No consequences for murder equals a license to kill

If a bullying kid never faces consequences for terrorizing and beating up classmates, it is permission to the little fuck to continue bloodying noses. If a terrorist organization is free, for a century, to lynch people with the winking cooperation of local authorities — after the federal government has been taken out of the anti-terrorism law enforcement equation by the Supreme Court — why WOULDN’T they continue terrorizing and making examples of anyone claiming their federally guaranteed constitutional rights? The main reason society punishes things like murder, rape and torture is because if you don’t punish these things they simply become normal.

Ezra Klein recently made a good point about the lack of consequences for the architects of our generally disastrous (if always highly lucrative) military slaughters abroad:

The consequences come for those who admit America’s foreign policy failures and try to change course, not for those who instigate or perpetuate them.


So, on the right, and even among the moderate, corporate, conflict averse mass media, Biden is to blame for problems with a largely successful civilian evacuation after a military withdrawal negotiated by Trump, a supremely artistic deal that included the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters in a negotiation that did not include the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. Anything goes wrong, it’s the fault of the illegitimate, corrupt, mentally challenged, defeated clown who botched the perfect peace deal (after stealing a landslide victory from the rightful winner)!

The latest episode of Heather Cox Richardson’s podcast (with fellow historian, Joanne Freeman, an expert in the Revolutionary War period) called Treason(ish), comes to mind.   

The main takeaway, for me, is that lack of accountability, lack of consequences  — for things like violent treason — ALWAYS ensures the same kind of behavior.   Guarantees it, really.

As part of the surrender that ended the Civil War Grant allowed the defeated Confederate army to keep its guns and go home with a gentleman’s promise they wouldn’t use the guns to continue the armed insurrection.  None of the Confederate generals who massacred surrendering black troops during the war were ever charged with anything (outside of the Nazi-forerunner, Henry Wirz, who ran the notorious Andersonville death camp, and who was executed for his devilish crimes).  No leader of the Confederate rebellion faced any sort of terrible consequences. Many served in the US federal government after the war, continuing their dogged fight for race-based superiority


So one of the things that jumped out at me when we were going to go ahead and do this episode was a song that is sung in the south in 1866, immediately after the war, it was called, I’m A Good Old Rebel and it went like this: ‘I hate your Spangled Banner, your great republic too. I hate your Freedmen’s Bureau, in uniforms of blue. I hate your constitution, your eagle and its squall, and a lying thieving Yankee, I hate the worst of all. 300, listen to this, three’… I’m sorry, I live this stuff.

Joanne Freeman:

Go for it.

Heather Cox Richardson:

‘300,000 Yankees lie moldering in the dust. We got 300,000 before you conquered us. They died of Southern fevers and Southern steel and shot. And I wish it was 3 million instead of what we got.’    Can you imagine that after the Revolution and that entering American culture in that period?


The only consequences faced by anyone in the south after the Civil War (aside from Klan leaders locked up by agents of the brand new Department of Justice, awaiting trial, until the Supreme Court quickly decided they were not really subject to federal law) were faced by American Civil War veterans who fought for the USA — Black ones, routinely massacred any time they tried to assert their newly “guaranteed” constitutional rights.


I’m going to say that while I would like to talk about the way the government worked and the way the laws worked in that period and we need to, what really jumps out to me in this period is I’m so glad you’re sitting down, culture.

Because what really matters in the determination of the way this is going to play out is the fact that when Ulysses Ulysses Grant for the United States goes ahead and accepts the surrender of The Army of Northern Virginia from General Robert E. Lee. He does so with minimal punishment. He lets the men keep their firearms on their own words saying they’re not going to continue to fight. He says, go ahead, go home and plant your crops because I know everybody in the South is starving as they were. And he believes that being lenient is going to bring these people back into society. And interestingly enough, a number of the leaders at that point including people like Wade Hampton are like, well, I wasn’t there, I didn’t give my word, I’m going to go run a guerrilla war, which they don’t actually do and that’s itself an interesting story. But what he sees, what Grant’s sees as being magnanimous, because everybody is really going to want to be in this together, really quickly gets reinterpreted on the Southern side as being, look, see, they knew we were right all along.

We had the better argument, nobody dared to stand up against us because we were the ones with the moral argument. And you can see really quickly in the summer of 1865, after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by a Southern sympathizer, the idea that they’re going to literally assassinate the leader of the opposite government, the government that won the war, and there’s not going to be any kind of backlash in a legal sense against that. Of course, John Wilkes Booth is killed in the manhunt for him and they do actually hang the people that are believed to be responsible for Lincoln’s death, a number of them. But that’s it. That and Henry Wirz who ran the Andersonville Prison camp, they’re the only executions of Confederates after the war. But again, one of the things that keeps me up at night is there are tons of executions after the Civil War, tons of them, but they’re of African-Americans who fought for the United States government.

I mean, you look at the whole picture here. It was an incredibly vengeful period, but not of the victors against the losers, the other way around. And one of the things I think that really drives that is the idea that the government had represented first by Grant and then after that, by Andrew Johnson who took over after Lincoln was assassinated, that everybody’s got the right idea, everybody wants to get along, we can do this and all be friendly and the people who wrote things like the Good Old Rebel song have every intention of taking every step that they can, and they continue to push that envelope until they essentially re-take over the south after 1877.


Makes me wanna holler.   We have “controversial” public monuments to violent traitors who committed war crimes they were never tried or punished for, instead they have literally been put on pedestals as immortal American heroes.  150 years after the Confederate surrender a ragtag mob of outraged Trumpists carry the flag of bloody treason, (laundered by an army of influential historical revisionists, into an innocent, totally non-racist, banner of “States’ Rights”), into the halls of Congress after fighting the Blue Lives Matter cops in brutal hand to hand combat — to violently stop the joint session of Congress in its constitutional duty to finalize the election of the next American president.   Now it’s time, says the Trumpist GOP in one voice, to just turn the page.   What could go wrong? 

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