Extract from one of Churchill’s 1897 newspaper reports | Image source & courtesy – dailymail.co.uk | Click for image.
For instance, in the Swat Valley, during the First Mohmand Campaign (1897-1898) in the picturesque part of North India (now in modern Pakistan), Churchill
gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, writing: “We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation.”
He then sped off to help reconquer the Sudan, where he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages.”
When the first concentration camps were built in South Africa, he said they produced “the minimum of suffering” possible. At least 115,000 people were swept into them and 14,000 died, but he wrote only of his “irritation that kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men.” Later, he boasted of his experiences. “That was before war degenerated,” he said. “It was great fun galloping about.”
As war secretary and then colonial secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed the notorious Black and Tans on Ireland’s Catholics, to burn homes and beat civilians. When the Kurds rebelled against British rule in Iraq, he said: “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.” It “would spread a lively terror.”
Churchill believed the highlands, the most fertile land in Kenya, should be the sole preserve of the white settlers, and approved of the clearing out of the local “kaffirs.” When the Kikuyu rebelled under Churchill’s postwar premiership, some 150,000 of them were forced at gunpoint into detention camps, later called “Britain’s gulag” by the historian Caroline Elkins. Obama never truly recovered from the torture he endured.
Didn’t everybody in Britain think that way then? One of the most striking findings of Toye’s research is that they really didn’t: even at the time, Churchill was seen as standing at the most brutal and brutish end of the British imperialist spectrum. This was clearest in his attitude to India. When Gandhi began his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” He later added: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
This hatred killed. In 1943, to give just one example, a famine broke out in Bengal, caused,by British mismanagement. To the horror of many of his colleagues, Churchill raged that it was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits” and refused to offer any aid for months while hundreds of thousands died.
This is a real Churchill (via Book Review – Churchill’s Empire – By Richard Toye – NYTimes.com).
Winston Churchill in the Hussars just before he saw action in North India | Image courtesy – dailymail.co.uk | Click for image.
Churchill was someone who excelled at reducing other people with a non-stop flow of derogatory labels, till the tide of opinion turned.
This ‘reduction’ process works in four stages:
Let us see how this process has been used in the USA. This kind of
dehumanization can have deadly consequences.
Saturday, June 23, is the 30th anniversary of one of the watershed events in the formation of the Asian American community as we know it: The killing of Vincent Chin in Detroit, Michigan, by auto workers Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. Chin, due to be married in two days, was celebrating his bachelor party at a strip club called the Fancy Pants when Ebens and Nitz began verbally haranguing him. “It’s because of you m_____f_____ that we’re out of work,” shouted Ebens. A fight broke out, after which all of the participants were encouraged to leave.
Chin challenged Ebens to continue the fight outside. Ebens responded by going to Nitz’s car and procuring a Louisville Slugger baseball bat (ironically, a Jackie Robinson model). After chasing Chin and cornering him in McDonald’s parking lot, Nitz held Chin down as Ebens pummeled him with the bat, sending him into a coma from which he never awoke.
Ebens and Nitz were convicted in a county court of manslaughter. They were given three years probation with no jail time, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay court costs of $780. Though Ebens was later found guilty of violating Chin’s civil rights in federal court, and sentenced to 25 years in jail, the decision was overturned on appeal.
Neither of Chin’s killers spent any time in prison for his death.
News of the case galvanized the Asian American community, forcing many who had resisted political involvement in the past to consider the grotesque implications of Chin, a Chinese American, being mistakenly identified as Japanese, and then blamed by proxy for the decline of the U.S. car industry.
The upshot is that Chin’s killing was like a bad ethnic joke gone horribly wrong: “Chinese, Japanese? What’s the difference?” (via Is Your Font Racist? (Tao Jones) – Speakeasy – WSJ).
British officers and Indian troops from the 45th Sikhs Regiment in 1897 at Chakdara fort sent to subdue Indian militants | Image source & courtesy – dailymail.co.uk | Click for image.
Or for that matter, it can also be brown-skinned people.
In 1943, some 3 million brown-skinned subjects of the Raj died in the Bengal famine, one of history’s worst. Official documents and oral accounts of survivors paint a horrifying portrait of how Churchill, as part of the Western war effort, ordered the diversion of food from starving Indians to already well-supplied British soldiers and stockpiles in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, including Greece and Yugoslavia. And he did so with a churlishness that cannot be excused on grounds of policy: Churchill’s only response to a telegram from the government in Delhi about people perishing in the famine was to ask why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.
British imperialism had long justified itself with the pretense that it was conducted for the benefit of the governed. Churchill’s conduct in the summer and fall of 1943 gave the lie to this myth. “I hate Indians,” he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for “breeding like rabbits.”
Some of India’s grain was also exported to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to meet needs there, even though the island wasn’t experiencing the same hardship; Australian wheat sailed past Indian cities (where the bodies of those who had died of starvation littered the streets) to depots in the Mediterranean and the Balkans; and offers of American and Canadian food aid were turned down. India was not permitted to use its own sterling reserves, or indeed its own ships, to import food. And because the British government paid inflated prices in the open market to ensure supplies, grain became unaffordable for ordinary Indians. Lord Wavell, appointed Viceroy of India that fateful year, considered the Churchill government’s attitude to India “negligent, hostile and contemptuous.”
The way in which Britain’s wartime financial arrangements and requisitioning of Indian supplies laid the ground for famine; the exchanges between the essentially decent Amery and the bumptious Churchill; the racism of Churchill’s odious aide, paymaster general Lord Cherwell, who denied India famine relief and recommended most of the logistical decisions that were to cost so many lives.
Churchill said that history would judge him kindly because he intended to write it himself. The self-serving but elegant volumes he authored on the war led the Nobel Committee, unable in all conscience to bestow him an award for peace, to give him, astonishingly, the Nobel Prize for Literature — an unwitting tribute to the fictional qualities inherent in Churchill’s self-justifying embellishments. (via Books: Churchill’s Shameful Role in the Bengal Famine – TIME).
For Indians the crucial lesson is that an enemy’s enemy need not be our friend.
He may be the second enemy.