Laconia incident

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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Sarevok »

In a perfect world there would have been procedures for enemy submarines rescuing survivors. There was none and this was a total war scenario. It's hard to fault anyone involved. It was a an inevitable tragic consequence of a war as terrible as WW 2.
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Re: Laconia incident

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Bakustra wrote:Thank you for once again hearing what you want to hear. You see, I am arguing from the moral perspective.
I don't think so; it seems to me that your moral argument is selective and disregards the surrounding circumstances. The conduct of the U-boat and the reasons for its actions are as important as everything else in this sorry case but these are aspects you tend to neglect. The fact is that German conduct in this affair was reprehensible. They were abusing and manipulating the Red Cross for tehir own political ends and that a moral perspective that pretty much outweighs any other.
While I know that you and morality had a falling-out a long time ago, reach into the depths of whatever replaced your heart and consider that I agree that it was a perfectly legal attack. My dispute is with the morality of the attack, unless you are legitimately a Legalist in your beliefs and so conflate legality/legitimacy with morality.
Who me? What replaced my heart was a pie-cutter. Be that as it may, the difference between us is that you take an extremely limited and tightly focussed view of the situation and base your "moral" judgement on that tight focus. I take a much broader view of the situation that incorporates aspects of the environment that are excluded by your tight focus. As with so many cases, that broader viewpoint completely changes the text of the event.
What I find most interesting is that you assert that German actions elsewhere in the war prevent this from possibly being immoral. So, Slade, when exactly do you think that Germans became Untermenschen scum? 1933? 1939? 1940? Inquiring minds want to know, mainly so that they can come to terms with such blatant, overt demonization and figure out a restrained response to it.
*** Blinks **** The point made (repeatedly) is that in 1914, a German U-boat skipper named Weddingen established the precedent that ships in process of rescuing survivors from a sinking were a legitimate target and could be attacked at will. For that he was - and is - lionized as a hero. Now, I have no objection to that precedent, in his position I would probably have done the same thing, but approve or not, that is the precedent set. Ships picking up survivors are legitimate targets. This is nothing to do with demonizing anybody; I will go as far to say if Weddingen hadn't set that precedent, somebody else would have done. That also doesn't matter; in the old saying we eat what is set before us and the situation is what it is. The Weddingen Precedent is set and that's that. Now, with the Laconia incident, the Germans tried to suspend that precendent because it was politically convenient for them to do so. they were not allowed to get away with doing so. That ends the matter and the "moral argument" ends there as well. The actual moral question is "do the Germans have a unique right to set and suspend precedents and rules as they find convenient?" I would suggest that any moral answer would have to be "no."
Last edited by Stuart on 2011-01-26 12:17pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Sarevok wrote:In a perfect world there would have been procedures for enemy submarines rescuing survivors. There was none and this was a total war scenario. It's hard to fault anyone involved. It was a an inevitable tragic consequence of a war as terrible as WW 2.
Absolutely; I couldn't agree with you more. Once again, a perfect demonstration as to why its better not to go to war.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

TimothyC wrote:
General Trelane (Retired) wrote:
The Duchess of Zeon wrote:Because the submarine had to be disarmed for it to even possibly be validly flying the Red Cross, and if it sank another ship before heading home, it was not disarmed. Unless you think they could just teleport more torpedoes onboard.
Not in the least, but I do think that the sinking of the Quebec City was completely unrelated to displaying the Red Cross while trying to rescue survivors from the Laconia, so I still fail to see how this completes the "abuse of the Red Cross". Can you show that U-156 was displaying the distinctive emblem of the Red Cross with perfidity and/or treachery so as to dupe potential targets such as Quebec City?
It is my understanding that if you have any weapons aboard at all you can't legally display the Red Cross. The fact that they were able to later attack a ship after displaying the Red Cross flag, shows that they were in violation of the rules around displaying the flag.
I don't dispute that, but I do dispute certain bullshit claims that doing so was a war crime--and a double one at that (once for displaying the red cross during a rescue operation and again for removing it before resuming combat operations). From the Customary International Humantiarian Law, Chapter 18:
CIML wrote: Rule 59. The improper use of the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions is prohibited.
[. . .]Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, "making improper use of the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions" constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts when it results in death or serious personal injury. [emphasis mine]
U-156 may not have displayed it completely properly (though clearly he [Hartenstein] and more importantly Doenitz thought it was proper), but this clearly did not constitute a war crime by today's standards (I'm not entirely sure what the standards were during WW2). Certain repeated hyperbolic claims that this was a war crime does not make it so. Such claims were amusing, but now they're tiring.

