They were disarming because they thought since they had disarmed Germany (with the Treaty of Versaille), it was only fair for the rest of them to disarm too. That way, they thought, another cataclysmic war could not happen. The US, the UK, France, Russia, and others were drafting mutual agreements to destroy their own armaments, limit military service, restrict the size of their air forces, etc. Meanwhile, the Nazis ignored the Treaty and were furiously building their war capability in secret.
Churchill spoke out against universal disarmament, and he fell out of favor with the public and with his fellow politicians. He could see that the Nazis were militant, imperialistic and supremacist, and everyone could see they were gaining power in Germany. Churchill thought that disarming was the last thing the non-Germans should do. But almost everyone but Churchill felt that the first World War was so horrible that war must never happen again. Within this "logic," making weapons and building armies would be going in the wrong direction. It was considered "a provocation and a danger."
Before 1929, Churchill had been a successful, well-known and greatly respected politician. From 1929 until WW2 started, he was no longer popular with political leaders. He was labeled a "scaremonger," and in 1934 in the German press, Churchill was dismissed as "an incorrigible Germanophobe."
People in high office, including the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, believed Churchill's criticism of the Nazis made the Nazis more hostile. They thought Churchill saying that the Nazis were dangerous would push the Nazis to war. They just wanted Churchill to stop talking and go away.
This all seems so similar to what is happening today with what is known as the counterjihad movement. The parallels are startling. The movement has several modern day Winston Churchills (and in fact, there were more people than only Churchill speaking out in his day too), but most prominent politician in the movement is Geert Wilders. And the majority of today's European political leaders want Wilders to stop talking and go away too.
Churchill reached out to the general public, through newspapers and radio, just as Wilders is doing now. In The Wilderness Years, the author, Martin Gilbert, wrote:
Churchill sought in his regular newspaper articles to point out the dangers of disarmament to the general public; a public which was attracted by what Churchill believed to be the misguided and over simple appeal of the Disarmament Conferences at Geneva. In one such article he warned that the horror of war meant that people were now inclined to grasp at unrealistic platitudes, and to accuse those who warned of the true situation of "warmongering."
Hostility and violence are so horrible, people (then and now) are inclined to grasp at "unrealistic platitudes." In our day, for example, platitudes like, "Islam is a religion of peace" and "What these people have done in the name of Islam is not really Islam."
Churchill had such a grasp of the situation that he was constantly predicting what would happen, and it all came to pass just as he predicted, one thing after another. For example, many years before WW2 began, back in 1932, Churchill said this to the House of Commons:
All these bands of sturdy Teutonic youths, marching through the streets and roads of Germany, with the light of desire in their eyes to suffer for their Fatherland, are not looking for status. They are looking for weapons and, when they have the weapons, believe me they will then ask for the return of the lost territories and lost colonies, and when that demand is made, it cannot fail to shake and possibly shatter to their foundations every one of the countries I have mentioned (France, Belgium, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia) and some other countries I have not mentioned...
There were two main reasons Churchill was so accurate in his predictions: First, he knew a lot about the history of war. And second, he was willing to look. Most leaders of his day (and their constituents) didn't want war, so they didn't want it to be true that Hitler intended to start a war, so they didn't investigate to see if he was or not. They looked instead for evidence that would justify a more comforting idea: Peace between Germany and the rest of the world.
And the British, French, and American leaders (and their constituents) of today may be doing something similar about the threat posed by people motivated by Islamic doctrine. Few people are aware of the scale of the violence against non-Muslims (including 24,831 deadly terrorist attacks in the name of Islam since 9/11). And perhaps it is for the same reason: They really don't want it to be true. It is negative. It's depressing. And if it doesn't turn out to be a real threat, they didn't waste any of their time on it.
Churchill urged the political leaders of his day to "tell the truth to the British people, they are a tough people and a robust people." And he said he couldn't remember a time "when the gap between the kind of words which statesmen used and what was actually happening in many countries was so great as it is now. The habit of saying smooth things and uttering pious platitudes and sentiments to gain applause, without relation to the underlying facts, is more pronounced now than it has ever been..."
