anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)
[personal profile] anghraine
In my head, this post has always been the natural follow up to my Death Star rant, aka “why Luke was totally justified in blowing up the Death Star and certainly not a mass murderer.” Actually I'm not sure they have anything to do with each other, but anyway.

There are two crimes that Anakin, as Darth Vader, gets accused of with bewildering regularity: the destruction of Alderaan and the murders of Owen and Beru Lars. I always find this, well, bewildering—not only didn't he commit either of those acts, there's no indication that he even supported them. No, really.

Let's start with Owen and Beru, which is a fairly straightforward situation. Anakin is looking for the Death Star plans, coincidentally hidden in his former droids. The two droids are coincidentally purchased by Anakin's stepbrother. Imperial stormtroopers find the Jawas who sold the droids, kill them all, head to the Lars homestead, kill Owen and Beru, and then wander off to Mos Eisley or something.

We're not told why the stormtroopers are so trigger-happy. Maybe they assume that anyone who set eyes on the droids might have seen the plans and might have been Rebel sympathizers and therefore must all die. Maybe it's established stormtrooper procedure to mercilessly kill everyone who gets in your way, and by get-in-your-way I mean 'exist in the general vicinity.' Maybe they’re just evil. I don't know!

Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're complying with some directive from on high. You know, “just following orders.” They'd still be culpable for committing mass murder, but the person who gave the orders would bear the ultimate responsibility. And that person is Anakin Skywalker, right?

...Uh, right?

No.

This statement is the sum total of his involvement:

She must have hidden the plans in the escape pod. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally, Commander.

Apparently he's too high-status or too not-in-the-military or too something to actually give the command, so he just orders someone else to do it. And I don’t see how that order could possibly be construed as “BURN KILL DESTROY.” In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s a perfectly reasonable and yes, ethical, response to the situation. He doesn’t kill the commander for his incompetence as would frankly seem probable; he doesn’t even suggest the troopers should cover their tracks. Maybe his straightforward “get me the damn plans” got garbled along the lines or something, but if there was an order to kill everyone, it didn’t come from him. It’s not his fault somebody else decided his brother and sister-in-law had to die.

Now for a more complex situation: Alderaan. This is one I keep hearing, over and over and over again (rather like Luke-is-a-mass-murderer-for-preventing-further-genocide!). Anakin Skywalker destroyed a planet! He killed billions of people! How does saving one individual for purely personal reasons make up for that?

First of all, holy missing the point, Batman. Anakin’s choice is a sacrifice, not an atonement. It’s about turning from evil, not making up for it. Besides that, though, billions of people? Really?

Look, he murdered a tribe of Sand People, Count Dooku, a bunch of Jedi children and presumably quite a lot of adult Jedi over the years, the Separatists (I assume they’re civilians), a Rebel guy, Ozzel, and Needa. He also chokes his wife, tortures his daughter (he doesn’t know, but torture is still really bad), kills Obi-Wan in a duel, chops off his son’s hand, and takes out Palpatine. Except for the last, that’s a lot of evil shit. But it doesn’t remotely come out to billions of people.

A few are referring to over the top EU stuff, but overwhelmingly what I hear is “okay, there was some shred of goodness in him somewhere, BUT ALDERAAN.” To which I can only say, “what about Alderaan?”

Of course destroying it is monstrous - the single worst crime committed in the entire series, actually. But Vader doesn’t do it. He isn’t in charge of the Death Star, and this is his opinion on it:

Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

No, it’s not about decency, but frankly he doesn’t sound as if he approves of the Death Star’s existence, much less anything it does. It’s Motti and Tarkin who gloat over the Death Star, and Tarkin who orders the destruction of Alderaan. Anakin is present, but does nothing except hold Leia away from Tarkin.

Now, for some fans, that’s the whole problem. They actually do remember the sequence of events; Anakin might not have given the order, but he was there and he didn’t stop it. The question then becomes what could he have done?

Onboard the Death Star, Vader is clearly subordinate to Tarkin. He simply doesn’t have the power to countermand Tarkin’s orders. He could have done some Force thingy, I guess, but that’s a teensy bit vague and would be a temporary respite at best. He could have killed Tarkin, but he’d have died for it and Alderaan would probably have been destroyed anyway. And frankly, by that reasoning, just about everyone in the immediate vicinity should be held responsible for Tarkin’s genocide. They were all there. Nobody tried to stop it, and a good many of them actually participated in the mechanics of planet-busting.

