“Churchill’s Secret War” by Madhusree Mukerjee
The important book “Churchill’s Secret War. The British Empire and the ravaging of India during World War II” by Madhusree Mukerjee (Basic Books, New York) is an account of the forgotten World War 2 Bengali Holocaust, the man-made, 1942-1945 Bengal Famine in which 6-7 million Indians were deliberately starved to death by the British under Churchill for strategic reasons in what was one of the greatest atrocities in human history but which has been largely white washed from British history.
Other books have been written about the Bengal Famine Thus N.G. Jog’s “Churchill’s Blind Spot: India” (New Book Company, Bombay, 1944) in referring to this Bengali Holocaust was the first to refer to a WW2 atrocity as a “holocaust”. Paul Greenough’s “Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: the Famine of 1943-1944” (Oxford University Press, 1982) is a detailed and definitive account of the WW2 Bengal Famine.
Brilliant Bengali film maker Satyajit Ray's film "Distant Thunder" is a profoundly moving account of part of this disaster and concludes with an estimate that 5 million Bengalis perished.
My book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998, 2008) put the WW2 Bengali Holocaust into a wider context of British racism, imperialism, holocaust commission, holocaust denial and cultural self-deception. My thesis was that history ignored yields history repeated and that ignoring of immense man-made famine disasters in Bengal, notably the 1769-1779 Bengal Famine (10 million dead) and the 1942-1945 Bengal Famine (4 million dead in Bengal, 6-7 million Indians dead in Bengal and contiguous provinces) increases the risk of repetition and, specifically, in the 21st century from man-made global warming, sea level rise, increased tropical cyclone intensity and land inundation and salinization through consequent storm surges.
However an even deadlier threat, not just to Bengal (West Bengal and Bangladesh), but to all Developing countries comes from post-colonial, US-led, First Word hegemony and callous disregard of the entitlement of all people on Spaceship Earth to a minimally decent life. In the first edition of my book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” I referred to the diaries of General Wavell and observed (p141): “On October 15 1943 in Cairo on his way out to India, Wavell inspected Indian troops and spoke to Casey about food. Casey said Australia had had a bad wheat harvest, Canada could just supply U.S. and British deficiencies and that the Argentineans had burnt their surplus of 2 million tons as fuel on the railways in the absence of coal, of which there was a world shortage”. Now in 2008 Americans and Europeans are burning biofuel in their cars while 4 billion fellow human beings on Spaceship Earth are malnourished and facing starvation.” At the end of 2008 oil and food prices peaked, there were food riots around the world and only the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and an attendant decline of food prices averted a Bengal-style catastrophe. However food prices have been rising again since the GFC and the threat of man-made, price-driven famine is again looming in a World in which billions of people go hungry and 1 billion are malnourished. Unaddressed man-made global warming is imposing an already worsening Climate Genocide in which 10 billion people, including over 2 billion South Asians, are predicted to die this century.
Madhusree Mukerjee’s book commences with a key quotation from Churchill that addresses “from the horse’s mouth” the fundamental holocaust commission, holocaust ignoring and holocaust denial behavior of this mass murdering, racist imperialist. Thus Churchill makes no reference in the text of his 6-volume “The Second World War” (for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature) to the Bengal Famine (holocaust ignoring, holocaust denial) in which he deliberately murdered 6-7 million Indians (holocaust commission). Instead Churchill offers in his fraudulent history the following appalling holocaust lie: “No great portion of the world population was so effectively protected from the horrors and perils of the World War as were the peoples of Hindustan. They were carried through the struggle on the shoulders of our small Island” (“The Second World War”, volume 4, p181, Cassell, London, 1954; “Churchill’s Secret War”, Prologue: our title to India, pix; “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History”, Chapter 14, The Bengal Famine of 1943-1944, p133).
Madhusree Mukerjee systematically successively analyzes the background to the Bengali Holocaust in a prologue that deals with British India and the massive recurrent man-made famines, commencing with the 1769-1770 Bengal Famine in which 10 million people died due to British greed. Not quoted is Amaresh Misra’s book “War of Civilizations: India AD 1857” that estimates that 10 million people died in British reprisals for the 1857 Indian rebellion. While the appalling famine history of British India is outlined the genocidal aspect is downplayed. Thus it can be estimated from British census and comparative mortality data that 1.8 billion Indians died prematurely less than 2 centuries of British rule. While Mukerjee makes clear the British economic exploitation of India, she downplays the reality that endemic poverty and hunger in India made it possible for a distant island of scores of millions to rule hundreds of millions of disempowered Indian subjects with the help of well-fed sepoys and other collaborators...