The author, Martin Gilbert, wrote that Churchill's speech held the House of Commons spellbound, but "the warnings with which is was laced seemed to many MPs (Members of Parliament) to be far-fetched and alarmist." Counterjihadists are accused of the same thing. Hitler must have been so pleased to see Churchill marginalized and ignored. "Even after the rise of Hitler," writes Gilbert, "even after his strident demands for arms and for territory, the Disarmament Conference had remained in session with Nazi German delegates sitting as bemused observers." I imagine many Jihadist leaders today must be just as bemused when world leaders from free countries assert so emphatically that Islam means peace after every deadly shooting or bombing by a Muslim shouting allahu akbar.
Even as late as June 1935, in a ballot organized by the League of Nations Union, votes in favor of universal disarmament outnumbered votes against.
"We ought not to deal in humbug." said Churchill. "It is no kindness to this country to stir up and pay all this lip service in the region of unrealities, and get a cheap cheer because you have said something which has not ruffled anyone..."
Churchill said that all the "soothing-syrup" talk was dangerous because "unless the people know the truth, one day they are going to have a very surprising awakening." Gilbert writes:
Despite his political and Parliamentary isolation, Churchill determined to fight the apathy which he believed had been created by a combination of active German propaganda and British Government weakness. He resolved to use his considerable powers — of speech and expression — to try to avert the catastrophe to civilization which in his view would be inevitable if Nazi dictatorship were allowed to dominate Europe.
That is what counterjihadists are trying to do: Counter the apathy, brought on by Muslim propaganda and the weakness of our political leaders, to avert the catastrophe that would be inevitable if unrestricted Muslim immigration and concessions to Muslim pressure to Islamize our countries is allowed to continue.
Gilbert writes, "Churchill's forecasts were the opposite of exaggerated, as events were to show. But these forecasts were widely dismissed as alarmist." Not entirely, however. There were others besides Churchill who understood. One was the head of the Central Department of the Foreign Office, Ralph Wigram, who wrote a memorandum in 1934 detailing the growing military capability of Germany and what it would mean. One of his comments reminded me of Raymond Ibrahim's Rule of Numbers: Wigram warned that if Germany's growing strength were allowed to continue, they would feel themselves "sufficiently armed to secure compliance" with their demands. "Instead of emitting protests and airing grievances," wrote Wigram, "Germany will make demands and assert rights."
Ibrahim says that as the percentage of Muslims increases within a country, they display more openly Islamic behavior. In other words, they transition from emitting protests and airing grievances to making demands and asserting rights. And organizing displays of unity and strength. And rioting. And even killing.
Wigram and Churchill were in close communication. They knew that the general public was not aware of the danger they were in. Wigram said, in an internal Foreign Office note that the main problem was how to "grapple with 15 years of 'unreality.'" The people in charge, the people who should have known better, had been trying to keep the public unaware of the growing threat of the Nazis — ignoring it, downplaying it, and lying about it.
Counterjihadists think we're in the same boat today. When they talk to their friends and family about the dedicated followers of Islamic doctrine, they say they have to grapple with 15 years (or more) of unreality. In a debate in the House of Commons in May 1935, Churchill laid out the problem facing all of us. Gilbert writes:
During the debate, Churchill told his fellow MPs: "When the situation was manageable, it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply, too late, the remedies which then might have effected a cure." There was, he added, nothing new in that story: it was as old as the Sibylline books of classical legend. It fell into what Churchill now called "that long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience, and the confirmed unteachability of mankind."
Angered that his warnings, as well as his suggestions in 1933 and 1934, had been dismissed as alarmist and ignored until too late, Churchill told the House of Commons: "Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong, these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history."
Churchill ended his speech, however, with words which foreshadowed his oratory of the Second World War, telling the House of Commons: "Never must we despair, never must we give in, but we must face facts and draw true conclusions from them."
As bleak as Churchill's recounting of history seems, he still kept speaking up. If he hadn't, things would have been much worse. The same counsel informs counterjihadists today. The admission that history repeats itself is not considered permission to give up on the goal. They keep speaking up and they keep supporting people like Geert Wilders and Bill Maher, who speak boldly in public about what is considered by most people to be a taboo subject: The central role of Islamic doctrine in most of the world's violence.
In an article published in 1935, Churchill tried to draw the public's attention to the content of Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf. He referred to the "ferocious doctrines" of Naziism and the way these doctrines were applied "with brutal vigour."
And while the politicians were still arguing with Churchill, the general public had begun to awaken. Even as he grew more unpopular with politicians, Churchill became increasingly popular with British, American, and French citizens. Just as is happening today with Geert Wilders.
