The author of a novel advocating the assassination of George Bush, has moved on to Churchill and Roosevelt. The book is Human Smoke and is an indictment of the Allies in World War II because they stood up to Hitler at last and refused to accept that final aggression. The author, apparently a pacifist, sets out to attack Churchill and Roosevelt but does it in a dishonest way. His novel, Checkpoint seems to have outraged even the New York Times, rather tolerant of most Bush-haters. The Booklist review gives a bit of the plot:
Jay and Ben are old friends who haven’t seen each other in a few years. A former teacher who has fallen on hard times, Jay is very, very upset about the war in Iraq. He has expressed his objections by marching in an antiwar demonstration in the nation’s capital, but the protest has had no effect. Now Jay has asked Ben, a writer currently working on a book about the cold war, to bring a tape recorder to a Washington, D.C., hotel room because Jay wants to talk about his decision to assassinate the president.
A columnist in The Independent has picked up on this pacifist nihilism and brought more light on this mindset.
Winston Churchill? Today we only remember his heroic opposition to Nazism. But while he was against gassing and tyranny in Europe, he was passionately in favour of it for “uncivilised” human beings whose riches he wanted to seize. In the 1920s, Iraqis rose up against British imperial rule, and Churchill as Colonial Secretary thought of a good solution: gas them. He wrote: “I do not understand this squeamishness… I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” It would “spread a lively terror”.
He does not mention, and may not even be aware of the fact that Churchill goes on to confirm that by “poisoned” he meant tear gas. He may not know it because he took the lines from Baker’s book above.
The correction (unacknowledged by the writers) is here.
“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes,” Baker quotes, but if one returns to the original memorandum, found in the Churchill Papers in Cambridge, it goes on to make it clear that the idea was not to use “deadly gasses” against the enemy, but rather ones aimed at “making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory [i.e., tear] gas.” Churchill goes on to write: “The moral effect should be so good as to keep loss of life reduced to a minimum” and “Gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror yet would leave no serious permanent effect on most of those affected.”
I am belaboring this point because we have begun to see a similar pacifist nihilism in the presidential campaign. The attacks on John McCain’s military record, the refusal to see progress in Iraq, attempts to undercut the war on radical Islam (perhaps because some would rather lose than see Bush win anything), all seem to suggest that some have gone beyond politics to some sort of lunatic antipathy to American civil discourse. I think we have seen only the beginning of this.