Father Jim on Sherman and Torture (redux)

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Without extensive editorializing this time, please see what Father Jim has to say on the matter. He speaks for many of us, but far more eloquently.

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I don't entirely agree with Fr. Jim's uncritical reliance on Thomas DiLorenzo.

Yes, Lincoln and his generals carried out the war in a barbaric manner. On the other hand, slavery itself was generally barbaric; it was carried out according to the most un-Christian norms (separating families for profit, for example); and southerners had been barbaric in their pursuit of escaped slaves. These are not things that we can, or should, ignore. Yet this modern insistence on the part of many southerns to refuse to acknowledge any shame at all for that barbarity is increasingly disturbing.

Barbarity breeds barbarity.

Worse, to refer to Lincoln and Sherman as the godfather of modern war crimes is very disturbing rhetoric. Such activities had been going on for centuries; Lincoln and Sherman were at best rank amateurs at the game. Mr. DiLorenzo and Lew Rockwell have particular political axes to grind, and that may blind them into thinking that the previous century had seen the emergence of civilized norms of warfare, but it had also seen (for example) Tarleton's butchery in the American Revolution, as well as the American practice of tarring and feathering.

If I could be permitted to go back just a little earlier, I would refer to a phrase in the German language: "the mercy of Magdeburg." This was explained to me by an Austrian mathematics professor: it refers to the episode where the city of Magdeburg was wiped out during the Thirty Years War (one of those Catholic-Protestant conflicts). See http://www.filbrun.com/history/magdeburg.htm

In World War II, Americans fire-bombed Dresden, and dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities. Taken in isolation, it looks really bad, and a shocking number of Europeans do in fact take these episodes in isolation and use them as "proof" that America is a barbaric nation.

Of course, once you compare them to what the Germans and Japanese were doing — especially that the Japanese were training their civilians to repulse an American invasion, and look also at how they terrified the citizens of Saipan — suddenly the Americans look rather civilized.

All war is barbaric; you can only hope that the barbarity will be kept to a minimum, and that the more civilized side wins.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 6, 2005 10:22 AM.

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