In Germany, the government officially protested Churchill's vilification of their leader. The British Ambassador reported from Berlin that the tone of Churchill's article was strongly resented by the German officials. Given what the Nazis were already doing (breaking international treaties, persecuting Jews, killing dissenters, etc.), it seems amazing that they would have the gall to officially protest, but don't we see the same arrogance from many fundamentalist Muslim leaders today? The nature of supremacism prevents a healthy concern for basic human standards or the opinions of others. The Nazi doctrines said Aryans were better than other people, just as Islamic doctrines say Muslims are better than anyone else. This perceived superiority creates an arrogance that is hard to fathom by the rest of us.
In March of 1936, three years before WW2 started, German troops crossed into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland and occupied its towns. Hitler accompanied this treaty violation with a proposal for a non-aggression pact. Hitler's proposal, said Churchill, "provided comfort for everyone on both sides of the Atlantic who wanted to be humbugged."
Because of the general attitude of appeasement by the British toward the Nazi expansion, Wigram and Churchill knew what would inevitably happen. Wigram's wife wrote to Churchill that when her husband saw the news of the occupation of the Rhineland and the weak response of the British government, he "sat down in a corner of the room where he had never sat before, and said to me, 'War is now inevitable, and it will be the most terrible war there has ever been...All my work these many years has been no use. I am a failure. I have failed to make the people here (in Britain) realize what is at stake...I have not been able to make the people here understand."
Meanwhile, the French, British and American people didn't know what to make of Germany's growing militancy and were given very little information from their governments, so a group of concerned citizens formed a grassroots organization to fill that void, and they wanted Churchill involved. He readily agreed. Their goal was to educate the public about Naziism. Their slogan was simple: "Nazi Germany is the enemy of civilization."
At a meeting of the Anti-Nazi Council a month later, Churchill gave a speech and urged the members to include everyone, from "the humblest workman" to "the most bellicose colonel" so they could (and must) all work together to resist Nazi aggression. Churchill embarked on a speaking campaign to get the message across.
Churchill's cousin, Lord Londonderry, criticized him for his "anti-German obsession." Counterjihadists often have family members who think they have an anti-Muslim obsession.
In a speech in 1936, Churchill spoke to his constituents. As Gilbert writes:
"I have done my best," he said, "during the last three years and more to give timely warning of what was happening abroad, and of the dangerous plight into which we were being led or lulled." It had not, Churchill said, been "a pleasant task. It has certainly been a very thankless task." It had, he said, brought him into conflict "with many former friends and colleagues." He had been "mocked and censured as a scare-monger and even as a warmonger, by those whose complacency and inertia have brought us all nearer to war and war nearer to us all."
The same kind of mocking and censure is leveled at counterjihads today. Especially in the media. To someone trying to get accurate information about Islamic doctrine into the public mind, the media, by and large, seems determined to prevent it.
That was also true in Churchill's time. The editor of The Times (one of the major British newspapers) wrote in a private letter to a friend in 1937 that he was distressed that the Germans didn't seem to like him. "I spend my nights in taking out anything which I think will hurt their susceptibilities, and in dropping in little things which are intended to soothe them."
Today, many media outlets behave as if they're trying to get Muslims to like them. For some it is undoubtedly simply because they don't want to be a victim of Muslim violence, but many are sincere and believe that Muslims are unfairly criticized and blamed. So the modern media drops in little things intended to soothe Muslims.
Counterjihadists have a different goal. So did Churchill: He was trying to warn his fellow British citizens of the dangers of Naziism. And he was vilified in the German press as an enemy of Germany. "I can quite understand," said Churchill, "that this action of mine would not be popular in Germany. Indeed, it was not popular anywhere." Counterjihadists working to warn their fellow non-Muslims about the danger of Islam's political doctrines do not feel their actions are popular either.
It's hard to believe, but even as late as 1937 there was a strong and growing pro-German feeling in Britain, even after Hitler took possession of the Rhineland. People were confused. They didn't know what to think. German propaganda was working and people were thinking maybe if they let Hitler have what he wanted (Austria and Czechoslovakia) Hitler would then be peaceful and cause no more trouble.
Churchill did his best to combat these mistaken notions. In 1937 alone, he wrote and published more than 100 articles. "Churchill had no intention," wrote Gilbert, "of giving up his faith in the eventual re-emergence of Britain's will to resist." His articles were being syndicated and read throughout Europe and America.
