Friday, 26 April 2013

Like minds: Churchill & Assad

Someone at Sky news has a mischievous nature, putting the story of Britain condemning Syria for 'war crimes' in using chemical weapons alongside the story that Winston Churchill is to appear on our five pounds notes.
The wartime leader will feature on the new banknote when it is issued in 2016 stating that 'Our banknotes acknowledge the life and work of great Britons. Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer'.
He was also a very keen advocate of using chemical weapons, urging a chemical strike on German cities using poison gas and anthrax in a memo to bomber command asking his military chiefs to 'think very seriously over this question of using poison gas'.
'I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent' he wrote and when it was rejected as it would 'seriously impair our relations with the civilian population when it became generally known that chemical warfare was first employed by us', Winnie responded: 'I am not at all convinced by this negative report. The matter should be kept under review'.
Along with his words during the 1919 Iraqi uprising where he argued that: 'I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes' it is nice that we can tie together two stories 70 years apart.
Two like minds but one hailed as a true great and gets his face on a British fiver, another demonised as a maniac who isn't fit to run a country.


Cheezy said...

A bit harsh, judging people from several generations ago, based on modern morals and mores?

Churchill wasn't like the chicken-hawk western leaders of today. He actually fought in some pretty tasty conflicts.

He was fairly 'unreconstructed' by modern standards, but we have lots to be grateful to him for.

Lucy said...

Chemical attacks and the threat of them, spans the generations and was as deplored then as they are now.

Cheezy said...

I disagree somewhat. Chemical and biological weapons are seen by us, in 2013, as being particularly evil, primarily because they are unpredictable and therefore it is difficult to use them without potentially affecting civilian populations. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century however (and obviously before), it was normal to see certain groups of people who comprised these civilian populations as not being equal to oneself or one’s own people… It sounds nasty to our ears – and rightly so – but many other races/cultures were widely considered to not even be fully human. So any tactic of war that wiped out, say, a village, did not attract anything like the opprobrium among the general population as a Srebrenica-style massacre (correctly) causes today… (partly because there was no 6 o’clock news to show the results, perhaps, but also partly because of chauvinistic feelings about the superiority of one’s own culture).

Churchill’s remark about ‘uncivilised tribes’ shows this very plainly. It was a lack of education and sophistication regarding other societies – a worldview which was basically adjusted in the right direction throughout the 20th century, with the unconscionable behaviour of the Nazis (particularly) doing much to affect the general global consciousness on this matter. But a hundred and something years ago, ideas about equality and human rights and whatnot had not developed to anything like the same extent… Even Abraham Lincoln was a racist, by today’s standards. When he said ‘all men are created equal’, he meant all white men.

Lucy said...

I would argue that as he was turned down by bomber command and the military chiefs, that he was alone in not seeing that the use of the weapons would be reprehensible to the British public, a fact that seems to have bypassed him even after they said no. Doesn't show him in the best of lights if he was the only one who considered the enemy not fully human or unequal.

Cheezy said...

I think that, as someone who saw action himself, he knew that people are just as dead whether they get an incendiary bomb dropped onto their house or whether they get poisoned by gas. He was looking for the solution that would bring the war to an end the quickest (as was Bomber Command, they just had different opinions on the best way to bring this about - and for what it's worth I agree with them on this matter - instead, they unleashed hell upon Dresden, Nuremburg etc, and killed a massive amount of people more 'humanely')...

Plus, once you decide to drop bombs on a city in order to kill and terrorise a civilian population - which is the decision that the enemy made first, rather than Churchill - the gloves come off.