I do expect that in Stuart's fantasy world, the deaths and injuries due to the B24 bombing make this a war crime, but then he also asserts that the survivors were being used as human shields! :roll:

Edited to add [Hartenstein] for clarity.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Stuart wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Thank you for once again hearing what you want to hear. You see, I am arguing from the moral perspective.
I don't think so; it seems to me that your moral argument is selective and disregards the surrounding circumstances. The conduct of the U-boat and the reasons for its actions are as important as everything else in this sorry case but these are aspects you tend to neglect. The fact is that German conduct in this affair was reprehensible. They were abusing and manipulating the Red Cross for tehir own political ends and that a moral perspective that pretty much outweighs any other.
Abusing and manipulating the Red Cross by displaying its flag while rescuing individuals from the water only really counts as such if you have a legalistic perspective. I would consider abusing the Red Cross to be firing or attacking while displaying the flag, or simply raising the flag after an attack to dissuade pursuers, neither of which happened here.
While I know that you and morality had a falling-out a long time ago, reach into the depths of whatever replaced your heart and consider that I agree that it was a perfectly legal attack. My dispute is with the morality of the attack, unless you are legitimately a Legalist in your beliefs and so conflate legality/legitimacy with morality.
Who me? What replaced my heart was a pie-cutter. Be that as it may, the difference between us is that you take an extremely limited and tightly focussed view of the situation and base your "moral" judgement on that tight focus. I take a much broader view of the situation that incorporates aspects of the environment that are excluded by your tight focus. As with so many cases, that broader viewpoint completely changes the text of the event.
You mean, conjuring up an alternate version of events to validate the "untarnished nature" of the Allies (excepting the commies, of course)? In the broader sense, Germany fails to come out ahead on morality, which anybody with any knowledge of the Second World War realizes. However, this does not prevent them from doing so or from acting morally period in narrower situations, as you suggest.
What I find most interesting is that you assert that German actions elsewhere in the war prevent this from possibly being immoral. So, Slade, when exactly do you think that Germans became Untermenschen scum? 1933? 1939? 1940? Inquiring minds want to know, mainly so that they can come to terms with such blatant, overt demonization and figure out a restrained response to it.
*** Blinks **** The point made (repeatedly) is that in 1914, a German U-boat skipper named Weddingen established the precedent that ships in process of rescuing survivors from a sinking were a legitimate target and could be attacked at will. For that he was - and is - lionized as a hero. Now, I have no objection to that precedent, in his position I would probably have done the same thing, but approve or not, that is the precedent set. Ships picking up survivors are legitimate targets. This is nothing to do with demonizing anybody; I will go as far to say if Weddingen hadn't set that precedent, somebody else would have done. That also doesn't matter; in the old saying we eat what is set before us and the situation is what it is. The Weddingen Precedent is set and that's that. Now, with the Laconia incident, the Germans tried to suspend that precendent because it was politically convenient for them to do so. they were not allowed to get away with doing so. That ends the matter and the "moral argument" ends there as well. The actual moral question is "do the Germans have a unique right to set and suspend precedents and rules as they find convenient?" I would suggest that any moral answer would have to be "no."
And here we go again on the Wheel of Slade! Where it stops, nobody cares, because it's completely indistinguishable! The Naval Protocol of 1936 that Doenitz was charged with ignoring with the Laconia order was acceded to by Germany, and so your approach seems to be to damn them for following it, because of "precedent". Meanwhile, Captain Hartenstein's broadcast indicated he was aware that he could be attacked, seeing as he vowed not to fire except in self-defense, so you can hardly suggest that he was planning to legally shield himself, as opposed to hanging out the flags as an indication that they were conducting rescues.
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Re: Laconia incident

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Bakustra wrote: Abusing and manipulating the Red Cross by displaying its flag while rescuing individuals from the water only really counts as such if you have a legalistic perspective. I would consider abusing the Red Cross to be firing or attacking while displaying the flag, or simply raising the flag after an attack to dissuade pursuers, neither of which happened here.
On the contrary; the situation is quite simple. The U-boat was carrying out an operation whose necessity was dictated by political reasoning and which exposed the submarine to significant risk. That submarine then flew the Red Cross to try and dissuade attack. That's definately abuse.
You mean, conjuring up an alternate version of events to validate the "untarnished nature" of the Allies (excepting the commies, of course)? In the broader sense, Germany fails to come out ahead on morality, which anybody with any knowledge of the Second World War realizes. However, this does not prevent them from doing so or from acting morally period in narrower situations, as you suggest.
No, just looking at the situation as a whole rather than a few isolated elements of it.
And here we go again on the Wheel of Slade! Where it stops, nobody cares, because it's completely indistinguishable! The Naval Protocol of 1936 that Doenitz was charged with ignoring with the Laconia order was acceded to by Germany, and so your approach seems to be to damn them for following it, because of "precedent". Meanwhile, Captain Hartenstein's broadcast indicated he was aware that he could be attacked, seeing as he vowed not to fire except in self-defense, so you can hardly suggest that he was planning to legally shield himself, as opposed to hanging out the flags as an indication that they were conducting rescues.
You're not making any sense again. The B-24 crew was criticized because they attacked a submarine that was allegedly picking up survivors. The Aboukir, Cressey and Hogue incident set the precedent that ships picking up survivors remained legitimate targets. Therefore the criticism made is unwarranted. It's as simple as that.
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Re: Laconia incident

