Montreal Gazette: Blanket pardons are revisionism





Doesn't the British government have anything more pressing to attend to? It plans to make the wrong-headed and pointless gesture of giving pardons to 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for desertion or cowardice in the First World War.

The government of Britain has promised to consult Canada, because 23 of those on the list were Canadians. Greg Thompson, our veterans affairs minister, should do the same thing his Liberal predecessor Ron Duhamel did in 2001, the last time this idea surfaced - reject it. (Duhamel did have Ottawa issue an apology.)

British Defence Secretary Des Browne appears to have been stampeded after media attention to one British case. It is true that many of those executed for cowardice or desertion in the First World War would today be seen as mental-health cases, not cowards or traitors.

As recently as the Second World War, the official term for some who snapped under the mental pressure of real or anticipated combat was "lack of moral fibre." Today we speak of "post-traumatic stress disorder" and know that combat can be deeply damaging even for those without a scratch: World war veterans showed high rates of social problems, from alcoholism to spousal abuse to suicide.

But while a few men broke and ran in th First World War, many others did not. Experts say the main reason soldiers risk their lives is not patriotic zeal nor to protect their families at home, but rather their sense of loyalty to their squad-mates.

comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list