Buckley on Churchill
By David Henderson
As I mentioned in a previous post, earlier this summer I read large parts of A Torch Kept Lit, William F. Buckley Jr.’s book of obituaries of the famous and not so famous. I had planned to post on his obituary of Winston Churchill, which I found, not being a big fan of Churchill myself, pleasantly surprising.
I’ve been following a lot of discussion on Facebook this morning about whether it’s right to say critical things about famous people just after they’ve died. I’ve long thought that it is right but that one should be somewhat tasteful. Here’s a long paragraph from Buckley’s obituary of Churchill that is a nice combination of content and tone.
Churchill suggested, in his autobiography, that after all he could not be held responsible for the incomplete peacemaking inasmuch as power was suddenly taken from him in the surprise election of 1945. But Churchill had been in power, was almost omnipotent, at Yalta, and at Teheran, where the great statesmen of the West took some steps, and failed to take others, that insured [sic] the consolidation of Stalin’s power in the territories he had overrun during the war, and insured [sic] also the expansion of the Communist system over whole continents. During those days Churchill the diplomat overwhelmed Churchill the statesman, the practitioner of justice. During those days Churchill found himself in the House of Commons delivering eulogies on the person of the abominable Stalin—a man whose evil he had years before remarked, representative of an evil whom no one had better analyzed than Churchill in the twenties. During those days he stood still for such disastrous fatuities as Franklin Roosevelt’s impetuous call for unconditional surrender, a rhetorical fillip which in the analysis of some military experts may have cost us the unnecessary death of several hundred thousand men, and which most certainly was responsible for the supine condition of much of Europe at the moment when Stalin’s legions took the nations over.
And here’s the last line of his obit:
May he sleep more peacefully than some of those who depended on him.