Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Churchhill Ever New: The Notebooks

Back in October, The Guardian reported on new material to be released:
     Historians seeking an accurate record of how Winston Churchill governed Britain from his Whitehall bunker in the darkest days of the blitz will from next January be able to read the contemporary notes taken by the cabinet secretary at the time, breaking a tradition which has protected these documents for more than 60 years. The decision to release the notebooks follows pressure from Lord Phillips, the new lord chief justice, to publish the notebooks under the Freedom of Information Act.
Until now the government has resisted their release on the grounds that it would break the collective responsibility of cabinet government. The first tranche of the notebooks - from 1942 to 1947 - will cover the Churchill and Attlee governments. They are expected to reveal the gloomy reports of Britain under the blitz, the victory at El Alamein, the preparations for the D-Day landings, plus plans for the welfare state and the Butler plans to reform education.
Ken Masugi at The Claremont Institute quotes this piece from the Notebook kept by deputy cabinet secretary Norman Brooks:
     On July 7, 1943, Churchill argued passionately that leading Nazis who fell into British hands should be treated as "outlaws" and shot rather than put on trial. "I suggested that U.N. to draw up a list of 50 or so [who would] be declared as outlaws by the 33 Nations. (Those not on the list might be induced to rat!) If any of these found by advancing troops, nearest [officer] of brigade rank [should] call a military court to establish identity and [should] then execute [without] higher authority."
Then, in a response, the President of Hillsdale College (and Churchill scholar), Larry Arrn, sent this memo:

TO: Ken Masugi
FROM: Larry P. Arnn
DATE: January 2, 2006

Norman Brook was the deputy secretary to the Cabinet during much of the Second World War and became secretary in 1947. He is the man who negotiated with Churchill what Churchill would be able to publish, and also what he could consult, when Churchill was writing his book, The Second World War. They did talk a lot.
Here are some things Churchill said about Nuremberg:

     July 30, 1946: "He said he had had, during the War, no idea that the German atrocities had been on the scale that the Nuremberg evidence had shown them to be. And although he had had misgivings about that trial at the beginning, he now felt it was well justified. This was largely because of the groveling attitude of the defendants. If he had been in the dock (as indeed he certainly would have been if the war had gone the other way), the line that he would have taken was--'we do not recognize the competency of your court. We will await the verdict of the German people, whom we served, in twenty or thirty years' time. You won the war; take your vengeance on us in whatever way you like. We do not recognize any authority above the rights of the German State.' But undoubtedly the enormity of the crimes had come as a surprise to the defendants themselves." The source for this is notes taken during a luncheon by Allen Campbell-Johnson.
In November 1946 in a speech in the House of Commons he treated the Nuremberg Trials as a purgative. He portrayed it as a substitute for the persecution or prosecution of ordinary Germans.
Also in 1946, probably sometime in November, Lord Ismay was with Churchill when he heard the results of the Nuremberg War Trials. Ismay was close to Churchill, senior military man during the War, and later the first military head of NATO. He said: "I happened to be with him at Chartwell when the results of the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi war criminals were published 'it shows' he remarked, 'that if you get into a war, it is supremely important to win it. You and I would be in a pretty pickle if we had lost.'"
This gives the flavor. I expect he would have been happy for Hitler and his close crowd to placed before a firing squad at the moment of their apprehension. Notice the fact that he liked however to see them groveling in the dock. Hussein is not groveling, so perhaps they ought to make him do it, or shoot him.
Excellent idea! Hussein grovels, or they shoot him. I’m sure the Iraqi people wouldn’t mind. At least not as long as Iraqis got to make the demands and do the shooting. They deserve the opportunity.

Besides, it would rid them of Ramsay Clark.


El Jefe Maximo said...

I have always thought that Churchill's first instincts about shooting the leading Nazis out of hand were correct. Chuchill correctly saw that international trials would establish a doleful precedent, and undercut the sovereignty of nation states.

I think also, that his reported attitude towards such trials, were he in the dock, would be the correct attitude to take in such a position. No doubt he was thinking of the attitude of Charles I towards the Kangaroo proceeding that condemned him.

The crimes of the Nazis, like those of the Soviet Communists, were so beyond the pale though, that anything that was associated with delivering some kind of justice for their offenses was hard to criticize. Proof that bad facts make bad law.

I don't doubt that Churchill was pleased to see the Nazi scum grovel, but, for the reasons given, I think drumhead court-martials and summary executions were still the way to go. Likewise, shooting Saddam out of hand, and Osama and crew when we catch up to them, would appear to me to be preferable to the sort of proceeding that is on-going with Saddam, especially since we do not have the collective stomachs for the procedures necesary to run a Stalinesque/Saddam style show-trial.