I was overwhelmed early in the pandemic with fiction and history books when I came across The Churchill Factor, an entertaining story of dramatized history, written by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to educate young minds about their English hero and the oldest to remind the British. greatness.
Johnson, who likes to be seen as Churchill’s heir, used the “spiritual” 2014 bestseller to storm the national political arena, to fight the Brexit issue, with the Conservative government as Secretary of State to join before finally replacing Theresa May as Prime Minister in 2019.
To fit his political ambition, Johnson may have presented a “barbarically simplified” Churchill attack on Europe, in the words of American-Dutch historian Felix Klos, who wrote Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe.
Actually, Johnson did what the old fool himself said, albeit half jokingly, “give me the facts … and I’ll twist it as I please with my argument”. Here the facts are mere quotations, and Churchill’s 43 books in 72 volumes offer, in addition to his innumerable articles, speeches, and letters, many, well, quotes to choose from at will.
Johnson, who in his book promises to play the “devil’s advocate” from the outset, does not hesitate to recall some of Churchill’s despicable racist beliefs, reckless decisions and wrong policies, but he is quick to dismiss them. show with complicated counters. arguments and linguistic acrobatics he learned to study the classics at Oxford. He calls them “unpasteurized” Churchill.
For Boris, Churchill’s many “jolly little wars” in the colonies were pale in comparison to his achievement in “saving civilization” during World War II, which was idolized and popularized in countless books, articles, films, etc. The point is, one does not have to like Churchill to find him completely fascinating, as I have.
As a self-appointed authority on b ****** t I could easily locate the humbug on every other page, but as a student of British European history I could not comprehend the full extent of Johnson’s “barbaric simplification”. , not until I read Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s new book, Churchill’s Shadow.
The British historian and journalist sketches a prosecutor’s case against Churchill, collects and examines the evidence with forensic accuracy, and highlights some damning eyewitness accounts by those who knew him best, all culminating in a well-documented charge of Johnson’s hero.
Wheatcroft examines Churchill’s indifference to human suffering since he first served as a young officer who jumped from Asia to Africa, his utter failure as commander of the British navy in World War I, and his opposition as secretary of state for the colonies for all indigenous peoples. self-determination and democracy.
Most strikingly, Wheatcroft mocks the Prime Minister’s World War II record, for which Churchill is so honored, mocks his passion and pursuit of what was apparently a one-sided “special relationship” with the United States, and rubs his nose in the loss of the empire he so cherished.
He focuses on Churchill’s ‘unpasteurized’ belief in the myth of “racial superiority” of the Anglo-Saxon white race, pointing out, for example, that he pleaded with the Tories for the slogan “Keep England White” in the 1950s. to use.
Wheatcroft argues that Churchill’s support for Zionism was driven by a combination of British imperialism, European colonialism, and “racial superiority”. Churchill believed that the Palestinians should not be entrusted with their homeland, and the Jews are “a higher race” than the Arabs.
Paradoxically, according to Wheatcroft, Churchill’s victory over the horrific Nazis who killed millions of Jews made the language he used in support of Zionism unbearable. This may be too optimistic.
In any case, Churchill, who was considering the establishment of a strong, free Jewish state of “immense benefit to the British Empire”, eagerly supported the Balfour Declaration in favor of such an entity in 1917 as a cabinet member.
For the sake of the record, and according to Churchill’s own son and grandson in their co-author book, The Six Day War, “Britain tried to arouse World Jew, and especially Russian and American Judaism” to gain their support get for the fight against the Central Powers (the German and Austro-Hungarian empires) in the First World War. And it was in this pursuit that the Balfour Declaration was made public.
Churchill, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, was admittedly an incredible orator and excellent rhetorician, who brilliantly and courageously “mobilized the English language and sent it to battle”, making some of the most inspiring speeches ever made. or heard, held. .
His famous speech “has never been so much owed by so many to so few”, reflecting the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) heroic defense of British civilians against Nazi bombings, is indeed very memorable.
Unfortunately, the reality is more messy and more complicated than any speech. Under Churchill’s leadership, the RAF was relatively ineffective against the Nazi war machine, but proved useful in “disciplining” the empire by bombing rebel communities in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, and Palestine during the first half of the 20th century.
In short, Wheatcroft’s 640-page book is “the best single volume of Churchill indictments ever written” to quote a New York Times review, in which Churchill is portrayed as a greedy and cruel person, an opportunistic politician, a racist imperialist and an impulsive failed strategist. .
But it’s more than that: it’s a damning critique of Churchill’s record of abuse before his death by British, American and Israeli politicians and its consequences for the rest of the world.
Although he does not spell it out, Wheatcroft’s dissertation is a rip-off of Johnson’s “rested” biography. In an article entitled “Johnson as Churchill? History really does repeat as farce”, Wheatcroft does not hide his contempt for the current British Prime Minister’s efforts to draw equality between himself and the man he calls Britain’s savior. does not promote.
But the joke is by no means limited to Johnson. The British right wing also revived Churchill’s memory, which often speaks of the European Union as if it were Nazi Germany.
In fact, Churchill can be many things to many people, anything to anyone. Wheatcroft tells, for example, how John F Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Menachem Begin, Yasser Arafat, and countless others have tended to compare themselves to Churchill since before his death.
But it is in the United States where Churchill has proved a perverted inspiration, especially for racists and warriors during and after the Cold War.
The neoconservative movement embraced him as his historical guru and the “prophet of the Cold War”, while his mouthpiece, The Weekly Standard, named him “the man of the century”.
Churchill, long regarded as an honorary founder of the state of Israel, has been repeatedly quoted by Israeli colonists as calling for (false) equality between Nazi Germany and its Middle East enemies, such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Palestinian Yasser Arafat, or Iran’s Ali Khamenei.
These Churchillians rejected any geopolitical compromise as an evil path in the line of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “pause” of Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s.
Churchill himself would later remark that reconciliation is sometimes, especially one from a position of power, the best guarantee of peace. The Soviet Union, for example, did not collapse as a result of a war, but rather as a result of a degree of reconciliation by the West that allowed it to implode under the pressure of its own contradictions and inadequacies.
Wheatcroft may be right about Churchill’s injustice, or about his heirs right and left. But the attitude that underpinned Churchill’s support for Zionism is still tolerated where it counts, in Britain, the United States and Israel. As the signs of a new Cold War increase and the chances of a renewed Iran nuclear deal falter, Churchill’s abuse and appeasement abuses are back in vogue. And so does the racism that underlined his views on empire, Islam, human rights and immigration.