Friday, January 23, 2015

10 Churchill

From the BBC:
"The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill's career"

The UK is marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. He is regarded by many as the greatest Briton ever, but for some he remains an intensely controversial figure. During Britain's darkest hours in World War Two, Churchill's leadership was vital in maintaining morale and leading the country to eventual victory over Nazi Germany. In 2002 Churchill saw off the likes of Shakespeare, Darwin and Brunel to be voted the greatest ever Briton. But in a career spanning some 70 years, he had more than a few moments of controversy.

Here are 10 of the most common debates that have raged about Churchill's legacy.

1. Views on race
In April last year, Labour candidate Benjamin Whittingham tweeted that Churchill was "a racist and white supremacist".  But there have previously been suggestions that Churchill held racist beliefs.
In 1937, he told the Palestine Royal Commission: "I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

2. Poison gas
Churchill has been criticised for advocating the use of chemical weapons - primarily against Kurds and Afghans. "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," he continued.

3. Bengal famine
In 1943, India, then still a British possession, experienced a disastrous famine in the north-eastern region of Bengal - sparked by the Japanese occupation of Burma the year before. At least three million people are believed to have died - and Churchill's actions, or lack thereof, have been the subject of criticism. Madhusree Mukerjee, author of Churchill's Secret War, has said that despite refusing to meet India's need for wheat, he continued to insist that it exported rice to fuel the war effort.

4. Statements about Gandhi
Churchill had strong views on the man now widely respected for his work in advocating self-determination for India. "It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir… striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal Palace," Churchill said of his anti-colonialist adversary in 1931.  "Gandhi should not be released on the account of a mere threat of fasting," Churchill told the cabinet on another occasion. "We should be rid of a bad man and an enemy of the Empire if he died."

5. Attitudes towards Jews
In 2012 there were objections to a proposed Churchill Centre in Jerusalem on the basis that he was "no stranger to the latent anti-Semitism of his generation and class". "Churchill with no doubt at all was a fervent Zionist," he says, "a fervent believer in the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own and that state should be in what we then called Palestine." But he also "shared the low-level casual anti-Semitism of his class and kind", he says. If we judged everyone of that era by the standards of 21st Century political correctness, they'd all be guilty, he notes. "It shouldn't blind us to the bigger picture."

6. Attitudes towards Islam
Paul Weston, chairman of the Liberty GB party, was arrested last year on suspicion of racial harassment after reading aloud some of Churchill's thoughts on Islam.  Weston was quoting from Churchill's 1899 book The River War, in which he wrote: "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia [rabies] in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

7. Treatment of strikers
Churchill's reputation as being anti-union primarily stems from an incident in 1910. His handling of the Tonypandy Riots that year was the source of much controversy and invited ill-feeling towards him in south Wales for the rest of his life. The riots had erupted in November 1910 in the south Wales town because of a dispute between workers and the mine owners, culminating in strikes that ultimately lasted almost a year. When the strikers clashed with local police, Churchill - then home secretary - sent in soldiers.

8. Sidney Street siege
Not long after the Tonypandy Riots, Churchill was under fire for rash involvement of a different sort.
The siege of Sidney Street was a gunfight in London's East End in January 1911. Some 200 police surrounded the hideout of a gang of Latvian anarchists led by "Peter the Painter", who had killed three policemen the month before. A long gun battle ended with the deaths of two of the gang, after Churchill had ordered firefighters not to put out the burning building they'd been hiding in until the shooting had stopped. But the controversy for Churchill arose from the appearance that he'd been issuing orders and directly meddling in police operations.

9. Role in Ireland
In January 1919 Churchill assumed the role of Secretary of State for War and Air. Eleven days later the Irish War of Independence began. Churchill's role in Ireland is most associated with deploying the controversial "Black and Tans" to fight the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Named after their uniforms, these temporary constables soon developed a reputation for excessive violence.  Although Churchill was against home rule for Ireland and initially implemented harsh repression, he was also an early advocate of partition, Toye explains. Churchill played a key role in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which ended the war.  He also recognised the role that Irish personnel serving in the British armed forces played in both WW1 and later in WW2, adds Toye.

10. Cash for influence
"In return for a fee of £5,000 two oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Burmah Anglo-Persian Oil Company [later BP], asked him to represent them in their application to the government for a merger," Gilbert's official biography stated.  By modern British political standards, the 1923 payment would be considered highly inappropriate.

^ I have scaled down this very long article. It is always interesting to learn the "behind the scenes" story of famous people. Every politician and historical person (both good and bad) has a side that isn't taught in schools We need to learn the truth as well as remember the time the person lived and what they did overall. ^

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