Why we must know Winston Churchill beyond Darkest Hour: Twitter thread rips apart his legacy
History has been too kind to the World War II 'hero'.
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With Darkest Hour, a new movie about one of modern history's most controversial figures – British statesman, army officer and Nobel laureate Winston Churchill – making waves, one would hope that the audience, especially on this side of the world, recalls what the man did, and what he could have prevented.
A recent blog post by former UK prime minister David Cameron’s ex-press chief, Giles Kenningham, asks a peculiar question: “Would Winston Churchill have survived public life in the age of Twitter?”
It is but fitting that the poser comes in the same week the official Twitter account for Ireland, curated by a new person each week, set off a social media storm by lambasting Churchill, who served as prime minister of Britain in what is regarded as the most tumultuous period in the modern era.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
History has been kind to Winston Churchill – after all, most would only know him as the grumpy old Brit from World War II, under whose leadership the Axis powers crumbled, albeit with the help of Russians, Americans, the French, Indians and other allies. He is remembered, almost fondly, as the gruff voice from radio broadcasts and rallies that provided Britain with the reassurances it needed during World War II, as German planes bombed city after city.
While Kenningham’s blog only notes that “Winston Churchill, with his acidic tongue and fondness for a drink, may have run into trouble in the modern era”, the Ireland thread on Twitter is an unsparing look at the statesman's legacy – especially his viciousness, his brutality and his bigotry.
Ireland (curated by David, a podcaster, last week) starts with Afghanistan and Churchill's treatment of the Pashtuns.
Well start with Afghanistan. While he was there Churchill discovered his passion for war and viewed the Pashtuns as beneath him. Going so far as saying that “all who resist will be killed without quarter.” That they “needed to recognise the superiority of race”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
He wrote about how “We systematically, village by village destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
The glee and pride is palpable. He also spoke of how “Every tribesman caught was speared or cut down at once”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
He moves on to other nations like Greece, Iran, Iraq, Kenya and South Africa – describing Churchill’s bloodlust and warmongering that led to deaths, rapes, torture and displacement of hundreds of thousands.
Let’s move to Greece.Under the orders of Churchill, the British Army opened fire on protestors on the streets of Athens in 1944. 28 were killed and there was over 120 injured.British demanded that all protesters/guerilla groups were to disarm immediately— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Anybody want to guess what happened next?The following day 200,000 people took to the streets in a riot and this is when the army turned on the people and fired. Under Churchill’s orders.See he haaaaated ELAS and EAM. (These guys literally ran Nazis out of the country)— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
So before my mentions start filling up with people defending him saying BUT WHAT ABOUT WORLD WAR II??????!These actions here show how they were motivated solely by the paranoia fear and hatred for communism.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
See, Churchill’s whole plan for Greece was to restore the monarchy and Soviet forces were well received in Greece. He backed the right wing government that came in because of course he did. Even though it was THAT VERY RESISTANCE that drove Nazis from Greece??— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Then tonlut a cherry on top he appoints Charles Wickham to head up the training of the Greek security police.Anybody know who Charles Wickham is?He was a commander of the RUC between 1922-1945 in British occupied Ireland.In other words, a prick.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Iran was “a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams”Well... not Iran. Iran’s oil.Churchill was in the middle of Iran’s affairs for YEARS. He excluded Iranians from natural resources and encouraged looting When most lived in severe and abject poverty.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
In 1914 Churchill came up with the idea of the British government being the major shareholder in the Anglo-Iranian oil company. It wouldn’t pay Iran dividends before paying tax to British Exchequer. Illegally taxing Iranian government.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
When Mohammad Mosaddegh threatened England interests, Churchill was ready to protect them no matter what.He helped organise a coup. Democracy eh? Funny old thing.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
The BBC sent coded messages over to the Shah to let them know when to overthrow the government. Sorry, democratically elected government. Instead of ending broadcasts with “its now midnight in London” they said “its now exactly midnight”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Iraq.Churchill was “Secretary of State for the Colonies” in ‘21. This is when he decided air power was superior to troops on the ground and he just bombed the shit out of any resistance— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against the uncivilised tribes, it would spread a lively terror”I’m assuming after he said this he laughed maniacally?He bombed Mesopotamia a full village wiped out in 45 minutes.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Kenya.Churchill believed in protecting the institutionalised racism spread through their colonies to exploit the population and take their resources.Obviously believed the fertile highlands were for white colonial settlers. He forcibly removed the local population— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
And here’s one for you all. Over 150,000 men women and children were forced into concentration camps. Yep. You read that right.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
He also shut down schools because he saw them as “training grounds for rebellion”It’s like @akalamusic says “When a people are enslaved one of the first things they’ll do is stop them reading cause it is understood intelligent people will rise and take their freedom”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Rape castrations cigarettes electric shocks and fire were all used by the Brits to torture Kenyans all under Churchill’s rule.Remember when Obama sent back the bust of Churchill? His grandad was tortured under the British army.OF COURSE HE SENT IT BACK— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
South Africa:Churchill summed up his time here by saying “It was great fun galloping about” (there were also British run concentration camps at the time here) he believed that Afrikaners should be allowed “self rule” in other words exclude PoC from voting.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
He stated to Parliament that “We must be bound by the interpretation which the other party places on it and it is undoubted that the Boers would regard it as a breach of that treaty if the franchise were in the first instance extended to any persons who are not white”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
David also mentioned a historical event that hits home: the Bengal Famine of 1942-1943, which resulted in the death of millions of India's poorest; different accounts cite tolls that vary from two million to five million. While there are some who are quick to place the blame on Churchill’s confidant and adviser, Frederick Lindemann, it is hard not to feel spite for the man who deliberately created a situation in Bengal that led to starvation and death.
According to historian Madhushree Mukherjee, the author of Churchill’s Secret War, the empire and Churchill were culpable for their deliberate negligence by causing the famine and then exacerbating it.
Large-scale exports of food from British India – more than 70,000 tonnes of rice – set aside for consumption during a war fought by Britain using large numbers of Indian soldiers would have kept nearly 4,00,000 people alive for a full year. But Churchill did not care. “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” Churchill famously said.
His actions would be dubbed war crimes today.
India.This is where his dark side is just unfor-fucking-givable. He orchestrated a mass genocide in Bengal.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
It was a “famine” in the same sense that we had a “famine” over here.He starved over 4 million Bengalis in 1943.“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
They literally took boats full of rice from starving people to ship to the Middle East where it wasn’t even needed? When they asked for food Churchill said that the famine was their own fault for “breeding like rabbits”— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
I mean his attitude was so horrible that Leo Amery, British Secretary of State in India , said that he “didn’t see much difference between his outlook and Hitlers”Churchill refused all said to Bengal. Canada and US offered rice and he refused.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
He really fucked India over.— Ireland / David (@ireland) January 20, 2018
Romanticising Churchill and British colonialism has made the world forget the crimes he committed against humanity. A Jacobin profile of Churchill notes that the reason why people, especially the British, view the white-washed history of the venerated leader with rose-tinted glasses is because “his history is [their] history”.