Thursday, September 15, 2005

I'd like to thank my co-stars....

Orac's edition of the History Carnival includes the exchange between Mr. Jones and myself on historical judgements and comparative ethics. Since he's given it a TV theme, I'm working on my Emmy acceptance speech....

2 comments:

Grant Jones said...

Grumble...grumble...grumble...Orac doesn't provide a link to my piece to which you were responding.

The point would be that Lincoln ignored, in many cases, his own General Orders 100. Also the Union treatment of prisoners, both military and civilian, is not just a legal matter but a moral one also. Civil War historians concede that such treatment was a disgrace to the cause.

Union General William Hoffman was in charge to the POW camps. His motives in the bad treatment of POWs was pecuniary. After the war he returned two million dollars to the treasury. This money was for the care and feeding of prisoners!

http://www.angelfire.com/ny5/elmiraprison/williamhoffman.html

Ahistoricality said...

When I sent him my link, I figured he'd include yours as well. Next time I'll be clearer. Anyway, both my original post and this one point the way, so I think you'll get the traffic.

You're right that the abuses were disgraceful, immoral. But they were not, by and large illegal. That's a minor point, in terms of historical judgement, but a major one in terms of political judgement: when Lincoln's Order 100 is cited it's because he went beyond existing law to set a high standard.

When the Bush administration argues that torture isn't, that the conventions don't apply, that the constitution doesn't follow the flag, it is lowering our standards.

There is a pragmatic argument against too-rigid standards to which I'm sympathetic, but only with the best possible justifications and in the light of the best possible results. Convenience is not an excuse.