The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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Dear List, I tried to be careful when I answered Chris' message, but perhaps I wasn't careful enough. So I thought about it some more. Just by ending up with _Churchill did it, or or did it not_, may not be enough. There must be something positive for peace in this discussion. Reducing or eliminating cultural prejudice is a good way to secure peace. Without such prejudice, people will be immune to the fever pitch of war propaganda. And public support for wars will weaken. To get there, we'll have to challenge the so-called superiority of "western values" (ie, the US and THEM or GOOD and BAD syndrome). Not easy - that goes deep. (Churchill believed in it too.) Anyway, these were my thoughts when I quoted Churchill so extensively in my answer to Chris. Sorry if I seemed to cast aspersions on the "greatest individual". Churchill is just one example of the western value system, but a very very colourful one. So he gets remembered for his deeds. And these deeds are based on 'our' western values. ---Cultural prejudice In these Churchill quotes cultural prejudice is undeniable. This prejudice he shared with most of the western world. It still exists but tends to be latent. It also comes in subtle forms: 'we' have a religion, 'they' have a superstition; 'we' have denominations, 'they' have sects; 'we' have affiliations, 'they' have tribes. And 'we' are rational, 'they' are irrational. So Saddam Hussein gets billed as an 'irrational tyrant' by 'rational' George W. Bush. Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt, two eminently 'rational' political scientists, describe Hussein as 'cruel and calculating'. This subjective label could be applied with equal justification to Churchill, Bush, Blair, and a slew of other western politicians. (Just think of the 12-long sanction regime: 'cruel and calculating'!) It's only a matter of degrees. ---Political expediency It is probably fair to say that cultural prejudice didn't enter into Churchill's calculations when he decided to 'pacify' rebellious civilians with explosives and incendiaries in Iraq. But without such prejudice, he wouldn't have been occupying Iraq in the first place. One reason people today quote Churchill's intended use of gas is Halabja - where Hussein used gas against "his own people", as Bush and Co. keep reiterating. Hussein did use gas against the Kurds in 1988. Like Churchill, he also wanted to quell rebellions, admittedly with disastrous results. The Kurds, though Hussein's "own people", seek autonomy by force - and are well armed, courtesy of the USA. Hussein's poison gas and equipment were supplied by Germany. Four of the death merchants got sued and paid a small fine - not for complicity in mass murder, but for some export irregularities. The German government itself denied all responsibility - this was solely the problem of the Iraqi government, they said. One of the suppliers, Kolb-Pilot Plant, came up with this gem: "For people in Germany, poison gas is a terrible thing, customers abroad are not that squeamish." So looking at political expediency from different angles, I see nothing to choose between western governments, past and present (including Churchill), and Saddam Hussein. For the sake of expediency, both western and eastern values are discarded, it seems. Perhaps we need some heresy to challenge western values - and western hypocrisy/double standards. > A word of warning. This site that you quote from: > http://www.codoh.com/newsdesk/990111.html > Is notorious: it's run by Holocaust deniers. If they said > that the sky was blue I'd go outside to check. Thanks. I got there by searching for <+Churchill +gas>. Result: a memo by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. So I was quoting the words of Churchill. Besides, this is a (verifiable) primary document, belonging to the "official papers of Winston Churchill [stamp, pen] Serial No. D. 217/4". That's why I gave the reference - for you, Chris. And what about Churchill? Whatever else he may have done, or not have done, he always used his language to perfection. "I never use a Latin word when an Anglo-Saxon one will do", was one of his dictums. He also had a definite opinion about composition: "Just as the sentence contains one idea in all its fullness, so the paragraph should embrace a distinct episode; and as sentences should follow one another in harmonious sequence, so paragraphs must fit onto one another like the automatic couplings of railway carriages." [Winston Churchill, _My Early Life_] There are many sides to a human being: good, bad, and various shades in between. The same goes for nations, cultures, and civilizations...I think. Elga Sutter -----------Original Message----------- From: "Chris.Williams" <Chris.Williams@open.ac.uk> To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org '" <email@example.com> Subject: RE: [casi] Churchill, gas and the Kurds Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 14:18:56 -0000 I don't need convincing that Churchill was prepared to use gas (he was after all very keen on area bombing). I need convicing that the RAF actually did it. I'm a historian, so as far as I'm concerned, hard information is primary sources: documents referring to it, or reliable and authenticated testimony. A word of warning. This site that you quote from: http://www.codoh.com/newsdesk/990111.html Is notorious: it's run by Holocaust deniers. If they said that the sky was blue I'd go outside to check. Chris Williams _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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