A major contribution of Mukerjjee’s book is the account of the beginning of the Bengal Famine in 1942 with the brutal British suppression of rebellion in West Bengal accompanied by mass killing, mass imprisonment, burning of houses and villages, seizure of food and other measures that were exacerbated in their impact by a major storm surge event. While the key years of the Bengal Famine were 1943 and 1944, surviving inhabitants of South West Bengal date the beginning of the famine to late 1942 due to British excesses. Mukerjee provides a logical account of the factors contributing to the huge increase in the price of rice (up to 6-fold) that was the real killer in the Bengal Famine e.g. cessation of rice imports from Japanese-occupied Burma; hundreds of thousands removed from areas close to Japanese-occupied Burma (instant impoverishment and demand on rice stocks); seizure of rice stocks (Rice Denial to impair Japanese invasion as well as punishment of rebellious Bengalis); local deficiencies (due to the 1942 hurricane, fungal infestation and British suppression of Bengali nationalists); the Boat Denial Policy (that ostensibly was meant to delay a Japanese invasion but which condemned millions to death through lack of fishing and food distribution); provincial autonomy of food stocks (a deadly divide and rule policy covered with a veneer of “partial democracy”); mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Free India supporters (thereby minimizing democratic Indian political responses to the Bengal Famine); various British encouragements of capitalist hoarding and profiteering; export of grain from India associated with hugely decreased imports of grain; British unresponsiveness in Indian and in London; lack of shipping in the India Ocean due to Churchillian fiat at Casablanca (especially in 1943); government protection of the food security of soldiers, civil servants and defense industry workers in Calcutta (a major industrial city undergoing a wartime boom and which sucked food out of a starving but rice-producing countryside); inflation (due to the British running up a huge financial debt to India during WW2 and Government rice purchases ).
A novel contribution is exposure of the key role in the disaster of incompetent and racist key Churchill adviser Professor Lindemann (Lord Cherwell) who consistently opposed food relief for starving India while Britain was stocking up with excess food. Physicist Mukerjee’s book refers to C.P Snow’s classic book “Science and Government” that excoriates physicist Lindemann for his successful promotion of bombing German cities at the expense of protecting Allied shipping, a policy that led to massive losses in the Battle of the Atlantic. This in turn led to Churchill halving shipping in the Indian Ocean in 1943. Mukerjee, while properly condemning Lindemann for his opposition to food aid for India, overlooks this key consequence of Lindemann’s bombing obsession, specifically .the causal pathway of diversion of Allied bombers from ship protection to bombing German civilians -> loss of Allied shipping -> Mediterranean strategy-dictated halving of Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean -> food price rise in the Indian Ocean region -> famine in India. Indeed C.B.A. Behrens in her book “Merchant shipping and the demands of war” (referred to by Mukerjee) does make this connection and states “the North Africa campaign doomed almost irrevocably to starvation any deficit area in India”, a view with which British historian A.J.P... Taylor concurs.
Mukerjee makes clear that Churchill’s deadly unresponsiveness to the Bengal Famine came from a passionately Anglocentric and imperialist view of the world and his entrenched racism from “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion” to his view of Bengalis that “they breed like rabbits”. In interview Mukerjee incorrectly stated "He [Churchill] is often criticized for bombing German cities but has never before been held directly responsible for the deaths of so many people as in the Bengal famine” (see Ben Sheppard, “Book blames Churchill for Indian famine that killed millions”, The Age, 8 September 2010 ). In reality, many people have been blaming Churchill from the time of the Bengal Famine Indian and small bodies of humane European writers have been blaming Churchill from the time of the atrocity onwards. I have written and broadcast extensively over 2 decades about Churchill’s responsibility for Bengal Famine this eliciting a trenchant response from the Churchill Centre to an article I wrote for MWC News entitled “Media lying over Churchill’s crimes”(MWC News, 18 November, 2008): “Polya begins by dismissing all historians who disagree with him as Anglo-American and Zionist propagandists, including official biographer Sir Martin Gilbert—who, since it’s always a good idea to question the accused, we asked for comment. “Churchill was not responsible for the Bengal Famine,” Sir Martin replied. “I have been searching for evidence for years: none has turned up. The 1944 Document volume of the official biography [Hillsdale College Press] will resolve this issue finally” (see the editors, Finest Hour, “Bengali Famine”).
The most shattering part of the book deals with personal accounts of the victims. One cannot comprehend what the starvation to death of 4 million Bengalis or 6-7 million Indians as a whole actually means. The sexual abuse of famine victims, either by exploiters in Calcutta (some 30,000 victims) or in the British Military Labor Corps (that affected the equivalent of the large-scale Japanese comfort women abuses) is particularly horrifying. These parts alone of Madhusree Mukerjee’s book should make it compulsory reading for all people. We are obliged to tell others about gross abuses of humanity – we cannot walk by on the other side.
