Monsters of history

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2008), Letters, Volume 16

Sir,

—Michael O’Neill-Mockler’s list of monsters in his letter in thelast issue includes Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the Shah of Iran andPinochet. Interestingly, all the names on his list speak funnylanguages or have moustaches or are followers of exotic religions. Andof course they all come from ‘over there’. I wonder has he ever seenthe documentary The Fog of War? In this film Robert McNamara, J. F.Kennedy’s and later Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, describeshis role in the civilian bombing campaign of Japanese cities at the endof World War II. McNamara candidly admits that there were war criminalson the American side, the difference being that they won. When peoplespeak the same language as us, worship the same gods, wear the samesuits and ties and of course are democrats to boot, it is difficult tocategorise them as ‘vicious thugs’, as Mr O’Neill-Mockler does theabove-named. So allow me, like Mr O’Neill-Mockler, to get it off mychest. All those Belgian kings who slaughtered millions in the Congo,Robert McNamara, George W. Bush, Winston Churchill et al. were viciousthugs all. Churchill, for example, not only gloried in slaughter andbloodshed in Sudan but also proposed the Kurds, being backward in hisview, as suitable for gassing. They duly were, and strafed to boot byBritish warplanes. Saddam Hussein learned many things from the West. Itwould indeed be comforting if all the monsters were ‘over there’.Sadly, too many of them are closer to home. On a point of information,I know of no reputable historian who holds Stalin personallyresponsible for the deaths of 50 million people. Mr O’Neill-Mockler maybe confusing the considerable number for which he was responsible withthe total number killed during World War II, an entirely differentmatter.

—Yours etc.,
GERRY McALISTER
Canada

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