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Subject: France reconsiders WWI soldiers executed for cowardice rss

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Hunga Dunga
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http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/01/france-first-wo...

Better late than never.


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Brian Morris
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I find this kind of thing just stupid. I think it is driven in a large part by people who want to inject themselves into the history and politicians wanting a few minutes of news time.

Case in point Colonel Edward Cross. Died at Gettysburg on July 3rd 1863. Legend has it that he was told before going into battle on July 2nd by General Winfield Hancock "Today you'll earn your star!" to which Cross replied "No General. Today will be my final battle". Cross died the next day after being wounded on the edge of the Wheatfield.

A few years ago some guys got the ear of their local congressman. They wanted Colonel Edward Cross to get his promotion too general. This congressman recognized a good 3 minute news story when he heard it so he authored a bill in Congress. Congress shrugged it's shoulders, pressed yea and moved onto declaring it National Fly Fishing Day. Thus behold Cross got his promotion to General 150 years after he died. The guys who got Cross his promotion did a big victory lap around the online civil war forums, the congressman got to be seen on TV for 3 minutes on his local news looking like he was actually working and Edward Cross was still dead with the word "Colonel" on his tombstone. It's been about 7 years since this all happened and I have yet to read any civil war book that lists Cross as a general now rather than a colonel.

Pardoning these guys will do nothing. I have nothing wrong with the government acknowledging in specific cases that a man should not have been executed. However a general pardon at this point is nothing more than political theater with no meaning and what happened to these men deserves to be treated with more dignity and respect than that.
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I agree with the majority of your view there, Brian - particularly the political motivations for this sort of thing. Any pardon given should be individually considered rather part of a blanket slate-wiping exercise.

But there's an extra consideration. What do the descendents of those executed feel about the pardon being granted? Clearly the adage of "you can't please all the people all the time" will apply, but is there a prevalence in favour or against it? Essentially there are two reactions that I can see (for those families who know and care); namely that it's a sop that comes far too late, or that there is an element of closure and official recognition to a dramatic and upsetting death of a forebear.

If the latter then, even if the motivations are cynical and political, the action isn't totally worthless.
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Brian Morris
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Quote:
Essentially there are two reactions that I can see (for those families who know and care); namely that it's a sop that comes far too late, or that there is an element of closure and official recognition to a dramatic and upsetting death of a forebear.


You're missing a third reaction. What about the reaction of someone whose grandmother was raped by one of these men or murdered? Many of these men that would be granted this pardon were convicted of rape and murder. Your assumption is that they are all men guilty of minor victimless crimes. That is an incorrect assumption as explained in the article where it mentions many of these men were found guilty of such crimes.

A pardon to an innocent man who died 100 years ago that is given for no reason other than political showmanship and gifted to everyone be they innocent or a murderer holds no value because it in no way truly recognizes that the innocent man was actually innocent.
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A valid concern, although based on the incorrect assumption regarding an assumption that I didn't make.
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mrbeankc wrote:
You're missing a third reaction. What about the reaction of someone whose grandmother was raped by one of these men or murdered? Many of these men that would be granted this pardon were convicted of rape and murder.


I think you're mischaracterizing the French government's intentions.

Quote:
The report warned that a blanket pardon of every single person shot and recognition that they had all "died for France" would be problematic because some were convicted for crimes such as murder or rape. Others were shot for espionage, which was just as tricky. The report warned that re-considering each case individually would be difficult 100 years later as 20% of the dossiers had been lost.

Perhaps the option most likely to be taken up by François Hollande is the suggestion of a historic speech in which he could rehabilitate the dead by stressing that "most – but not all – were shot in conditions that were often hurried and arbitrary". The report said this would need to be accompanied by the construction of a memorial at which to remember them and an education drive.


That seems like a reasonable middle ground to me. The UK has already rehabilitated those executed for cowardice in the Great War:

Quote:
Private Harry Farr and Private James Swaine were among more than 300 soldiers whose names were cleared after the defence secretary, John Reid, amended the armed forces bill last year to forgive offences such as cowardice and desertion during the war.



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As a genuinely cowardly man, I only wish they don't kill me the first time rather than calling me a brave man later, and if that can't be helped, I hope the sanctified idiots show the sincerity of their regrets by committing mass-seppuku the old way. yuk
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sullafelix wrote:
As a genuinely cowardly man...


There are different forms of cowardice. I am quite afraid of shame.
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calandale wrote:
sullafelix wrote:
As a genuinely cowardly man...


There are different forms of cowardice. I am quite afraid of shame.
I'm brave enough to face down shame but scared of enhancing other people's career by getting hurt, and if that's what they call cowardice, so be it.
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sullafelix wrote:
calandale wrote:
sullafelix wrote:
As a genuinely cowardly man...


There are different forms of cowardice. I am quite afraid of shame.
I'm brave enough to face down shame but scared of enhancing other people's career by getting hurt, and if that's what they call cowardice, so be it.


I am quite willing to hurt them instead.
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Thanks to Angelique Chrisafis for writing this news because I'm leaving in France, I'm very interested in History and particularly in the Grande Guerre, but didn't hear about that.

But I'm sorry because the biggest part of the shot by firing squad WW1 french soldiers has been already pardoned, most of them during the 1920's, and largely more than 40. Their names have also been written on villages and towns memorials. Sometimes, this was forgotten because mayors didn't do their job or because there was no more room on the memorials or the engraver took the money and let time pass...

I think, dear Angelique that your news are more oriented to the spectacular side of french life (or may be this is the news that your boss is looking for)
http://www.theguardian.com/profile/angeliquechrisafis

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Hungadunga wrote:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/01/france-first-wo...

Better late than never.