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General Trelane (Retired) wrote:U-156 may not have displayed it completely properly (though clearly he [Hartenstein] and more importantly Doenitz thought it was proper), but this clearly did not constitute a war crime by today's standards (I'm not entirely sure what the standards were during WW2). Certain repeated hyperbolic claims that this was a war crime does not make it so. Such claims were amusing, but now they're tiring.
No more tiring that the constant assertion that the Germans have some god-given power to turn the rules on and off whenever it suits them.
I do expect that in Stuart's fantasy world, the deaths and injuries due to the B24 bombing make this a war crime, but then he also asserts that the survivors were being used as human shields!
Oh grow up. The submarine was a legitimate target, it was conducting a politically-dictated operation that exposed it to signficant risk and it attempted to reduce that risk by claiming it was picking up survivors. What else is that other than using them as a human shield?
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

Stuart wrote:No more tiring that the constant assertion that the Germans have some god-given power to turn the rules on and off whenever it suits them.
I never made that claim, and I won't make that claim. If that's what's driving your 'discussion', I would suggest re-examining your methods and lay off such tactics--there are plenty of better arguments to make.
Oh grow up. The submarine was a legitimate target[. . .]
I never disputed that either, and in fact, I concur.
[. . .]it was conducting a politically-dictated operation[. . .]
In your opinion. Yes, German/Italian relations were an important driving factor in the rescue attempt (and likely the only reason that Hitler didn't countermand the rescue order). But it is abundantly clear from survivor accounts that the U-boat captains* did their best to rescue all they could--especially the women and children. They did so knowing the danger they put their boats in, and they accepted that danger. Hartenstein radioed his intentions in English including the promise to not fire unless fired upon, and he included his position. The B24 made an identification run (they first thought it might be a British sub), and in doing so, they passed well within range of U-156's anti-aircraft guns, but Hartenstein withheld fire. I look at this as see a good-faith attempt to save as many as possible. You see a ruse using human shields. That leaves me shaking my head in wonderment.

If it were a ruse, why didn't the U-156 simply dive once it became clear they were under attack and that the 'ruse' was up? They didn't dive even though the B24 made five attack runs. After the attack was over, they put the onboard survivors (including the women & children as well as the Italians) back on the life boats, cut them free, and went off to make emergency repairs. Of the three German U-boats, only U-156 was ordered to break off the rescue in response to the attack; the other two continued even though it was clear their 'ruse' was discovered. Your interpretation just doesn't add up to the facts.

*the 3 German ones at least; the Italian one didn't seem too concerned with non-Italians)
[. . .]that exposed it to signficant risk and it attempted to reduce that risk by claiming it was picking up survivors. What else is that other than using them as a human shield?
Looks like an attempted rescue operation that went bad. That's what happens when a war-asset is used this way.
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Re: Laconia incident

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Stuart wrote:
And here we go again on the Wheel of Slade! Where it stops, nobody cares, because it's completely indistinguishable! The Naval Protocol of 1936 that Doenitz was charged with ignoring with the Laconia order was acceded to by Germany, and so your approach seems to be to damn them for following it, because of "precedent". Meanwhile, Captain Hartenstein's broadcast indicated he was aware that he could be attacked, seeing as he vowed not to fire except in self-defense, so you can hardly suggest that he was planning to legally shield himself, as opposed to hanging out the flags as an indication that they were conducting rescues.
You're not making any sense again. The B-24 crew was criticized because they attacked a submarine that was allegedly picking up survivors. The Aboukir, Cressey and Hogue incident set the precedent that ships picking up survivors remained legitimate targets. Therefore the criticism made is unwarranted. It's as simple as that.
Excuse me, but why is 'precedent' an excuse in this case? Is there any compelling argument for firing on ships picking up survivors? And if there is, is it ethically acceptable to do so? I can't see how, from a utilitarian standpoint, this can be considered to be a 'good' decision.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Slade, you're coming at this from an alien perspective to myself and Gen. Trelane. You focus on legitimacy. Legitimacy is all well and good. Neither of us will argue against the legitimacy of the attack. I am arguing against its morality. One could easily consider valid targets that it was nevertheless immoral to attack. Dresden is generally considered to have been a legitimate target, but many people still consider its firebombing a horrific and immoral act. One could easily pick other examples. My argument is that the deliberate attack on the submarines rescuing survivors from the Laconia was an immoral action, and that it was also hypocritical for the Allies to try and condemn Doenitz at Nuremberg for the order he issued in response to this incident. Again, I am not making claims about the legality of the action.
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Re: Laconia incident

