The movie “The Darkest Hour” which eulogizes Churchill’s leadership of Great Britain into and during World War II is currently playing in the Canadian movie theaters.
The movie has been warmly received as Canada fought hard alongside the British to defeat the evil Nazi empire. And to this day, Canadians are still moved by Churchill’s finely phrased stirring patriotic speeches extolling heroism -what Harold Evans called, “the British Lionheart on the ramparts of civilization speeches”.
Unfortunately,the pleasure I got from watching the movie was abruptly ended. As a great admirer of Churchill’s wartime performance, I got shell-shocked by Shashi Tharoor opinion piece titled Winston Churchill, Hollywood rewards a mass murderer which appeared in the Washington Post of March 10.
Mr. Tharoor is Chair of the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, the author of Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India, which I have yet to read..
In the article, the author does not limit himself specifically to Churchill’s alleged murderous and racist behaviour in India. He goes beyond it to refer to Churchill’s murderous words in the fight during Irish independence; in dealing with the unrest in Mesopotamia in 1921 where he is alleged to have ordered murderous large-scale bombing; doing the same in Afghanistan against the Pashtun where Churchill is alleged to have described in writing the systematic destruction of houses, infrastructure, cutting down, shady trees, burning crops and breaking the reservoirs in punitive devastation and spearing or cutting down every tribesman ; in Kenya where he is alleged to have either directed or was complicit in policies involving the forced relocation of local people to make way for the white settlers and the forcing of more than 150,000 people into concentration camps; and further, allegedly allowing the India Office to resort to all kinds barbarism to torture Kenyans; and in 1944 , in Greece, ordering that the Greek protesters on the street of Athens be mowed down.
In India, Churchill is alleged to have starved to death four million Bengalis during the 1943 famine, among other things, by allegedly ordering the export of India’s surplus of grains and the diversion of the Australian ships laden with wheat destined for Calcutta to the Mediterranean and Balkan food depots to increase the buffer stocks for a possible future invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia.
Tharoor further alleges that “Even his own secretary of state for India, Leopold Amery, confessed that he could see very little difference between Churchill’s attitude and Adolf Hitler’s.” At all events, his statement compares the “attitude” of the two men and not to their respective deeds. Attitudes and actions are not synonymous.
The author concludes: “Many of us,(presumably referring to Indians) will remember Churchill as a war criminal and an enemy of decency and humanity, a blinkered imperialist untroubled by the oppression of non-white peoples. Ultimately, his great failure-his long darkest hour-was his constant effort to deny us freedom”.
To the best of my knowledge, there has not been an opinion piece to rebut Tharoor’s allegations.
I very much hope that there will be an authoritative one and soon, that will reassure us that we have not been conned by the academic establishment for the last seven decades ; nowadays, an all too common occurrence in North American academia where post-modernists; hard ideologues, mostly of the left; proponents of the silly “so-called” theory of intersectionality, to name a few, seem to be having a field day.