“My life is my message.”
In my penultimate post on war and literature, I remarked that I would give former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the last word on the state of things in our world today.
Since his wilderness days in the British House of Commons Churchill was correct in warning the House of future geopolitical dangers which threatened Great Britain. He coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” in anticipation of the lengthy cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States after the end of the Second World War.
Churchill’s fondness and enthusiasm for making suggestions on how to conquer looming crises was never appreciated. Most admirers of Churchill argue that he was invariably correct and that his peers should have heeded his persistent warnings and accommodated his proposals for establishing world-wide peace. After much of Europe had been obliterated by a long and bloody war, he witnessed the establishment of today’s United Nations which replaced the League of Nations.
I admired Winston Churchill for the way in which he rallied his crumbling British Empire to respond vigilantly to Adolf Hitler’s offensive over most of Europe. Churchill’s reluctant ally, Franklin D Roosevelt, was never persuaded to join in a world war against fascism. Roosevelt used Congress to excuse his reluctance. Desperate, Churchill acceded to Roosevelt’s terms in a dubious loan scheme set up to aid the British war effort. It bankrupted the UK.
Only after Pearl Harbour was bombed did the Americans join the second World War.
Churchill was often wrong too.
And he believed that a third world war would come too. But he could never imagine how it would start. Many believe in the (false) prophetic warnings of Nostradamus who imagined the coming of three anti Christs. Such men would wreak havoc across the world. The French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, conquered most of Europe. But he was crushed when he launched an assault across the great plains of Mother Russia.
Later, the deranged Hitler ignored history and Bonaparte’s military mistakes and launched a similar attack on Stalin’s Russia.
The true nature of the third anti-Christ, according to Nostradamus’ predictions, remains a mystery. What is believed, though, is that this third demonic personage would be killed shortly after launching the third World War. After destroying the World Trade Centre in New York City, many thought Osama bin-Laden was the third anti-Christ. I didn’t. After three thousand unarmed civilians were murdered, George W Bush began his (planned) world war against terror.
The world had to wait for the arrival of Barack Obama to see bin-Laden eventually fall. While Obama wages war against the proclaimed Islamic State, ignoring the Zionists’ persecution of Palestinians, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, rattles his sabres for a military confrontation with NATO.
Putin sanctimoniously reminded his agitators of his nation’s vast nuclear weapons arsenal. Obama’s arsenal is larger. The Israeli’s have theirs too. This is the result of what followed Harry Truman’s decision to bomb Nagasaki and Hiroshima with atomic bombs. Contrary to ending the war of all wars, this bombing killed thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. Churchill gave his reluctant approval to the building of nuclear weapons, foolishly believing that holding such a cache of dangerous weapons would act as a deterrent against any aggression towards his nation and allies. After all, who would be mad or evil enough to risk the destruction of the world?
But, then came the Bay of Pigs. While Nikita Krushchev threatened the American coastline, John F Kennedy braced himself for destruction. After his murder, his successor presided over the brutal and bloody bombing of thousands of innocent Vietnamese men, women and children with chemical weapons after audaciously testing such weapons in central Africa.
Since Churchill’s warnings of Hitler and Stalin, it appeared that all his speeches and detailed pamphlets had fallen on deaf ears. But the Americans heard him, loud and clear, going about their own plan of world domination.
The foundation of Churchill’s understanding of the emergence of Germany and Russia as prosperous, but dangerous nations, and his ignorance of the USA as a similarly dangerous nation, started during his early military forays in Cuba, India, the Sudan and South Africa. He maintained a steadfast, but stubborn belief in upholding the might of the British Empire.
His predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, sought peace, but failed in his dealings with the evil German dictator. After his reluctant declaration of war against Germany, he resigned. Then Churchill’s glory days as Britain’s war-time prime minister began. His subjects were desperate and were willing to forget Churchill’s previous blunders during the first Great War.
After Britain and its new allies defeated Hitler and Germany in 1945, Churchill’s conservative economic policies paved the way for his electoral defeat to the incompetent socialist prime minister, Anthony Eden. Churchill returned to power later and led Britain’s economic recovery. Britain’s status as a leading military and economically powerful nation can be credited to Churchill. Churchill would no doubt gladly add that it is in fact due to years of British empirical rule over most of the world during the nineteenth century.
But, it is universally acknowledged that if it wasn’t for Churchill’s powers of persuasion and his skills as an orator against Hitler’s propaganda and cult status, the world in which we live in today would look very different.
Throughout his tenure as a member of Parliament and later as Prime Minister, Churchill made many rousing and persuasive speeches with resounding calls to the British people. It is worth quoting two of Churchill’s most famous utterances against Fascism;
“…all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States…will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age…Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last of a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”
Churchill expressed similar thoughts to Hitler’s ideas of a master race and Third Reich lasting for “a thousand years.” Later, when Britain was about to be attacked by Germany from the air, Churchill made his most famous statement in defence of freedom and democracy. After September 11, 2001, Churchill’s rallying cry would be echoed by George W Bush;
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
The indomitable and stubborn leadership of Churchill has, for better or worse, infected the American nation and its leaders. In the aftermath of Osama bin-Laden’s attacks on their bloodied soil, Bush fortuitously manipulated Churchill’s sound bites during his declaration of his “war on terror.” Addressing the Americans, he said;
“We shall not fail, or falter, and we will not fail.”
The USA’s belligerence has today cost the lives of thousands of innocent lives. That it is not close to the 6 million European Jews who died at the hands of Hitler and the 50 million men and women who died during the Second World War is a moot point.
Throughout his war years, Churchill was widely criticised within government and media circles for his domineering and fantastical manner. But we could argue that if it were not for his self-belief and sense of destiny, victory over Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy may not have been possible.
Churchill’s powerful belief in self extended to the British population and its American and colonial allies. Such a sense of belief did not extend, however, to the large multicultural and multi-religious population of a sub-continent which was later partitioned into two nations; India and Pakistan.
While he warned the House of Commons in 1931 of the looming dangers of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and the possibilities for another great war, he also issued ominous notes in defence of the preservation of the British Empire. While he lambasted the British government for its inept rule of Palestine, favouring self-rule for the Israelis and declaring himself a life-long Zionist, he took a different position to India’s desire for independence;
“The loss of India would be final and fatal to us. It could not fail to be part of a process that would reduce us to the scale of a minor power.”
Churchill’s powers of persuasion extended to the great Mahatma, a life-long pacifist who did not favour going to war on behalf of the British Empire. After Churchill convinced Gandhi that the dangers of Hitler’s march would threaten the borders of India, Gandhi relented, believing that the Indian people would ultimately be rewarded for their servitude in defending the greater good, not just for India, but for the rest of the world.
The last word does not go to Winston Churchill.
It goes to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Small in size, but greater than any other leader of the twentieth century, I believe that Gandhi’s long mission for freedom and peace, not just for the multicultural India, but for all oppressed by evil regimes and stronger nations, was not in vain. I can think of no other leader who sacrificed so much on behalf of others. After all, Gandhi went without food for weeks until all of India put aside its hate and differences out of concern for the great man’s failing health.
He did not live to see a world at peace with itself. Good will triumph over evil. Peace will come.
Great leaders come and go. Today, I can think of only two surviving leaders who closely replicate Gandhi’s motto;
“My life is my message.”