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It would be even more immoral to let a Nazi tool of destruction survive and go on to kill more allied men of potentially limitless numbers, a task which is exactly what U-156 kept doing after surviving the air attack. Five more men did DIE on Quebec City and while 41 survived, implicitly by attacking without warning a submarine commander is accepting that everyone on board the target could and very well may be killed. Every single time. A submarine is a weapon of pure destruction, and in some instances you are talking about thousands of men and women killed by a single spread of torpedoes. You have a damn poor sense of morality if you think letting the enemy live on with a weapon like that is more important then putting a damn end to the mass murder the Nazis perpetuated on civilization.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor »

Bakustra wrote:Slade, you're coming at this from an alien perspective to myself and Gen. Trelane. You focus on legitimacy. Legitimacy is all well and good. Neither of us will argue against the legitimacy of the attack. I am arguing against its morality. One could easily consider valid targets that it was nevertheless immoral to attack. Dresden is generally considered to have been a legitimate target, but many people still consider its firebombing a horrific and immoral act. One could easily pick other examples. My argument is that the deliberate attack on the submarines rescuing survivors from the Laconia was an immoral action, and that it was also hypocritical for the Allies to try and condemn Doenitz at Nuremberg for the order he issued in response to this incident. Again, I am not making claims about the legality of the action.
YOu do realise that in a Total War scenario, which was the way WWII was fought, morality is practically out of the window? The Nazis showed no mercy to their conquered countries, or their prisoners. So why should they be shown any special treatment? In wars like this, the question that is dealt with in any mission is this: What will save more of my men's lives and kill more of the enemy? Everything else is secondary and frivolous.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Sarevok »

Indeed. This is not present day low intensity conflicts against angry armed civilians who can not fight back. WW 2 decided the fate of the planet. It created the present world order as we know it today. It is easy to look back and call the allies barbaric. But those were different and dark times. When look at the sheer titanic scale of the conflict fought across continents and oceans the truth is self evident - victory at any cost.
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Re: Laconia incident

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If we declare the bombing immoral because it killed survivors, then we must also declare immoral every single hostage rescue action ever taken in which some of the hostages died or were injured.

It is not moral to let a hostage taker get what he wants and let him go to avoid death or injury to hostages, because...then he will go on to take more hostages, or train people to take hostages, causing more misery and harm in the future.

If Hartenstein really did what he did out of humanitarian concerns, he should've disarmed the ship. Declarations of humanitarian intent are really well and good, right until you are finished with your rescue, hoist the red cross down and merrily proceed to kill more people during your career. Arguably, even disarming the ship wouldn't really cut it, as two months later U-156 could've picked up more torpedoes and proceeded to sink ships anew.

Why people can't see the hypocrisy in that action is staggering to me. The laws established for proper use of the Red Cross flag were designed explicitly to prevent the degeneration of the symbol: if warships, tanks etc. could just temporarily hoist the symbol up every time they did something non-war related, both sides would start immediately shooting legitimate Red Cross vehicles on the assumption they're not actually doing humanitarian work most of the time, but instead want to not be bothered for some time.

And of course there's the fact that any action that lead to Germany losing the war faster could be moral, even if it killed fuckloads of people instantly, because while Hartenstein put on his display, the SS was merrily murdering its way through Russia. So a day shaved off the war meant lives saved.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by LaCroix »

This disarming the ship to be legal to carry the red cross is a fallacy... The bombers didn't exactly ask if he had properly jettisoned all ammo. And even if he had done and stated this over radio, they wouldn't have believed it.

The lesson? Don't use a warship for rescue operations.

The funny thing is, had he just called the other boats via encrypted message and not used open radio, no one would have know his position, he probably would have had hours to rescue people before anybody would have came by looking for the boat. A stationary boat is rather hard to spot by recon flights, even if they are surrounded by a flock of survivors...
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by K. A. Pital »

Sarevok wrote:It is easy to look back and call the allies barbaric.
For idiots who don't do the math and compare civilian losses on the Axis and on the Allied side. The conduct of the Axis in Eastern Europe and China alone is good grounds to consider any German unit destroyed, even with collateral casualties, a worthwhile act.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Vehrec wrote: Excuse me, but why is 'precedent' an excuse in this case? Is there any compelling argument for firing on ships picking up survivors? And if there is, is it ethically acceptable to do so? I can't see how, from a utilitarian standpoint, this can be considered to be a 'good' decision.
Because precedent is the basis of law, at least in our kind of society (I agree that's not a universal rule but the sort of societies that do not take due regard of precedent are not really very good places to live.) Now, I agree with you that it would probably be better if Weddigen had held fire after sinking the Aboukir but he didn't and he was/is regarded as a hero because he didn't. Objectively I would agree with you in the assertion that we would all be better off if the old, pre-1914 rules that a ship picking up survivors was considered to be part of a temporary truce and would not be fired on. But, we eat what is set before us and things are what they are.

