corwinargentus on May 19, 2009, 08:59:04 am
I was going to post this on another thread and then decided to give it its own little space so as not to divert other established threads.  It may die a rapid and quiet death, which is fine, Just wanted to put it out here as a convenience/thought provoker in regard to the subject currently on the minds of Sov. Emily Rose and Weapons Officer Young.

For those with a little time on their hands and an interest in studying a little history (always a worthwhile endeavor in my opinion), you may want to check out the following Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_responsibility

It is a primer and short history of the development of what has come to be accepted as the standards for the assignment of responsibility of commanders and subordinates for actions in armed conflict.  I am not saying I agree with these "standards" or that I completely discount them. 

I think some will disregard the information entirely.  The first mention of any thought on it is attributed to Sun Tzu, and I find him to be, if nothing else, at least a diverting conversationalist.  Certainly an individual with an opinion.

There are simpler statements of differing ideas governing personal responsibility, and many people who read and post here will have views at variance with these "standards."  I provide this merely as an informational link for those who subscribe to the much repeated old saw from George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."
« Last Edit: May 19, 2009, 09:02:12 am by corwinargentus »
CorwinArgentus
Goodbye, and Hello as always

Scott on May 19, 2009, 12:28:28 pm
The Wikipedia article topic concerns a commander's responsibility for actions initiated by subordinates, specifically when those actions constitute war crimes and the commander fails to prevent or stop the action.

This is a different situation from that in the story, in which the crime was ordered by the commanding officer, and the subordinate complied after being told he would not be held responsible.

corwinargentus on May 19, 2009, 01:53:59 pm
Hi Scott and all -

While I certainly agree with you Scott that the article contains much information that pertains exactly to what you say, I believe there is some material that also has application to the situation in the story too.  I submit as partial evidence the following text that talks about an underling "just following orders" (see the bold type):

'The trial of Peter von Hagenbach by an ad hoc tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1474, was the first “international” recognition of commanders’ obligations to act lawfully.[12][13] Hagenbach was put on trial for atrocities committed during the occupation of Breisach, found guilty of war crimes and beheaded.[14] Since he was convicted for crimes "he as a knight was deemed to have a duty to prevent" Hagenbach defended himself by arguing that he was only following orders[12][15] from the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, to whom the Holy Roman Empire had given Breisach.[16] Despite the fact there was no explicit use of a doctrine of "command responsibility" it is seen as the first trial based on this principle.[14][17]'

It is also significant to note that the article talks about a commander's obligation to act lawfully. 

This comes into play in that Harris's order to burn the Cerereans would be considered unlawful by many and in itself a war crime.  As I said, I don't believe this necessarily excuses Young for following the unlawful order, but some might view it as an extenuating circumstance that Young was conditioned through propoganda and state education to believe he had no choice and that his commander's word was law. 

We know a person is responsible for himself.  Young did not.  "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" is not a very good excuse for denying a person the chance to change his thinking.  Young had never before heard that he was responsible for his own actions.  In fact an opressive state like Terra tends to strip an individual of their responsibility.  People are dumb when they are young, and easily malleable.  He was trained up to believe he had very little control over himself, and therefore he believed he didn't.

I realize a lot of this comes under the heading of "common sense" (there I go again, claiming that elusive quality exists), but I was just trying to throw a little information out there for people to get some historical perspective on what people have thought about this topic through the ages.
CorwinArgentus
Goodbye, and Hello as always

quadibloc on May 19, 2009, 07:16:05 pm
I am hoping that someone, whether the defendant or someone else, does say something additional in his defense than what he did say... essentially the worst possible thing. If he is simply shot dead tomorrow, that will make one point - and a valid point it is - but there is something else here to think of.

He is responsible for his own actions, but what were his actions? Would the Rose family be alive today if he declined the order he received? Not unless he also relieved the late Admiral Harris of command. Does anyone really think he could have pulled that off?

So I'm hoping for nuance.

corwinargentus on May 19, 2009, 08:11:54 pm
In fact an opressive state like Terra tends to strip an individual of their responsibility. 

Allow me to correct myself.  The opressive state tends to strip an individual of their perception of their responsibility.  Not the responsibility itself.  That means to me, that once the victim of Terra's conditioning is faced with the reality of his responsibility he must admit to that responsibility and give further justification of his continued existence, i.e. remorse, and willingness to make whatever recompense he or she can, which in this case means placing himself at Sv Emily Rose's mercy and accepting her judgement.

I'm with you quadibloc, I hope there is more to the story... (Sandy & Co. haven't let us down so far).
CorwinArgentus
Goodbye, and Hello as always

SandySandfort on May 19, 2009, 09:01:39 pm
I am hoping that someone, whether the defendant or someone else, does say something additional in his defense than what he did say... essentially the worst possible thing. If he is simply shot dead tomorrow, that will make one point - and a valid point it is - but there is something else here to think of.