From a dispassionate scientific perspective, rational risk management successively involves (a) getting the facts, (b) scientific analysis and (c) informed systemic change to minimize risk. Mukerjee’s book is very important because it sets out a detailed and documented account of the Bengali Holocaust in which Churchill deliberately starved 6-7 million Indians to death over an extended period (1942-1945) despite the pleas of Bengalis, Indians and decent British (notably General Wavell, Viceroy of India). Yet thousands of books about India, WW2, and British history fail to even mention the Bengali Holocaust, one of the worst atrocities in human history. We have seen above eminent pro-Zionist historian Sir Martin Gilbert’s denial of Churchill’s crimes. There is s no mention of the Bengali Holocaust in pro-Zionist Simon Schama’s “A History of Britain” (BBC, 2002) or Michael Woods’ “The Story of India” (BBC 2007), although in 2008 the BBC broadcast a program entitled “Bengal Famine” involving myself, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen. and other scholars as part of a series entitled “The things we forgot to remember”.Colin Mason in his book “A Short History of Asia. Stone Age to 2000 AD" (Macmillan, 2000) slams generations of English-speaking historians and writers for whitewashing the Bengal Famine from history, Mason arguing that the evidence suggests that it was the result of a deliberate “scorched earth policy” by Churchill in the war with Japan.
Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Missing from Mukerjee’s book are any direct admission quotes from Churchill in which he actually mentions the Bengali Holocaust. I have found one such Churchill statement in an April 1944 letter to Roosevelt (alluded to in Mukerjee’s book) in which Churchill states “I am seriously concerned about the food situation in India and its possible reactions on our joint operations. Last year we had a grievous famine in Bengal through which at least 700,000 people died… By cutting down military shipments and other means, I have been able to arrange for 350,000 tons of wheat to be shipped to India from Australia during the first nine months of 1944. This is the shortest haul. I cannot see how to do more. I have had much hesitation in asking you to add to the great assistance you are giving us with shipping but a satisfactory situation in India is of such vital importance to the success of our joint plans against the Japanese that I am impelled to ask you to consider a special allocation of ships to carry wheat from Australia without reducing the assistance you are now providing for us, who are at a positive minimum if war efficiency is to be maintained. We have the wheat in Australia but we lack the ships. I have resisted for some time the Viceroy’s request that I should ask you for your help, but I believe that, with this recent misfortune with the wheat harvest and in the light of Mountbatten’s representations, I am no longer justified in not asking for your help”(see “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History”, Chapter 15, pp157-158).
In the interests of truth and rational risk management there should be a posthumous war crimes trial of Churchill held by the International Criminal Court or , better still (because the ICC is a notoriously a US-beholden holocaust ignoring and genocide ignoring organization), by an authoritative panel of outstanding jurists and scholars with impeccable scholarly and human credentials.
In the last analysis, what killed 6-7 million Indians in 1942-1945 was lying by omission and commission – and the same anti-science perversion is set to kill several billion more South Asians this century due to climate change inaction. The first Lord Monckton worked in British propaganda and information in WW2 and was given his peerage in 1957 in part for loyalty to mass murderer Churchill and for removing the Bengal Famine from public perception. 60 years later his non-scientist grandson the Third Lord Monckton tours the world telling gullible audiences that man-made climate change is not happening, denying the overwhelming scientific consensus to the contrary. Yet search the entire site of the Australian ABC (the Australian equivalent of the UK BBC) for “Lord Monckton” and you will get 169 results as compared to ONE (1) for “Madhusree Mukerjee”, and that only being due to a comment made by me about an ABC program about Churchill: “Winston Churchill is on record as telling Leo Amery, the UK Secretary of State for India, in 1942: "I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion". Churchill is responsible for the Bengali Holocaust, the man-made 1942-1945 Bengal Famine in which 6-7 million Indians were deliberately starved to death by the British for strategic reasons in Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Orissa. For the shocking details of the Bengali Holocaust and its whitewashing from British history by holocaust-ignoring and holocaust-denying media, academics, editors, journalists, teachers and politicians see Gideon Polya, "Bengali Famine", Ockham's Razor, ABC Radio National (1999); Gideon Polya, "Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History. Colonial rapacity, holocaust denial and the crisis in biological sustainability" (1998, 2008); Colin Mason, "A Short History of Asia. Stone Age to 2000 AD", (2000); Dr Gideon Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen. et al, "Bengal Famine", BBC (2008); Madhusree Mukerjee, "Churchill's Secret War. The British Empire and the ravaging of India during World War 11" (2010).”
In 2011 Britain is still making war on Third World Muslim countries, namely Iraq (war-related deaths 4.6 million, 1990-2011), Afghanistan (war-related deaths 5.0 million, 2001-2011) and now Libya, which is being bombed back to the Stone Age. Greed, racism and imperialism aside, a key reason for Britain’s mass murder of Bengalis (substantially Muslims) in WW2 and for its continued atrocities lies in personal self-deception and propaganda-assisted public deception. Madhusree Mukerjee discovered this profound confession by mass murderer and holocaust denier Churchill: “I therefore adopted quite early in life a system of believing whatever I wanted to believe.” I strongly recommend Madhusree Mukerjee’s very readable and vitally important book “Churchill’s Secret War”. History ignored yields history repeated. Holocaust ignoring – as exhibited by several generations of the British in relation the WW2 Bengali Holocaust and Bengali Genocide is far, far worse than outright holocaust denial because the latter, no matter how repugnant, at least admits the possibility of rational discussion in the interests of Humanity..
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