The argument for firing on ships who are engaged in picking up survivors is that they are easy targets and offer a good chance of depriving the enemy of valuable fleet units at relatively low cost. This was Weddigens argument in 1914; the chance to kill three enemy cruisers was too good to pass up. As I've said I can't disagree with him on that; in his place I'd probably have done the same thing. But, by doing so the principle was established. In the case of a U-boat finding one and sinking it was a hard job. Typically, at the time in question, a successful U-boat would sink literally dozens of ships and send tens or hundreds of thousands of tons of desperately-needed cargo to the bottom. So, the chance to catch and kill a U-boat was actually very important; arguably much more important than three old armored cruisers of which the British had plenty.

The "utilitarian standpoint should be that killing the U-boat saves those ships and (even more importantly, those cargoes).

Reverting to the more general point. Precedent can be compared to a society's conscience. It says (in effect), this is what we consider appropriate, this is what we consider to be acceptable. By the middle of WW2, sinking merchant ships without warning and attacking ships picking up survivors were considered appropriate and acceptable. By the way, it's worth noting that the survivors of the Bismarck were (mostly) left to swim because the British commanders decided that the risk of being torpedoed by lurking German submarines was too high and that exposing said ships to attack could not be justified. Again, precedent at work. We don't have to like it but that's the way things were back then. Still are, mostly.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Bakustra wrote:I am arguing against its morality. One could easily consider valid targets that it was nevertheless immoral to attack. Dresden is generally considered to have been a legitimate target, but many people still consider its firebombing a horrific and immoral act. One could easily pick other examples. My argument is that the deliberate attack on the submarines rescuing survivors from the Laconia was an immoral action, and that it was also hypocritical for the Allies to try and condemn Doenitz at Nuremberg for the order he issued in response to this incident.
And, bringing up Dresden really makes a very neat example of the whole problem with the 'morality' argument. Many people might consider the destruction of Dresden to be a horrific act but there are, equally, many people who do not. As it happens, I'm one of them. Whether or not Dresden was an immoral act or not is a personal opinion. It has no validity other than as a personal opinion. In fact, your statement that the attack on the U-boats following the Laconia incident was 'immoral' is no more meaningful than saying 'I don't like it'. It is no more meaningful than that because it is nothing more than saying 'I don't like it' in different-sounding words.

So, your argument that the attack on the U-boat in question was 'immoral' really is nothing more than you saying "I don't like it because I don't like it' and dismissing everything else that has been produced as to why the attack was carried out by putting your hands over your ears and carrying on with the chant 'I don't like it'. That's not an adult way to behave.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Vehrec »

Stuart wrote:
Vehrec wrote: Excuse me, but why is 'precedent' an excuse in this case? Is there any compelling argument for firing on ships picking up survivors? And if there is, is it ethically acceptable to do so? I can't see how, from a utilitarian standpoint, this can be considered to be a 'good' decision.
Because precedent is the basis of law, at least in our kind of society (I agree that's not a universal rule but the sort of societies that do not take due regard of precedent are not really very good places to live.) Now, I agree with you that it would probably be better if Weddigen had held fire after sinking the Aboukir but he didn't and he was/is regarded as a hero because he didn't. Objectively I would agree with you in the assertion that we would all be better off if the old, pre-1914 rules that a ship picking up survivors was considered to be part of a temporary truce and would not be fired on. But, we eat what is set before us and things are what they are.
I am not certain about you sir, but if my steak is served well done, I throw it out. If things are reprehensible and objectively wrong, then I will object and try to change these things.
The argument for firing on ships who are engaged in picking up survivors is that they are easy targets and offer a good chance of depriving the enemy of valuable fleet units at relatively low cost. This was Weddigens argument in 1914; the chance to kill three enemy cruisers was too good to pass up. As I've said I can't disagree with him on that; in his place I'd probably have done the same thing. But, by doing so the principle was established. In the case of a U-boat finding one and sinking it was a hard job. Typically, at the time in question, a successful U-boat would sink literally dozens of ships and send tens or hundreds of thousands of tons of desperately-needed cargo to the bottom. So, the chance to catch and kill a U-boat was actually very important; arguably much more important than three old armored cruisers of which the British had plenty.
The Hero of a massacre. Oh, you can use other words, but I'm not sure how else to describe attacking a ship engaged in rescue operations. Yes, that's something to celebrate all right. It takes a very special kind of mind to say 'this is good because it helps me kill people easier.' I'm not sure I want to twist my mind backwards enough to understand that.
The "utilitarian standpoint should be that killing the U-boat saves those ships and (even more importantly, those cargoes).
Well, a really good utilitarian standpoint would take a step further back, declare the war itself fundamentally abhorrent to human well-being and ban it for all time. But as world war one showed people, it is indeed possible to cease considering the situations of others and impose on them your will by victory, and to a certain cast of mind that will never cease to be appealing. It still remains my personal opinion that total war is seldom worth the cost in lives and material destroyed. Every other utilitarian consideration of war must be colored by this. Indeed, the best utilitarian solution would probably be to take a page from Catch-22 and simply have everyone refuse to fight.
Reverting to the more general point. Precedent can be compared to a society's conscience. It says (in effect), this is what we consider appropriate, this is what we consider to be acceptable. By the middle of WW2, sinking merchant ships without warning and attacking ships picking up survivors were considered appropriate and acceptable. By the way, it's worth noting that the survivors of the Bismarck were (mostly) left to swim because the British commanders decided that the risk of being torpedoed by lurking German submarines was too high and that exposing said ships to attack could not be justified. Again, precedent at work. We don't have to like it but that's the way things were back then. Still are, mostly.
Even if that's the way things were back then, that's still no excuse not to condemn reprehensible and inhumane behavior. Now, I would be the first one in line to admit that the Axis did far worse than this, but I see no reason to gloss over atrocities committed by the winners like this and Dresden as simply the cost of war and how things were done back then. Neither measurable shortened the course of the war or ameliorated human suffering. Likewise, I see little difference between leaving the crew of the Bismark to swim and pulling alongside them and shooting them with rifles. They're dead either way, so by refusing to pick them up, yes, I consider them to have been killed by the British commanders. And if it's atrocious to shoot prisoners, it's equally atrocious to leave men swimming in the grip of the North Atlantic. Possibly worse-shooting is generally quicker. So if this precedent is supposed to serve as the conscience of the society? Then it's a fundamentally broken conscience.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Samuel »

