When it comes to Iran, Winston Churchill was a scumbag

A few weeks ago, there was a massive remembrance marking 50 years since Winston Churchill’s died. He has taken almost mythical place in British history, much like Ronald Reagan has in America. The irony of it all, is that in fact Churchill’s (and Reagan’s) legacy is a very dark, poisoned one. People have conveniently forgotten about how so many problems we face today are directly a result of idiotic decisions or deliberately evil decisions made by heartless, ruthless leaders like Churchill. There are many illustrations of this fact, but let’s for a moment consider: Iran.

Churchill, as we all know, persuaded President Eisenhower that a Russian invasion of Iran was imminent – and that the communists had taken over government in Iran! And this led to the Eisenhower authorizing “Project Ajax” to topple Iran’s democratically elected government in favor of the Shah of Iran’s dictatorship. This fateful decision, changed the course of history not only in Iran, but the whole region, and perhaps even the whole world.  Now in hind-sight is was simply wrong. And I can explain in more detail later in this article, but Churchill really should have known better. He absolutely had the knowledge and experience to avoid making such a mistake. Let’s consider his bio as it relates to Iran, shall we?

Many people may not know, that before Churchill became a politician, he was a warrior, a fighter, a military man. He joined the army as a young man, and saw action in British India, Sudan, and the Boer War (in South Africa). He in fact famously wrote books about his adventures, which by the way included a stint as a war correspondent in Cuba (where he developed a lifelong passion for Cigars). Upon retiring from the Army in 1900, he became a ‘professional’ British politician for over 50 years. He served in very senior government positions from before the first world war: President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Minister for Munitions, Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air, Secretary of State for Colonies, Chancellor of Exchequer before eventually becoming Prime Minister in in May 1940 when Chamberlain resigned (after the outbreak of the war).

It is true that Churchill led Britain out of the abyss, against what seemed to be almost certain defeat by the Nazi’s. He is being primarily celebrated for that achievement. His brilliance, if you will, was understanding the psychology of Americans, and figuring out how to leverage America’s massive military and economic might to rescue Britain. His mother, after all was an American. And he had unique connections to the U.S.

But, this achievement overshadows his many idiotic mistakes. He famously opposed increasing ‘home’ rule in India (which eventually led to Indian independence). A more sophisticated approach would have more likely have softened Ghandi’s appeal. He famously favored Ghandi’s death when he went on hunger strike.In 1943, when India was facing a massive food shortage, he opposed the diversion of food supplies to India. In response to an urgent request by the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Viceroy of India, Wavell, to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, “why Gandhi hadn’t died yet. This food shortage led to over 4 million deaths in India due to the “Bengal famine.

And even before the Second World War, he famously led the Galipoli Campaign as the first lord of the Admiralty, which was an absolute disaster.

As Chancellor of the Exchequer he was responsible for returning the British Pound to the gold standard, which now in retrospect was a foolish decision. It placed massive deflationary pressures on the British economy, and precipitated the great depression not just in Britain but throughout Europe. It was this ‘pressure’ that led to Hitler’s rise in Germany.

As the first lord of the Admiralty in 1911, he famously made a strategic decision to convert all of Britain’s navy ship to oil from coal. And this in effect made oil a critical commodity. A British entrepreneur, at that time, had discovered major oil reserves in Iran. A new company called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (which later changed its name to BP) had entered into a royalty bearing agreement with the Iranian government to export this oil, and had become a major player in the world oil business as a result. He also ensured that the British government took a ‘stake’ in the oil company – in effect linking BP’s future with the British government. Churchill’s decision, in effect gave what is now BP, a huge lifeline. After the war, in 1923, Churchill served as a paid lobbyist for that same company to gain British government support for their exclusive monopoly of Iran’s oil industry.

Churchill was a party to virtually every major treaty that would redraw the maps of Europe and Asia.

This included the redrawing of places like Iraq.  And he famously authorized the use of nerve gas against the Kurds in Iraq when they rebelled against British rule – this was long before Saddam Hussein did the exact same thing (with Western Assistance) in the 90’s.  In fact when questioned on the subject in closed door inquiries he is quoted as follows:

“I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favor of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gases: gases can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected … We cannot, in any circumstances acquiesce to the non-utilization of any weapons which are available to procure a speedy termination of the disorder which prevails on the frontier.”

It is evident that he had very low regard for non-British life. Churchill was a bastard. He was a racist.

In a speech in front of the House of Commons in July 8, 1920 “Amritsar”, he declared:

“I cannot pretend to feel impartial about the colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.”

And again in a speech in the House of Commons, September 8, 1942 “War Situation”, he said:

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion”

Leopold Amery, Churchill’s own Secretary of State for India, likened his boss’s understanding of India’s problems to King George III’s apathy for the Americas. Amery vented in his private diaries, writing “on the subject of India, Winston is not quite sane” and that he didn’t “see much difference between [Churchill’s] outlook and Hitler’s.”

“The rival nationalisms and politicized religions the British Empire brought into being now clash in an enlarged geopolitical arena,” writes Indian author PrikashMishra (in the New Yorker), gesturing to the spread and growth of political Islam in parts of South Asia and the Middle East. “And the human costs of imperial overreaching seem unlikely to attain a final tally for many more decades.”

Churchill was one of a coterie of imperial rulers who worked to create sectarian fissures within India’s independence movement between Indian Hindus and Muslims, which led to the brutal partition of India when the former colony finally did win its freedom in 1947. Millions died or were displaced in an orgy of bloodshed that still echoes in the region’s tense politics to this day.

