On this date in 1865, Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the infamous Andersonville prisoner of war camp in Georgia, was hanged after the war crimes trial that became the precedent for the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
I know the story of Captain Wirz and the circumstances of his trial well, having directed Saul Levitt’s great ethics play “The Andersonville Trial” twice. Not that Levitt’s play was an accurate portrayal of the trial—for one thing, Wirz’s dramatic stage testimony defending himself never happened. However, Levitt brilliantly brought to the fore the deep hypocrisy of Wirz’s scapegoating after the Union victory. Not only were the atrocities at Andersonville no worse than those at some Northern prison camps, Lincoln and Grant deliberately provoked the crisis in managing such camps by the South when they made the tactical decision not to engage in prisoner exchanges.
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Welcome to my nightmare…
It is 4:30 AM. I can’t sleep, and among the reasons are not, as you might think, the fact that my father died five years ago today and I miss him terribly, or that this is my birthday, and I am that much closer to my own death. No, the cause for my tossing in bed is that I read Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s comments on “Meet the Press” about the Michael Brown shooting (yes, those eleven Ferguson posts still weren’t enough) just before retiring, and they have been giving me nightmares.
What Patrick’s remarks suggest to me is that this incident is quite literally driving Democrats, civil rights activists and African-Americans crazy, causing them to lose their grip on basic principles of ethics and democracy. Here is what Patrick said, in part, in his interview with Chuck Todd, who, incompetently, did not ask properly probing questions in response (falling over in a dead faint would have also been appropriate):
“Look, without knowing all the facts, of course I wanted to see an indictment. And mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community. And because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed, young, black teenagers.”
I challenge any civil libertarian to defend this statement. Continue reading →
It CAN happen here. Or at least in Florida.
Before George Zimmerman was charged with the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin, the suspicion was already growing that powerful people, much of the news media and perhaps one entire political party was attempting to take his freedom and life for ideological, partisan or political gain. Then came the bizarre and unprofessional public statements by Florida prosecutor Angela Corey, unequivocally proclaiming her alliance with the Martin family and her certainty of Zimmerman’s guilt—neither of which sentiments were appropriate or ethical. Now that we have seen and heard the state’s case, there is little doubt that Zimmerman, contrary to American principles of justice, is being required to prove his innocence, rather than be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are reasons for this, not the least of which is that the President of the United States decided to dictate that getting to the bottom of the “Why is Trayvon dead?” conundrum was a matter of national importance, but none of them are honorable, fair, right or ethical. Continue reading →