Well, a really good utilitarian standpoint would take a step further back, declare the war itself fundamentally abhorrent to human well-being and ban it for all time. But as world war one showed people, it is indeed possible to cease considering the situations of others and impose on them your will by victory, and to a certain cast of mind that will never cease to be appealing. It still remains my personal opinion that total war is seldom worth the cost in lives and material destroyed. Every other utilitarian consideration of war must be colored by this. Indeed, the best utilitarian solution would probably be to take a page from Catch-22 and simply have everyone refuse to fight.
Except that never works. Utilitarians have to deal with what is feasible- otherwise we'd all be communists attempting to bring about the workers revolution.
Neither measurable shortened the course of the war
Neither does killing individual axis infantry. However we did that because the cumulative effect shortened the war.
Likewise, I see little difference between leaving the crew of the Bismark to swim and pulling alongside them and shooting them with rifles.
Picking them up exposes you to U-boats.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Fingolfin_Noldor wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Slade, you're coming at this from an alien perspective to myself and Gen. Trelane. You focus on legitimacy. Legitimacy is all well and good. Neither of us will argue against the legitimacy of the attack. I am arguing against its morality. One could easily consider valid targets that it was nevertheless immoral to attack. Dresden is generally considered to have been a legitimate target, but many people still consider its firebombing a horrific and immoral act. One could easily pick other examples. My argument is that the deliberate attack on the submarines rescuing survivors from the Laconia was an immoral action, and that it was also hypocritical for the Allies to try and condemn Doenitz at Nuremberg for the order he issued in response to this incident. Again, I am not making claims about the legality of the action.
YOu do realise that in a Total War scenario, which was the way WWII was fought, morality is practically out of the window? The Nazis showed no mercy to their conquered countries, or their prisoners. So why should they be shown any special treatment? In wars like this, the question that is dealt with in any mission is this: What will save more of my men's lives and kill more of the enemy? Everything else is secondary and frivolous.
So why so upset about the claim that it's immoral? If morality is not a concern, then claims of morality or immorality are immaterial and hardly worth putting hand to keyboard. But I'm not actually saying that it was immoral to attack the submarine, but rather to attack it while it was pulling people out of the water and so risking the lives of said individuals, if not murdering them outright. But I feel, unlike many it seems, that Nazis are not actually subhuman, and so deserve the same treatment regardless of their actions. I mean, this is just like justifying prison rape- welp, they're bad guys, so they deserve to get forcibly sodomized regularly. Just because someone is a Nazi doesn't mean that they forfeit any human rights. But your understanding of morality is more "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth", so have fun with your vision loss!
Stuart wrote:
Bakustra wrote:I am arguing against its morality. One could easily consider valid targets that it was nevertheless immoral to attack. Dresden is generally considered to have been a legitimate target, but many people still consider its firebombing a horrific and immoral act. One could easily pick other examples. My argument is that the deliberate attack on the submarines rescuing survivors from the Laconia was an immoral action, and that it was also hypocritical for the Allies to try and condemn Doenitz at Nuremberg for the order he issued in response to this incident.
And, bringing up Dresden really makes a very neat example of the whole problem with the 'morality' argument. Many people might consider the destruction of Dresden to be a horrific act but there are, equally, many people who do not. As it happens, I'm one of them. Whether or not Dresden was an immoral act or not is a personal opinion. It has no validity other than as a personal opinion. In fact, your statement that the attack on the U-boats following the Laconia incident was 'immoral' is no more meaningful than saying 'I don't like it'. It is no more meaningful than that because it is nothing more than saying 'I don't like it' in different-sounding words.

