Obama, Churchill & the Mau Mau.

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churchillmohican.jpgChurchill remains the closest to a political saint we have, in the public mind, and he was clearly the right person to lead in 1940. I shudder to think what would have happened had Chamberlain not been removed in time. Nevertheless, Churchill's career has some substantial blots on it.

His campaigns in the Boer War have been cited as including the first implementation of concentration camps, and in 1919 he wrote in a memo that "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes" to "spread a lively terror". The specific targets were the Kurds, in what was then Mesopotamia. Gas may not have been used in the end, but either way it was a grim foreshadowing of Saddam's appalling barbarism in Halabja.

Much later, as Prime Minister for the second time, he ordered the repression of the 1952 Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya. The ensuing torture caught up many uninvolved Kenyans, and just like many modern "anti-terror" campaigns, radicalised them and their friends and family too. One earlier victim of this approach was Hussein Onyango Obama, the President's grandfather. No wonder the bust's going back, even if Obama and Churchill are family.

Here's an unrelated but telling story about Onyango from Dreams From My Father, and another reminder to listen to the whole book if you haven't done so yet.

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This page was published on February 16, 2009 10:22 PM.

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