Winston Churchill is known world wide as a great statesman, a man of great wit, and for being the heroic and charismatic British leader that galvanized the UK during WW2 and helped defeat the Nazis. What is much less known about the man are the crimes he committed and how gruesome they were.
In 1943, some 3 million Indians, subjects of the British Empire, died in the Bengal famine as a direct result of Churchill’s actions as he could have stopped that famine but chose not to. Many observers in both modern India and Great Britain blame Winston Churchill, Britain’s inspiring wartime leader at the time, for the devastation wrought by the famine. In 2010, Bengali author Madhusree Mukherjee wrote a book about the famine called “Churchill’s Secret War,” in which she explicitly blamed Churchill for worsening the starvation in Bengal by ordering the diversion of food away from Indians and toward British troops around the world. Mukherjee’s book described how wheat from India and Australia (which could have been delivered to starving Indians) was instead transported to British troops in the Mediterranean and the Balkans even though those troops were already been properly supplied. Even worse, British colonial authorities (again under Churchill’s leadership) actually turned down offers of food from Canada and the U.S. This was nothing new by British standards, as the British were already responsible for a long series of famines in colonial India, and also in Ireland, but Churchill’s hatred of Indians might have played a role in the Bengal famine. According to historians Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper it was difficult not to conclude that the Churchill war ministry and Winston Churchill himself had a visceral hostility toward India; “The prime minister believed that Indians were the next worst people in the world after the Germans. Their treachery had been plain in the Quit India movement. The Germans he was prepared to bomb into the ground. The Indians would starve to death as a result of their own folly and viciousness.” Churchill’s hostility toward Indians has long been documented. Reportedly, when he first received a telegram from the British colonial authorities in New Delhi about the rising toll of famine deaths in Bengal, his reaction was simply that he regretted that nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi was not one of the victims. His attitude toward Indians was made crystal clear when he told Secretary of State for India Leopold Amery: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
Already in 1943 Churchill, along with FDR, decided to betray Poland, the UK’s ally in the war against Nazi Germany, and the reason why the UK declared war on Germany in the first place in 1939, and to sell it off to Stalin, for him to do with it as he pleased. All this despite the official treaties the UK had with Poland, the equivalent of modern day NATO treaties, stating that the UK guaranteed Poland’s borders, territory and independence after WW2 ended. Churchill kept his betrayal of Poland secret from the Polish government in exile because the allies did not want to lose the support of hundreds of thousands of Poles who were fighting the Germans with the various allied armies. This was not revealed to the Polish government, up until Stalin himself told the Polish prime minister, who flew to Moscow in 1944 to discuss the future of Poland, that there was nothing to discuss, that Poland would be part of the USSR and that everything was already agreed upon with Churchill and FDR in 1943 in the Tehran conference. Hundreds of thousands of Poles who fought on the allied side and helped it defeat Nazi Germany – including the Polish pilots that helped save the UK from a German invasion during the “Battle for Britian” – would never be allowed to return back to their homes, and were condemned to a life in exile in the UK and Western Europe while their country and people sufferd the horrors of Stalinism.
In the summer of 1919, Churchill, serving as Secretary of State for Air and War, planned and executed a sustained chemical attack on northern Russia. The British were no strangers to the use of chemical weapons. During the third battle of Gaza in 1917, General Edmund Allenby had fired 10,000 cans of asphyxiating gas at at the defending Ottoman troops, to limited effect. Even before his chemical attack in Russia, Churchill was a strong supporter of of using chemical attacks, despite knowing full well the inhumane suffering they caused, against Iraqis and Indians who had dared to rebel against the British empire. “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes,” he declared in one secret memorandum. He criticised his colleagues for their “squeamishness”, declaring that “the objections of the India Office to the use of gas against natives are unreasonable. A staggering 50,000 (an exploding shell containing a highly toxic gas called diphenylaminechloroarsine) were shipped to Russia: British aerial attacks using them began on 27 August 1919, targeting the village of Emtsa, 120 miles south of Archangel. Bolshevik soldiers and civilians were seen fleeing in panic as the green chemical gas drifted towards them. Those caught in the cloud vomited blood, then collapsed unconscious. The attacks continued throughout September on many Russian villages: Chunova, Vikhtova, Pocha, Chorga, Tavoigor and Zapolki, indiscriminately targeting soldiers and civilians alike.
In 1951, the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh had nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as BP). Mossadegh had first sought to audit the documents of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation (now part of BP) and to limit the company’s control over Iranian petroleum reserves. The reason being was that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was making huge profits from Iranian oil, while barely paying any royalties to the Iranian state. Upon the refusal of the AIOC to co-operate with the Iranian government, the parliament (Majlis) voted to nationalize Iran’s oil industry and to expel foreign corporate representatives from the country. This infuriated Britian and its prime minister Winston Churchill who immediately ordered MI6 (the British secret service) to launch a coup in Iran and replace Mossadegh. The Iranian government learned of Britain’s coup plans and had all British personal and diplomatic staff evicted from the country. Churchill was besides himself with anger over this failure, but he realized that if he were going to get rid of Mossadegh, he needed American help. At first the Truman administration refused Churchill’s plans to depose Mossadegh, but once president Eisenhower was elected in 1953 into office, he ordered the CIA to work with the UK and to regime change Iran.In 1953 the CIA sent their agents into Iran. In order to carry out thier coup plans, the CIA relied on a vast infrastructure and network of Iranian traitors, informants and spies in the Iranian press, parliament and the army that the MI6 and Britain had built in Iran for decades. Their first coup attempt which was launched on the 15th of august failed miserably, however the CIA agents quickly learned from their mistakes, and launched a successful second attempt on the 19th of august 1953. After the coup was over Iran was turned from a democratic country into a dictatorship, ruled by the Shah (the Iranian king) Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The Shah was basically a western puppet, whose sole role was to buy expensive western arms (he spent billions of dollars every year on US arms) and to supply the west with cheap oil, while persecuting anyone who dared to oppose his dictatorship as he ruled Iran with an iron fist. He cracked down on all the nationalist, secular, republican and secular forces in Iran, employing his Gestapo like secret service, the “Savak”, in rounding people up, torturing and killing anyone who posed a threat to his autocratic rule.
Churchill said that history would judge him kindly because he intended to write it himself, and he was right. The self-serving but elegant volumes he authored on the war led the Nobel Committee, unable in all conscience to bestow him an award for peace, to give him, astonishingly, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and made sure that his historical image would contain only his achievements, and none of his crimes.
“Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire and the War with Japan.” by Christopher Baylyand and Tim Harper.
“Churchill’s Secret War.” by Madhusree Mukerjee.
“Russian Roulette.” by Giles Milton.
“No simple victory.” by Norman Davies.
“All the Shah’s men.” by Stephen Kinzer.
Originally published on 2019-11-29
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