The white man, he was taught, was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned savages to bring them the benefits of civilisation.
As soon as he could, Churchill galloped off to play his part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples”. We get a glimpse into the seedy aspects of Churchill’s character, courtesy Richard Toye in his now acclaimed book, Churchill’s Empire: The World that made him and the World that he made (2010).
Churchill had no qualms in ordering the use of chemical weapons, primarily against the Kurds and Afghans. These were lower breeds in his thinking! “I cannot understand this squeamishness about the use of gas,” he wrote in a memo during his role as minister for war and air in 1919. “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. [It] would spread a lively terror,” he continued.
As a young officer in the British army, he eagerly participated in raids in distant lands that laid to waste whole valleys, destroying houses and burning crops. In Sudan, he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages”.
Churchill fully supported the opening of concentration camps for white Boers in South Africa. While claiming they produced “the minimum of suffering”, the death toll was almost 28,000. His was even more loathsome toward black Africans. After 115,000 were interned in British camps where 14,000 died, he wrote only of his “irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men”.
In parliament he demanded a rolling programme of British conquests. Churchill was convinced that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph”. But when his triumphalist convictions did not come through as in Swat valley (part of present-day Pakistan), he began to experience doubts.
He was made to realise, however, fleetingly that the local population was fighting back because of “the presence of British troops in lands the local people considered their own.” He admitted that Britons would do likewise if their country was invaded. But Churchill’s colonial mindset soon took over. The Pathans of Swat Valley were merely “deranged jihadists” whose violence was explained by a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill”. The British were, of course, there on a “civilizing mission” that the “savages” did not appreciate.
Churchill certainly believed in racial hierarchies and eugenics, says John Charmley, author of Churchill: The End of Glory. In Churchill’s view, white protestant Christians were at the top, above white Catholics, while Indians were higher than Africans, he adds. “Churchill saw himself and Britain as being the winners in a social Darwinian hierarchy.”
It was this racist mindset that allowed for the starvation to death of three million Bengalis in 1943 because they “breed like rabbits”. Britain, meanwhile, stole $45 trillion from India during the colonial period. Robbing other lands of their resources is also a peculiarly Aryan habit, not necessarily confined to the Brits, even if they were the biggest thieves.