Several of Churchill's closest friends disagreed with his "negative" point of view about Naziism. They believed Hitler wanted to be friends with Britain and would cooperate in peace. Churchill knew better. Hitler had written and published his intentions years before (in his book, Mein Kampf). And all his actions demonstrated that he meant what he wrote.
People who met Hitler personally were quite sure they understood him and knew he was sincere and wanted peace. And today, people often say, "I know Islam is peaceful because I know this Muslim and he's really nice." As if charm and good people skills cannot exist in someone with destructive intentions or in someone who believes in a supremacist political ideology. Hitler didn't drink and didn't smoke. He was kind to his valet and some people who knew him well loved him. And he also started a world war and deliberately tried to exterminate an entire race.
March 12, 1938, German troops invaded Austria. Eight months later, Neville Chamberlain and his Cabinet were still trying to make friends with Germany, and Churchill was "in danger of losing even his own Parliamentary seat," writes Gilbert, "for inside his local Conservative constituency, pressure had been growing to replace him with someone who would support Chamberlain. Even one of Churchill's oldest constituency stalwarts was disturbed by Churchill's speech during the Munich debate, complaining that it was believed to have broken up 'the harmony of the House.' On 4 December 1938 Churchill was forced to defend himself when Colin Thornton-Kemsley, hitherto one of Churchill's staunchest constituency supporters attacked him, and strongly defended Chamberlain's policy of seeking friendship with Germany."
In February 1939 Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain, wrote to his sister that he felt lighthearted because things were moving in the direction he wanted: toward disarmament. A month later he told press correspondents that Europe was now "settling down to a period of tranquility." Britain and France had agreed to allow Germany to occupy part of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain was confident that everyone would now be able to live in peace. Four days after Chamberlain's comments to the press, Hitler ordered his troops to mass on the borders of what was left of Czechoslovakia. A few days later, Germany had full control of the Czech capital.
Was this, wondered Chamberlain aloud, an attempt to "dominate the world by force?" Had he bothered to read Mein Kampf, he wouldn't be wondering and history may have unfolded quite differently. Every time Muslims today blow up a subway or massacre cartoonists, more and more people wonder, "is this an attempt to dominate the world by force?" If they had read the Koran, they wouldn't have to wonder either.
The Germans couldn't believe that Churchill was excluded from the British government. Hitler's Financial Secretary, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, who apparently didn't like where his country was headed, told two British diplomats, "Take Winston Churchill into the Cabinet. Churchill is the only Englishman Hitler is afraid of." Writes Gilbert:
The mere fact of giving Churchill a Ministerial post, von Krosigk added, would convince Hitler that Britain really means "to stand up to him." An account of this conversation was also sent to Lord Halifax with the observation that Churchill's inclusion in the Cabinet might actually avert war as Hitler would realize Britain meant to resist further aggression.
Isn't that interesting? Churchill was no longer a soldier. He didn't command armies. He wasn't even a member of the Cabinet. All he did was speak and write. And he was the only Englishman Hitler feared. Why? He was willing to see the truth. Counterjihadists, by and large, are not trying to start World War Three. They are simply trying to show people the facts. They believe if enough people knew the facts, a lot of suffering could be prevented. Someone who sees the real situation is not fooled and makes saner decisions. That's why Hitler feared Churchill.
Finally, unable to avoid the facts any longer, Britain signed a formal Treaty of Alliance with Poland, which said if Poland was attacked, Britain would defend her. Shortly after that, on September 1st, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, Britain declared war on Germany and World War Two began. That day in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill addressed the MPs. Gilbert writes that even though Churchill had been a "backbencher, out of office, and out of favor for the past decade...all those who listened to him recognized the voice of a man of stature, and of integrity...the wilderness years were over."
Churchill always knew that WW2 could have been prevented if people had listened. He considered his rise to Prime Minister as a failure. If he had been successful in his efforts, the war would have been prevented and he wouldn't have been needed as Prime Minister.
But his efforts were not wasted. What Churchill and Wigram achieved, as Gilbert put it, "was a gradual and total acceptance by the British people that Hitlerism was evil and would ultimately have to be resisted."
Thanks in part to new ways of communication (the internet, blogging, social media), the counterislamization movement may ultimately be more successful than the counterhitlerism movement was. For all our sakes, I certainly hope so.