He is responsible for his own actions, but what were his actions? Would the Rose family be alive today if he declined the order he received? Not unless he also relieved the late Admiral Harris of command. Does anyone really think he could have pulled that off?

So I'm hoping for nuance.

We are here to discuss the outcome, when it comes out. You may or may not like what happens, but I stand ready to defend and explain it. There are nuances, but perhaps not the ones you are seeking.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on May 20, 2009, 12:44:38 am
We are here to discuss the outcome, when it comes out. You may or may not like what happens, but I stand ready to defend and explain it. There are nuances, but perhaps not the ones you are seeking.

BLAMM!!

So, defend and explain, already! :)

ConditionOne on May 20, 2009, 05:39:51 am
So....who cleans up the mess? Are there robots for that?

SandySandfort on May 20, 2009, 08:25:44 am
[So, defend and explain, already! :)

The explanation is obvious. Everyone has to answer for his own acts. Young was held responsible for actions. I think this went the way it should.

I will defend that position if anyone disagrees and is able to articulate what was wrong with this outcome with some specificity. This does not mean saying, "I would have done it differently." I am only interested in what you all thought I got wrong.

In anticipation of one line of inquiry, we have no reason to believe Young would have been killed if he had refused to kill the Roses (or de Leon, for that matter). How do we know this?

1) Within the story, Harris does not threaten Young when he is uneasy about murdering innocent victims. Instead, he cajoles him with a fatherly pat on the shoulder and the impossible offer to take the responsibility.

2) While not in the story, per se, it is reasonable to assume that the follow-on government to the major nation-states and the UN, would nominally have something like the US Uniform Code of Military Justice, that nominally allows military personnel to decline to follow illegal orders. And it is almost certain that UW law has rules of engagement that nominally forbid the targeting of non-combatants. I use "nominally" above, because militarily personnel in all countries commit atrocities with little or no real punishment for their crimes.

SandySandfort on May 20, 2009, 08:30:12 am
So....who cleans up the mess? Are there robots for that?

Emily has to stay after class with a mop and bucket... not!

Probably an undertaker and/or someone in the crime scene cleanup business takes care of the bodies and the mess. They might have robots.

corwinargentus on May 20, 2009, 05:23:20 pm
Sandy -

I guess I don't think you (or Emily) necessarily did anything wrong.  Given Young's lame defense, he was not sending the signals that he accepted responsibility and had remorse for his actions.  But if he had would it have made a difference?

I do think Emily acted a little hastily in Young's case.  Justice should be swift, but I don't think it should be hasty.  In its swiftness it should still be deliberate and assure that everything has been considered.  I still think perhaps a little more time should have been given Young for rebuttle or further comment/defense.  He was not going anywhere and a little more time wouldn't have hurt anything, would it?  Unless the matter was so cut and dried in your/Emily's mind that her course of action was the only "right" one.

Let me ask you this;

If Young had accepted responsibility, shown remorse, asked forgiveness, and offered whatever recompense he could/thrown himself on the mercy of the court/Emily, do you think she (or anyone on Ceres) may have spared him while still imposing some form of punishment or indenture?  Do you think YOU would spare him if he acted in the above described manner?  Why or why not?

I get from what was said by the characters in the strip that it was Emily's decision what to do with the prisoners.  She is sovereign over things that involve her to the limits of where they infringe on another's sovereignty.  If that is true, she could have done what I describe if she so desired.  I am trying to understand more clearly the lines, limits, and heart of your thoughts and beliefs on this whole matter, both as reflected in your characters, and in what you say you would do.

I am assuming there is an aspect to the Cerereans' beliefs and thought processes that takes into account the effect leaving them alive would have had on the other individuals in the settlement and the Belt.  Also mention your thoughts on how this figures into the equation, if indeed it did.
CorwinArgentus
Goodbye, and Hello as always

SandySandfort on May 20, 2009, 06:35:53 pm
I guess I don't think you (or Emily) necessarily did anything wrong.  Given Young's lame defense, he was not sending the signals that he accepted responsibility and had remorse for his actions.  But if he had would it have made a difference?

It might of, but he didn't show any contrition, only fear of dying and blame for Harris.

I do think Emily acted a little hastily in Young's case. 

How do you know? The last panel before she shoots him could have stretched out over seconds, minutes. Admittedly, a delay could have been shown by reproducing the same panel without dialog before she shoots. It's a possibility that maybe we should have considered.

Let me ask you this;

If Young had accepted responsibility, shown remorse, asked forgiveness, and offered whatever recompense he could/thrown himself on the mercy of the court/Emily, do you think she (or anyone on Ceres) may have spared him while still imposing some form of punishment or indenture? 

