Suzanne Fields

Churchill made a habit of prescience, and had to wait for the rest of the world to catch up. In 1946, the prime minister whose oratory had bucked up the morale of the Allies through World War II was once more in the wilderness, having been thrown out of office for Clement Atlee by an ungrateful public weary of the sacrifices of war. He traveled to tiny Westminster College in Missouri, the home state of Harry Truman, where he described an Iron Curtain descending upon Europe "from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic." Although leftists and many liberals both here and in Great Britain rejected the image as too hostile to the Soviet Union, it captured the imagination of the public (smarter, as usual, than the intellectuals), and set off the needed debate over how to deal with the Cold War.

"But how many know that [Churchill] also warned the world of the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism?" asked his namesake grandson Winston in a speech in Australia. The young Churchill confesses that he didn't know that, either, until he began compiling a book about his grandfather's speeches. He discovered that on June 14, 1921, after a Cairo conference in which Churchill presided over the meeting that re-shaped the Middle East -- including the creation of modern Iraq -- he warned the House of Commons that the violently radical Wahhabi Muslims, then confined to Saudi Arabia, were a dangerously lethal strain of what was then called Mohammedanism, and would require watching.

But who cared? "The consequence," says his grandson, "has been that the Wahhabis have been able to export their exceptionally intolerant brand of Islamic fundamentalism from Mauritania and Morocco on Africa's Atlantic shores, through more than two dozen countries including Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, to as far afield as the Philippines and East Timor in the Pacific."

The young Winston worries that the West is dozing off again. He can't imagine anything more deadly for civilization than the message he hears on Capitol Hill, from congressmen who want to cut and run from Iraq. "Is [America] going soft?" he asks. "The reality is that Iraq today is the epicenter of the Islamic militants' assault on the West."

He recalls the speech his grandfather delivered on becoming prime minister in May 1940 as a message for our own times: "You ask: What is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. However long or hard the road may be, for without Victory there is no survival."

Is anybody listening?


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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