So, your argument that the attack on the U-boat in question was 'immoral' really is nothing more than you saying "I don't like it because I don't like it' and dismissing everything else that has been produced as to why the attack was carried out by putting your hands over your ears and carrying on with the chant 'I don't like it'. That's not an adult way to behave.
Slade, you attempting to serve as an arbiter of "adult" ways to behave is hilarious on several levels, but this is not the place to talk about your many faults as a simulacrum of a human being.

You clearly do not understand what I am saying, because your response is that "morality is irrelevant" which is yet another shift in your argument. I have been observing such shifts but not noting them before now for a variety of reasons. One of them is that I believe that we should be kind to those less fortunate then ourselves. Yes, morality is not universal. Welcome to 100-level philosophy, I guess. I recognize why the attack was carried out. I am not concerned with why. This is something that I will repeat, and you will ignore, until this probably degenerates into moderation. So if you are unwilling to address what I am actually arguing and saying, perhaps this conversation should come to an end.
PeZook wrote:If we declare the bombing immoral because it killed survivors, then we must also declare immoral every single hostage rescue action ever taken in which some of the hostages died or were injured.

It is not moral to let a hostage taker get what he wants and let him go to avoid death or injury to hostages, because...then he will go on to take more hostages, or train people to take hostages, causing more misery and harm in the future.
So the people they were pulling out of the water were hostages? You're smarter than this. There was no need to take hostages, since he could have left on his merry way. He stopped and other ships were brought in- to pull people from the water. He was only abiding by the Naval Protocol of 1936, so I guess that any sub that did that was hostage-taking- oh, this is because he was a Kraut jerry German Nazi, right? And apparently Nazis are Untermenschen. I forgot.

But, going with the insanity for a moment and assuming that they were hostages, then if you conducted a "hostage rescue" by blowing up the building, or machine-gunning the area, then you would not be able to get off scot-free in a reasonable society. At least you would be culpable for reckless endangerment and negligent homicide.
If Hartenstein really did what he did out of humanitarian concerns, he should've disarmed the ship. Declarations of humanitarian intent are really well and good, right until you are finished with your rescue, hoist the red cross down and merrily proceed to kill more people during your career. Arguably, even disarming the ship wouldn't really cut it, as two months later U-156 could've picked up more torpedoes and proceeded to sink ships anew.

Why people can't see the hypocrisy in that action is staggering to me. The laws established for proper use of the Red Cross flag were designed explicitly to prevent the degeneration of the symbol: if warships, tanks etc. could just temporarily hoist the symbol up every time they did something non-war related, both sides would start immediately shooting legitimate Red Cross vehicles on the assumption they're not actually doing humanitarian work most of the time, but instead want to not be bothered for some time.

And of course there's the fact that any action that lead to Germany losing the war faster could be moral, even if it killed fuckloads of people instantly, because while Hartenstein put on his display, the SS was merrily murdering its way through Russia. So a day shaved off the war meant lives saved.
Man, it's... it's almost as though you can take humanitarian actions at one time and kill people at another time! Damn, I guess that there may be some complexity or something to human behaviors! Oh no, we can't pigeonhole this guy into the "kill kill kill" or "let him live" categories! Society is collapsing!!

He put out the flags to indicate what he was doing, along with making his broadcast and refusing to fire unless in self-defense. If you feel that the ideal in wartime is for warships to let people die because of legal niceties, just say that you're a callous individual who cares little for sailor fuckheads so.