(Scene from Paths of Glory)


Excellent initiative on the part of the French government.
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zuludawn wrote:
That seems like a reasonable middle ground to me. The UK has already rehabilitated those executed for cowardice in the Great War:

Quote:
Private Harry Farr and Private James Swaine were among more than 300 soldiers whose names were cleared after the defence secretary, John Reid, amended the armed forces bill last year to forgive offences such as cowardice and desertion during the war.





They didn't "rehabilitate" them. They pardoned them. Whether or not they were deserters, victims, rascals, PTSD sufferers, scoundrels, etc., is not definitive. All it means is they have been given a clean crime sheet.

It is clear now that some men accused of "cowardice" during the First World War may have been suffering from medical conditions that were beyond the capacity of medicine to diagnose at the time. Just as equally, however, it would be wrong to assume that all of them did so.

I agree with the argument that opening old wounds and reinterpreting the past through modern eyes is ill-advised. No matter how great the injustice, it would be impossible to "fix" all of it retroactively. If for no other reason than the dead are still dead. We can certainly learn from it, however, and continue to strive to do better in the future, for the living.
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I think the question hinges on one point - are there still family members of the dead men who feel shame that their father/grandfather/uncle was shot for cowardice? If so, then I see a positive benefit for a retroactive pardon in light of new evidence - a better understanding of the effects of combat on the psyche.
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In WW I they were shot.

In WW II they were slapped.


Progress, indeed.
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aiabx wrote:
I think the question hinges on one point - are there still family members of the dead men who feel shame that their father/grandfather/uncle was shot for cowardice? If so, then I see a positive benefit for a retroactive pardon in light of new evidence - a better understanding of the effects of combat on the psyche.


I honestly don't see what "shame of the family" has to do with it. The point of military discipline is for its effects to be felt at the time. It is a corrective action for individual soldiers, and can also be a deterrent for a soldier's peers. Your example is exactly the danger I'm talking about. The only issue that should be considered when deciding to overturn a conviction is whether or not the original conviction was legal under the rules of the day. If a soldier was given a fair trial and sentenced accordingly, whether or not medical science has changed in the interim, or the law itself has changed (as in the case of capital punishment being outlawed), unfortunately is just revisionism now. It is unfair in the extreme for us to try and view the world through a different lens - we then swing the pendulum the other way, and put the accusers in a harsher light. What then, of the shame of those who did do their duty, and tried and convicted those they found derelict?

We see this pendulum swing in other cases, such as airmen who participated in the Combined Bomber Offensive for example. Veterans participated in the campaign with clear consciences but now have had 70 years of hand-wringing and second- (and third-) guessing as historians and third-party observers re-assess the morality of what they did.

I don't doubt that we should re-assess the morality of such things as trench warfare, capital punishment, or area bombing of civilians. But we also need to recognize that the men who participated in those earlier wars, employing these methods we now find repugnant, did so with a different world-view and without knowing in advance what the outcome would be, or what the world would look like at the end of the conflict.
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Hm, I see you're point but it does mean that with this in mind many things in history now considered wrong or evil, could or should be looked upon differently.

Slavery would be a good example.
Now people frown upon it, but back in the day it was just bussiness and even encouraged by religion.
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sagitar wrote:
Hm, I see you're point but it does mean that with this in mind many things in history now considered wrong or evil, could or should be looked upon differently.

Slavery would be a good example.
Now people frown upon it, but back in the day it was just bussiness and even encouraged by religion.


Well, what good does it do for us to condemn John Q. Public, a slaveholder in antebellum Georgia? In my experience, a blanket condemnation of all slaveholders as horrible human beings is not likely to produce any worthwhile introspection. (Why not? Because "I'm not a horrible human being; I would never do something like that!") But if we understand Mr. Public, we have to do that in the context of his time and place; consider the societal pressures acting on him, and so on. And just as slavery was "just business and even encouraged by religion", there may be evil things today that are accepted by the majority and encouraged by prominent institutions. If you consider slaveholders as ordinary people who were nevertheless doing something very wrong, that might open the door for self-analysis and change. ("Hmm. I'm an ordinary person with various pressures on me; what evil things might I be doing or encouraging without thinking too much about them?")
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But that is just it, slaveholders WERE just ordinary people and in the time they lived in they werenot doing anything wrong.

Holding slaves only became wrong when some people decided it would be more to their benefit to be against it.

I fear it is the time and place that dictates if something is to beconsidered wrong
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sagitar wrote:
But that is just it, slaveholders WERE just ordinary people and in the time they lived in they werenot doing anything wrong.


They weren't doing anything ILLEGAL.
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wifwendell wrote:
sagitar wrote:
But that is just it, slaveholders WERE just ordinary people and in the time they lived in they werenot doing anything wrong.


They weren't doing anything ILLEGAL.



Right and Wrong are meaningless without context.
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sagitar wrote:
But that is just it, slaveholders WERE just ordinary people and in the time they lived in they werenot doing anything wrong.

Holding slaves only became wrong when some people decided it would be more to their benefit to be against it.

I fear it is the time and place that dictates if something is to beconsidered wrong


There were a lot of strained and convoluted rationalizations for slavery at the time which convinces me that on a certain level, slaveholders knew they were doing something bad.
They tried too hard and failed too much to provide a moral basis for slavery for it to be otherwise.
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I find it odd that many of the officers who judged these men (figuratively and literally) would themselves surrender to the Germany after a brief 'fight' in the next war. 'Cowardice' by a few is one thing; cowardice by an entire nation is quite another.
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Hm, it seems like you are saying that all French are cowards?shake
Surely I must missunderstand?
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David Ells wrote:
I find it odd that many of the officers who judged these men (figuratively and literally) would themselves surrender to the Germany after a brief 'fight' in the next war.


Not to mention that the judges knew that they themselves would never be ordered to go over the top, into the machine gun fire.
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