May 23, 2013




Joseph Hern’s “Winston Churchill and Boston” (FH 127) missed one Boston quotation that I believe stands apart from the rest: “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” In my opinion this prediction should be placed amongst those at the top of the list when citing Churchill as a man ahead of his time.

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Editor’s response: Indeed that is a prescient line. The full text appears on our website and in FH 80 (third quarter 1993).


I was interested to read in FH 127 Churchill’s opinion on the use of “poison gas” which—according to Mr. Ives (@ The Centre, p. 5) and others (Despatch Box, p. 4) was not necessarily based upon racial prejudices. But in a related area, I have been told that Churchill’s attitude towards the Iraqi Kurds was little different than Saddam Hussein’s. At the University of Cambridge International Summer Schools, the professor told us that Churchill said bombing was the best way to cope with the Kurds. These are not the exact words the professor used, but this is what he meant to say.

This was a great shock to me and I should have asked for his source. Now I have no way to investigate this. As I am a new member I do not know whether this might have been already discussed in your journal. Your response would be highly appreciated.


Editor’s response: There are twenty-four references to “Kurds” in Churchill’s writings and speeches, but none of them contains anything close to the suggestion that “bombing is the best way to cope with the Kurds.” It seems highly unlikely that he would have taken this view. At the 1921 Cairo Conference, which redrew the boundaries of the Middle East, Churchill pushed for a Kurdish homeland. Here is an excerpt from Sir Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. 4, The Stricken World 1916-1922 (London: Heinemann, 1975, 537-38):

…officials of the Middle East Department drew up a memorandum for the use of the Cairo Conference. It represented their collective view of what should be done, and Churchill gave it his full approval….The memorandum urged that the “purely Kurdish areas” in the north of Mesopotamia should not be included in the new Arab State but that Britain should help to promote “the principles of Kurdish unity and nationality,” sending a British Adviser to the area, and encouraging the Kurds to set up “some form of central Kurdish organisation.”

Churchill’s advisers rejected his urgings for a Kurdish national home, saying that Britain would always be able to exert a moderating influence in Iraq!

Churchill had a distinct appreciation for the difficulties of minorities. In 1906 as Colonial Undersecretary, he defended the rights of Indians in South Africa. None other than Gandhi, said in 1935, “I have got a good recollection of Mr Churchill when he was in the Colonial Office, and somehow or other since then I have held the opinion that I can always rely on his sympathy and goodwill.”

Mr. Nakamura replies: I am very grateful to you for having taken the time to reply my questions. As you write in your e-mail, now I understand, it was not likely at all that Churchill had that view, even if the attitudes of his generation in Victorian times towards race-issues are taken into consideration. The details gave me a great relief. Thank you very much. I hope that the Churchill Centre’s great work and study will go on and on.

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