Editor’s Note: We have come to realize that the American Media Establishment is almost entirely European in its framework, its orientation, its education and its sympathies. We have also bemoaned the utter lack of knowledge among “educated” Indians about Indian history in general and about the history of various Indian States, linguistic and ethnic communities. So whenever possible, we write about historical events that have made material impact on India and the World, events about which the American Media is rather ignorant. We begin such a series today with a Book Review.
Recently we came across a book that we consider a must read. It is about a major event during World War II, an event that would have shocked the world into action had it taken place in the Western World.
This was the famine in Bengal in 1943, a famine that resulted in deaths of between 3.5-5 million people.
We had heard about the famine but not much more. This is not a subject that is taught in any school or college we know. The famine was a man-made event, an event made into a devastating tragedy by the actions of the British and in particular by the actions of Winston Churchill.
Dr. Madhusree Mukerjee received a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. She changed her career during her post-doc and served on the Board of Editors of Scientific American for seven years.
(available in paperback on July 12, 2011)
The title of her book is Churchill’s Secret War. The subject of the book is “The British Empire and The Ravaging of India during World War II“. This is a thoroughly researched and meticulously referenced book. The Bibliography is 10 pages long and the notes on the chapters are 24 pages long. We encourage readers to look at the comments from other journalist and authors about this book.
Dr. Mukerjee dedicates her book “To those who fell so that I could be born free”. Read why in her words at How I came to write Churchill’s Secret War. This book is so important that it cannot be reviewed in a single article. We expect to write three different articles highlighting different aspects revealed by this book.
America vs. England – Roosevelt vs. Churchill
This is the Fourth of July weekend. Two Hundred & Thirty Five years have passed since America declared Independence from England. Today, America towers like a colossus over England. America essentially saved England in World War II and helped England win World War I.
It is rather sad that England has learned virtually nothing from America in the past two centuries. To this day, England cannot bring itself to follow in America’s footsteps. You see this described candidly and with detailed documentation in “Churchill’s Secret War”.
You also see that President Roosevelt believed in America’s ideals and tried to get these enshrined in the Atlantic Chapter established on August 14, 1941.
The easiest way to describe this difference is to quote from “Churchill’s Secret War”:
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt could scarcely believe that their two nations were fighting a war against fascism but would not also try to free the world of colonialism as he remarked to Winston Churchill in August 1941. The comment made Churchill apoplectic. – page 58.
- It (Atlantic Charter) also asserted that the United States and the United Kingdom would “respect the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live; and that they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.” – page 59.
- Leopold Amery – who worried that the Americans would use the war to undermine the British Empire and turn into “a lebensraum for their exports” – was disgusted by the charter. “We shall no doubt pay dearly in the end for all this fluffy flapdoodle,” he confided to his diary. At his urging, the prime minister clarified to the House of Commons that the Atlantic Charter applied only to those countries conquered by the Axis powers. The colonies were exempt. – page 59.
- On March 11, 1942, Roosevelt had written to the prime minister, likening the Indian predicament to that of the thirteen American colonies facing the War of Independence. The colonies had joined to form a stopgap government in order to fight the British, he pointed out…..Roosevelt asked Churchill to similarly allow a temporary government, headed by the representatives of the various political groups, to be set up in India. – page 67
- In his memoir, The Hinge of Fate, written after the war (which Roosevelt did not survive), Churchill described the president’s proposal on India as “an act of madness” that fate had fortuitously rendered impossible to implement. – page 70
- The prime minister “hates India and everything to do with it,” Wavell observed in his diary on July 27 – page 147 (Wavell was a Field Marshall in the British Military and later a Viceroy to India).
- So American general Brehon B. Sommervell had found himself pushing for a shipping allotment to India that the British themselves seemed to have lost interest in. On top of that, U.S. commanders entertained “an open suspicion” that s significant portion of the materials that the British had originally requested was intended for troops who fight not the Japanese but the Indians. Americans were adamant that they would not help “re-build the British Empire.” – page 193
- Churchill angrily retorted that the British “intended to hold on to what they had” and “nothing would be taken from England without a war.” – page 212
- In March 1945 the president reiterated his concern for “the brown people in the East.” Many of them were “ruled by a handful of whites and they resent it. Our goal must be to help them achieve independence.” – page 246
- Back in London, Churchill told his private secretary that “Hindus were a foul race protected by their mere pullulation from the doom that is their due.” (Pullulation means rapid breeding.) He wished that Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris, the head of British bomber command, could “send some of his surplus bombers to destroy them.” –
- At 3:35 p.m., on April 12, 1945, the president died in his cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, of a stroke…..But that very day, in an outright repudiation of Roosevelt’s trusteeship scheme, a representative at a Commonwealth conference announced the United Kingdom’s refusal to hand over its colonies to international supervision. The president’s dream for the dispossessed were buried before he was. The rift between India and the United States widened right away. – page 248
In 1942, President Roosevelt appointed a seasoned diplomat, William Phillips, as his “Personal Representative with the rank of Ambassador” to India. But by May 1943, Phillips had given up:
- “It was only too clear that he (Churchill) had a complex about India from which he would not and could not be shaken,” Phillips concluded.” He had a long talk with Roosevelt who was an old friend, and told him that his returning to New Delhi would be pointless. – page 133
Ms. Mukerjee also writes that “in his memoir, Phillips would hold British policy responsible for the partition of India that transpired after the war.”
Today, the world struggles to deal with Pakistan, an utterly failed state, an epi-center of global terrorism that continues to build a larger and larger nuclear weapon arsenal. America has spent the last ten years fighting the terror nourished by this creation of British policy and a favored child of Winston Churchill.
This is Churchill’s Sin that has been visited upon America and the World.
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