Or, here’s another way to look at it. Han Solo works for Jabba the Hutt. So does fan favourite Boba Fett. Jabba is a slaver. Now, I think we can assume that Han is not a fan of slavery and doesn’t participate in the slave trade. Let’s suppose the same goes for Boba Fett. Yet they continue to work for Jabba, a person who frequently throws his slaves into a pit to be devoured by wild monsters. Boba stands by while this happens, not participating, not stopping it. It’s quite probable that Han has done so, too.

Yet I don’t think anybody would suggest that they could be held directly responsible. It’s not Han and Boba’s fault that Jabba enslaves attractive young bipeds and droids. To some degree they may be morally complicit in it, sure, by dint of voluntarily participating in his criminal empire. But they’re still not slavers.

As far as I’m concerned, Anakin Skywalker is no more responsible for Tarkin destroying Alderaan than Boba Fett is responsible for Jabba feeding Oola to the Rancor.

Now, perhaps you might argue that Darth Vader has rather more clout than random employees, or even relatively favoured ones (as in the Han/Boba analogy). He might not have the power to directly contradict Tarkin’s orders, but he has Tarkin’s ear. At the very least, he could have spoken up about it. He could have argued against it on grounds that Tarkin is likely to listen to, like - just as an example - “this is a really bad idea. Literally nothing will make her give up the Rebellion. Yes, even blowing up her planet. How about we come up with a plan that will actually work?” But we don’t hear any such arguments, do we?

No...and yes. We don’t hear them. But the instant Leia “gives up” the Rebel base, Tarkin says:

You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable.

Now, this could just be Tarkin Tarkin-ly grandstanding and may not indicate that there was a previous disagreement between them about Leia and Alderaan. Except there totally was.

When it turns out Leia didn’t give up anything, we get this little interchange:

TARKIN: She lied! She lied to us!
VADER: I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion.

Now, we can’t be sure of what, exactly, went on between them. But it’s clear enough that Tarkin wanted to get information out of Leia by holding Alderaan over her head (and then to blow it up anyway for the evulz), and Anakin argued against it. It may very well not have been out of moral qualms. Or maybe it was - maybe it’s an expression of the lingering goodness Luke senses in him in ROTJ, and he framed it in turns of pragmatism because Tarkin. Who knows?

But this is what we can say for certain. Vader openly disapproves of the Death Star, describing it as a technological terror (emphasis on terror). He doesn’t order the destruction of Alderaan, he doesn’t come up with the idea, and in fact, he doesn’t participate in any way except in being present. It’s implied that he privately argued against it. So "Vader murdered billions of people on Alderaan"?

No. He didn't.

on 2012-01-24 03:10 am (UTC)
sathari: (Vaderkin- not a lot left)
Posted by [personal profile] sathari
YES THIS TO EVERYTHING YOU HAVE JUST WRITTEN (and also thank you for reminding me of this fact in another thread somewhere when I had a "I'm a PT fangirl, I so rarely watch the OT that I had in fact forgotten Anakin's complete lack of role in the clusterfuck that is Tarkin's genocidal impulses" brainglitch. (Semi-tangentially, it's also one of the things that makes me love Shadows of the Empire, because Xizor is similarly situated to Tarkin, in that he's another of Vader's quasi-co-equals in the Emperor's favor, whom Vader cannot countermand and who might even get away with bossing Vader--- subtext: whichever one of them the Emperor is more likely to agree with gets to call a given shot, hence Vader releasing Motti and also saying mostly out of the geocide of Alderaan except, you know, to prevent Leia from humiliating herself and possibly worse--- like getting shot--- by throwing herself bodily at Tarkin with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

As you say, the man killed a campful of Tuskens, some epic number of Jedi of all ages and levels of ability and training, generally aided and abetted a tyrant, and maimed and/or tortured his own offspring (albeit one of whom he didn't know was his at the time). That is quite enough to make him a seriously bad dude; let's leave Alderaan on Tarkin's head where it belongs.

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