Your morality amazes me. Anything goes, as long as it kills Nazis. Hey, could I rape a Nazi, as long as I kill him or her afterwards? Could I do so if I produced a study showing that doing so had a non-zero impact on Nazi war capacity? Could I cast a genocide spell to wipe out all Germans from the Earth, seeing as that would end the war almost immediately? Could this be used to justify any action in any war, as long as you have sufficient propaganda to convince your populace of the evil of the opposition? Does this lead to monstrous ends if applied? Will you back off from your disgusting proposal or pretend that you implied some sort of limit to it? I hope that these questions and more will be answered soon!
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Vehrec wrote: I am not certain about you sir, but if my steak is served well done, I throw it out. If things are reprehensible and objectively wrong, then I will object and try to change these things.
You're welcome to try and I wish you luck. As I have said right from the beginning, I think the precedent established with the sinking of Aboukir, Cressey and Hogue was fundamentally wrong and the celebration of Weddigen as a hero was misplaced. Indeed, I actually suggested that somebody should go along and piss all over his memorial. Nevertheless, until the situation is changed, we have to work with what we have got.
The Hero of a massacre. Oh, you can use other words, but I'm not sure how else to describe attacking a ship engaged in rescue operations. Yes, that's something to celebrate all right. It takes a very special kind of mind to say 'this is good because it helps me kill people easier.' I'm not sure I want to twist my mind backwards enough to understand that.
Again, I don't disagree with that; in fact I've been saying it right from the start. Unfortunately neither you nor I are ina position to dictate international law.
]Well, a really good utilitarian standpoint would take a step further back, declare the war itself fundamentally abhorrent to human well-being and ban it for all time. But as world war one showed people, it is indeed possible to cease considering the situations of others and impose on them your will by victory, and to a certain cast of mind that will never cease to be appealing. It still remains my personal opinion that total war is seldom worth the cost in lives and material destroyed. Every other utilitarian consideration of war must be colored by this. Indeed, the best utilitarian solution would probably be to take a page from Catch-22 and simply have everyone refuse to fight.
Once again, isn't that what I've been saying right from the start? "On the whole, its better not to start wars". The problem is, to quote Tolkien, "it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." If one is stuck with a war, the only way to end it is to win as quickly and decisively as possible.
Even if that's the way things were back then, that's still no excuse not to condemn reprehensible and inhumane behavior. Now, I would be the first one in line to admit that the Axis did far worse than this, but I see no reason to gloss over atrocities committed by the winners like this and Dresden as simply the cost of war and how things were done back then. Neither measurable shortened the course of the war or ameliorated human suffering. Likewise, I see little difference between leaving the crew of the Bismark to swim and pulling alongside them and shooting them with rifles. They're dead either way, so by refusing to pick them up, yes, I consider them to have been killed by the British commanders. And if it's atrocious to shoot prisoners, it's equally atrocious to leave men swimming in the grip of the North Atlantic. Possibly worse-shooting is generally quicker. So if this precedent is supposed to serve as the conscience of the society? Then it's a fundamentally broken conscience.
Why was Dresden an atrocity? There were very good reasons why the city was a target. As to leaving the crew of teh Bismarck to swim, what do you suggest? Pull a cruiser with a thousand men on board to a dead halt so she can carry out rescue operations, accepting that the enemy submarine force has a long history of torpedoing ships doing just that? Are you going to risk the men on your ship to try and save men from another whose comrades are very likely to kill you while you do it? The sort of comments you are making are very easy to make in a nice warm office, sitting in a comfortable chair and typing words into a computer. They are much harder to make on the open bridge of a ship in a North Atlantic storm with enemy submarines hunting you.

The alternative to using precedent is to make things up as we go along. Do you really want to live under a system where you can walk into a courtroom charged with driving at 35mph in a 25mph limit and not know whether you will be fined $10.00 or executed?
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Bakustra wrote:Slade, you attempting to serve as an arbiter of "adult" ways to behave is hilarious on several levels, but this is not the place to talk about your many faults as a simulacrum of a human being.
Do you actually have any intelligent remarks to make or are you going to continue proving you are nothing but a dumb-ass child?
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Dresden is considered an atrocity (by those who do) at least in part because bombing efforts didn't target major industrial or military centers that were claimed as the focus of the attack. The military facilities to the north of the city, the Autobahn... those weren't targeted by the attacks. Then, we could also go by the motivations you used earlier to "prove" that Hartenstein had no humanitarian intentions, but I am not that dishonest. Then there are also people who consider firebombing or strategic bombing as a whole an atrocity, but that is too far outside your worldview for you to consider it, I am sure.
Stuart wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Slade, you attempting to serve as an arbiter of "adult" ways to behave is hilarious on several levels, but this is not the place to talk about your many faults as a simulacrum of a human being.
Do you actually have any intelligent remarks to make or are you going to continue proving you are nothing but a dumb-ass child?
Thank you. Every time I send a little jibe your way, you live down to it. How low can you go, sir? How low? Maybe you could address the rest of my post, instead of confirming that yes, you do fail to simulate a human being.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Bakustra wrote: Thank you. Every time I send a little jibe your way, you live down to it. How low can you go, sir? How low? Maybe you could address the rest of my post, instead of confirming that yes, you do fail to simulate a human being.
You're welcome. I see you are nothing but a dumb-ass kid. Try to grow up a little, it may make you worth bothering with. At the moment you seem incapable of coming up with anything approaching a reasoned argument. FYI stanping your little feet is not a reasoned argument. produce some logic and we'll examine it.
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