Nobody in the Belt (with the possible exception of de Leon's widow) would overrule Emily's decision. It was her loss, her decision. I'm not sure about Emily, though. She is a sweet kid and under any other circumstances would not hurt a fly. But he still burned her family to death. It was his actions that put him in the chair. It was much easier without any show of remorse. With remorse, maybe she would have spared him. I did not explore that possibility when I wrote it and I'm still uncertain of my character's choice if Young had seen the light.

Do you think YOU would spare him if he acted in the above described manner?  Why or why not?

That is a tough question. My guess is that most of you think I would have pulled the trigger without hesitation. Not so. I would live with whatever decision I made, but I can see that decision going either way. I am optimistic enough to believe that people can change. I am pessimistic enough to believe they rarely do. I think the issue would turn on Young's demeanor. People under threat of death will say anything. If I believed I saw true anguish and remorse in him over his crimes--not just his predicament--there is a good chance I would spare him, because I tend to be a forgiving sap. If I thought for a second, though, that he was just trying to play me and my anguish over the death of my family, I would double knee-cap him then gut shoot him. But give what Emily was given, I would have done exactly as she did.

I get from what was said by the characters in the strip that it was Emily's decision what to do with the prisoners.  She is sovereign over things that involve her to the limits of where they infringe on another's sovereignty.  If that is true, she could have done what I describe if she so desired.  I am trying to understand more clearly the lines, limits, and heart of your thoughts and beliefs on this whole matter, both as reflected in your characters, and in what you say you would do.

I wouldn't get too philosophical about this. Sure, other people might have been next on Harris' hit parade, but their number never came up. To be blunt, only Emily and de Leon had a dog in that fight. Other Belters might shun or ostracize Young (his life might be a living hell), but they would not presume to initiate force against him.

I am assuming there is an aspect to the Cerereans' beliefs and thought processes that takes into account the effect leaving them alive would have had on the other individuals in the settlement and the Belt.  Also mention your thoughts on how this figures into the equation, if indeed it did.

Not really. While altruistic punishment ( http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v415/n6868/full/415137a.html ) is generally good for society, that was not a factor in Emily's decision. She shot Harris and Young based on her own sense of justice.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on May 20, 2009, 10:34:25 pm
The explanation is obvious. Everyone has to answer for his own acts. Young was held responsible for actions. I think this went the way it should.

I will defend that position if anyone disagrees and is able to articulate what was wrong with this outcome with some specificity. This does not mean saying, "I would have done it differently." I am only interested in what you all thought I got wrong.

I don't have time for a detailed critique tonight, but here is a short critique:

  • There was no apparent investigation to determine who all bore guilt.  The other senior officers could have figured that Harris cooked his own goose, and that the junior weapons officer was a convenient scapegoat.  They might even have counseled him to use the "following orders" defense.
  • Killing Harris before "trying" the gunner conveniently eliminated one witness for the defense. Should have waited for the end.
  • The gunner didn't have time to articulate a good defense.  He might have noted that he had been drilled for years (even before his service) to follow orders and trust his superiors/government, that he hadn't seen an obvious cases of this being abused before, and that his error was not resolving this conflict correctly in the 15-30 seconds he had.
  • No one apparently advised Emily that summary execution meant that she is now liable for any debts that would have otherwise been retired from the estate that might have been compensated by the now dead officers.  Yes this includes slavery, medical experiments, raffling off the chance to kill or torture them, and/or medical experimentation, if it was deemed their lives and sovereignty were forfeit.

The sorts of niceties that go along with a reasonable trial (I'm thinking along the lines of the original common law, before it was usurped by government, BTW) may not be very interesting in a comic; but their absence makes the results suspect.

Harris' case is pretty cut and dried.  "Yeah, I did, I wanted to do it, I'd do it again, what're you going to do about it."  The weapons officer's case is much more nuanced, and  is subject to greater criticism. 

SandySandfort on May 20, 2009, 10:50:35 pm
The explanation is obvious. Everyone has to answer for his own acts. Young was held responsible for actions. I think this went the way it should.

I will defend that position if anyone disagrees and is able to articulate what was wrong with this outcome with some specificity. This does not mean saying, "I would have done it differently." I am only interested in what you all thought I got wrong.

I don't have time for a detailed critique tonight, but here is a short critique:
... 

Good start. Thank you. I'll address these and other concerns mañana after a few more have rolled in and I've had a good night's sleep. I think you've anticipated some of my answers in recognizing that this is a comic strip format and details must necessarily be left out and/or assumed, but there is more to be said.

terry_freeman on May 21, 2009, 01:04:35 am
Technical question: what happens in very low-g when you fire a .45 acp weapon? On Terra, one leans in slightly; the force is absorbed by the mass. Eventually, it is absorbed by friction between one's soles and the floor, I suppose. Mass, of course, remains the same on Ceres., but the force of gravity is less, and the friction is less.