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Pardoning World War Deserters etc

As a special 'treat' I deliberately steered clear of internet access while away, but could not resist looking at any newspapers lying around or the lure of a little mobile phone web browsing, and the 'posthumous pardons' story was something that jumped out at me.

I have two major problems with the idea of 'pardoning', the first of which is essentially philosophical - when modern standards are applied to the past, the risk of slipping into moral absolutism is almost unavoidable and presents a huge ethical problem. Using the same moral compass has already given apologies for the Crusades by the Church, apologies (and lawsuits seeking reparations) for the slave trade etc etc. Following the same reasoning, we could easily end up with apologies to women for not granting the vote at the same time as it was for men, apologies to homosexuals for previously discriminatory legislation and so on and so forth. I would expect lawsuits from the descendants of the executed deserters as a near inevitability.

Secondly, I have misgivings about the jurisprudential dimension, that is applying present legal ideas to past actions, and in particular to those already six feet under. Posthumous appeals, doubtless funded by 100% legal aid, have the scope to be hugely expensive in terms of both money and time.

Beyond that, it does not require a huge leap in imagination to recognise that where a 'wrong' has been identified, there has to be a new villain of the piece - the commanding officers, the firing squad or whatever. The same process is already evident in Australia, where being descended from a convict now has a positive status rather than one prompting shame and it the judges who sentenced early 'Australians' to transportation who are now viewed as the criminals. Incidentally, C19th criminals used to beg to be executed rather than be sent to the Antipodes.

I think that we apply retrospective judgments to the past only at our peril, and consider that it is something the authorities should steer well clear of, no matter how wronged certain people may feel.

Your thoughts please.

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Blogger Rigger Mortice said... 1:52 pm

there are some who would still face the firing squad than become Australian.

BTW a mate is trying to emigrate there-but has a criminal record from when he was 18.apparently it's no longer a plus!  

Blogger Croydonian said... 2:02 pm

Apparently if you make a 'do you still need one?' crack about criminal records to immigration bods at Sydney Airport or wherever, they shove you on the first plane back.  

Anonymous Anonymous said... 2:03 pm

Difficult isn't it,
My great grandfather served all 4 years of WW1, he only got to marry my great grandmother due to the fact that her Fiancee was killed on the Somme, they were in the same Regt and if Tom hadn't died i wouldn't be here today.
If some families feel aggrieved and the men were likely emotional wrecks who had given all and couldn't face anymore there could then be a reason to pardon them, however, some of these individuals do not deserve a pardon and nor should their names be placed on war memorials with those who did their duty to their "pals" and country and gave their lives, it would be an insult.  

Blogger The Hitch said... 2:06 pm

rigger , the cousin of an ex of mine is married to an aussie cricketer, her father did 14 years for attempted murder and got a visa to go over for her wedding, so your friend should be ok.  

Blogger Rigger Mortice said... 3:42 pm

peter,what pleasant company you keep.  

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