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Obama, Churchill, and Torture

3:23 PM, Apr 30, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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As Goldfarb noted earlier, Obama said last night that he "was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, 'We don't torture' "

We asked Richard M. Langworth, editor of the Churchill Centre quarterly Finest Hour and of Churchill by Himself, an annotated collection of 4000 Churchill quotations, if he could find this quote. Here's what he had to say:

The word "torture" appears 156 times in my digital transcripts of Churchill's 15 million published words (books, articles, speeches, papers) and 35 million words about him-but not once in the subject context. ...

Churchill spoke frequently about torture, mostly enemy murders of civilians. His daughter once told me, "He would have done anything to win the war, and I daresay he had to do some pretty rough things-but they didn't unman him." But if Churchill is on record about "enhanced interrogation," his words have yet to surface.

The nearest I could come to his sentiments refers not to terrorist fanatics but to prison inmates. In 1938, responding to a constituent who urged him to help end the use of the "cat o'nine tails" in prisons, Churchill wrote: "the use of instruments of torture can never be regarded by any decent person as synonymous with justice."

If that line appeals to Mr. Obama, he can certainly use it with confidence.