The Plank

India, Iraq, Churchill

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If you are a little puzzled by Fred Kaplan's Slate piece on the similarities between 1947 India and 2007 Iraq, you're not alone. Kaplan doesn't really manage to draw any parallels other than the fact that both situations were/are bad. At least he is not shy about pointing out numerous differences, even though they undermine his thesis.

Much better is Pankaj Mishra's New Yorker article on partition. His sections about Churchill are particularly damning:

What Leopold Amery denounced as Churchill's "Hitler-like attitude" to India manifested itself most starkly during a famine, caused by a combination of war and mismanagement, that claimed between one and two million lives in Bengal in 1943. Urgently beseeched by Amery and the Indian viceroy to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram asking why Gandhi hadn't died yet.

Lovely. Mishra's more serious point is that by playing up religious divisions, Churchill actively encouraged the rise of political Islam in what is now Pakistan. One could say that this counts as an irony at the expense of those who mention his name every time an "appeaser" questions the Bush administration's foreign policy.

--Isaac Chotiner

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