Winston Churchill, really screwed up the world. And he stands as an icon to so many – that would emulate him and feel honored by his leadership. Most particularly the Brits.

But his life and reasoning provides a deep insight into the Brits who totally revere him. It totally reveals how they truly think and feel.

Iranians take note. We should never allude ourselves that the Brits (indeed the Europeans) will ever respect Iran, Iranian sovereign integrity and Iranian prosperity. Winston Churchill and those that support them are the very essence of Iran’s enemies. As long as they are alive, Iranians will never prosper and live with dignity. For them we are mere ants to be squashed and raped for their personal wealth. We have no value. We never did have any fundamental value. The celebration of Winston Churchill in Britain recently is living proof of that. According to him, Iranians never had any right to insist that BP pay its contractual 9% royalties to Iran in full or on time. Iranians were to be raped and pillaged without due process i.e. we were always mere slaves in Winston’s eyes. And look at the price we are still paying with British backed mullahs in power in Tehran? It’s all ever been Winston’s doing.

50 years after his death, we should mourn the world he created for us Iranians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Churchill, after all, has been posthumously voted by his countrymen as the greatest Briton. The presence (and absence) of his bust in the White House was enough to create political scandal on both sides of the pond. The allure of his name is so strong that it launches a thousand quotations, many of which are apocryphal. At its core, Churchill’s myth serves as a ready-made metaphor for boldness and leadership, no matter how vacuous the context in which said metaphor is deployed.

 

For example, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair earned comparisons to Churchill after dragging his country into the much-maligned 2003 Iraq war. So too Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose tough stance on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been cast by some in Churchill’s heroic mold — the Israeli premier’s uncompromising resolve a foil to the supposed “appeasement” tendencies of President Obama.

 

In the West, Churchill is a freedom fighter, the man who grimly withstood Nazism and helped save Western liberal democracy. It’s a civilizational legacy that has been polished and placed on a mantle for decades. Churchill “launched the lifeboats,” declared Time magazine, on the cover of its Jan. 2, 1950 issue that hailed the British leader as the “man of the half century.”

 

But there’s another side to Churchill’s politics and career that should not be forgotten amid the endless parade of eulogies.  To many outside the West, he remains a grotesque racist and a stubborn imperialist, forever on the wrong side of history.

 

Churchill’s detractors point to his well-documented bigotry, articulated often with shocking callousness and contempt. “I hate Indians,” he once trumpeted. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

 

He referred to Palestinians as “barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung.” When quashing insurgents in Sudan in the earlier days of his imperial career, Churchill boasted of killing three “savages.” Contemplating restive populations in northwest Asia, he infamously lamented the “squeamishness” of his colleagues, who were not in “favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes.”

 

At this point, you may say, so what? Churchill’s attitudes were hardly unique for the age in which he expounded them. All great men have flaws and contradictions — some of America’s founding fathers, those paragons of liberty, were slave owners. One of Churchill’s biographers, cited by my colleague Karla Adam, insists that his failings were ultimately “unimportant, all of them, compared to the centrality of the point of Winston Churchill, which is that he saved [Britain] from being invaded by the Nazis.”

 

But that should not obscure the dangers of his worldview. Churchill’s racism was wrapped up in his Tory zeal for empire, one which irked his wartime ally, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a junior member of parliament, Churchill had cheered on Britain’s plan for more conquests, insisting that its “Aryan stock is bound to triumph.” It’s strange to celebrate his bravado in the face of Hitler’s war machine and not consider his wider thinking on other parts of the world. After all, these are places that, just like Europe and the West, still live with the legacy of Churchill’s and Britain’s actions at the time.

 

India, Britain’s most important colonial possession, most animated Churchill. He despised the Indian independence movement and its spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi, whom he described as “half-naked” and labeled a “seditious fakir,” or holy man. Most notoriously, Churchill presided over the hideous 1943 famine in Bengal, where some 3 million Indians perished, largely as a result of British imperial mismanagement. Churchill was both indifferent to the Indian plight and even mocked the millions suffering, chuckling over the culling of a population that bred “like rabbits.”

 

Leopold Amery, Churchill’s own Secretary of State for India, likened his boss’s understanding of India’s problems to King George III’s apathy for the Americas. Amery vented in his private diaries, writing “on the subject of India, Winston is not quite sane” and that he didn’t “see much difference between [Churchill’s] outlook and Hitler’s.”

 

When Churchill did apply his attention to the subcontinent, it had other dire effects. As the Indian writer Pankaj Mishra explains in the New Yorker, Churchill was one of a coterie of imperial rulers who worked to create sectarian fissures within India’s independence movement between Indian Hindus and Muslims, which led to the brutal partition of India when the former colony finally did win its freedom in 1947. Millions died or were displaced in an orgy of bloodshed that still echoes in the region’s tense politics to this day. (India, it should be noted, was far from the only corner of the British empire victim to such divide-and-rule tactics.)

 

“The rival nationalisms and politicized religions the British Empire brought into being now clash in an enlarged geopolitical arena,” writes Mishra, gesturing to the spread and growth of political Islam in parts of South Asia and the Middle East. “And the human costs of imperial overreaching seem unlikely to attain a final tally for many more decades.”

 

When measuring up Churchill’s legacy, that tally must be taken into account.

47 thoughts on “When it comes to Iran, Winston Churchill was a scumbag

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