“It was the war, the whole bloody war”

tom hobson | the dreary mantle

I’ve written on this subject before (at considerably more length) but I wanted to offer a couple of reflections on responsibility and the “ethical moment” in war…

I recently rewatched the rather brilliant (and long – oh, so very long) The Cruel Sea. In one of the films most iconic scenes, we witness Captain Lockhart racked with guilt having, he believes, caused the unnecessary deaths of a number of sailors. Finding Lockart in this state,  Ericson tells him:

“No one murdered them. It’s the war, the whole bloody war. We’ve got to do these things and say our prayers at the end.”

The scene is generally seen as depicting a typical mix of tragic stoicism and, perhaps unusually, a consciously anti-war sentiment.

There is something else though – a pathology of absolving of responsibility for violences done in wartime. This idea has been explored throughout the history…

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