The Instigator
Grape
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points
The Contender
hankpin
Con (against)
Losing
8 Points

The Nuremberg Trials

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/24/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 13,814 times Debate No: 11276
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (31)
Votes (4)

 

Grape

Pro

Resolved: That the Nuremberg Trials were not a true application of justice, but rather one that was heavily biased in favor of the victorious.

As Pro, I will assume the burden of proof. However, I would still expect my opponent to argue in favor of the Nuremberg trials as well as offering counterarguments to my statements. This will follow the normal 3 round debate format. My arguments in support of the resolution are as follows:

1. The charges pressed against the defense were created In Post Facto, meaning that they were created after the acts had already been committed. At the time that the German officials on trial committed the various atrocities for which they were charged, no international law specifically banned their actions. The prosecution was therefore able to construct their charges to maximize the rate of conviction. Most national legal codes, including the law of the United States, stipulate that a crime must have been illegal at the time the act was committed in order to charges to be pressed.

2. The Nuremberg Trials were meant only the punish Germans and not all those who had committed reprehensible acts during the war. Given that the charges were created after the crimes, it is suspicious that none of the questionable actions undertaken by the Allies were brought up. Both sides bombed large numbers of civilians, a notable example of this being the firebombing of Dresden by Allied forces. This was notably left out of the definition of both "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes" though it can easily be seen as either. It follows from this that the court was not interested in punishing actual crimes that had been committed, but simply in punishing the German leadership.

3. The record of the members of the court on carrying out justice was far from clean. Iona Nikitchenko was one of the Soviet judges at Nuremberg. He also presided over some of the most notorious of the 'show trials' used by Stalin to convict his enemies during the Great Purge. This history of a complete contempt for justice does not reflect well on what intent there would have been for Nikitchenko's role in the Nuremberg trials.

4. The main indictments of the Nuremberg Trials have not been charged against nations of the winning side in following years. There is now a clear precedent for pressing charges of war crimes, aggression, and conspiracy against peace, but these charges have notably not been pressed against many world leaders. Noam Chomsky summed it up by saying, "If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged." The crimes pressed against the Germans during the Nuremberg trials have been committed by the United States numerous times since then, notably in the cases of Vietnam. The beginning of the war was certainly an act of aggression and the Strategic Hamlet Program, though far more benign than the Holocaust, was still a crime against humanity. Even if this specific example cannot be accepted, for every one that is struck down another can but brought up. Despite this, US and British government officials remain uncharged for any such crimes. It follows that when the charges were being brought against the Germans, Allied officials had no intention of these charges ever being brought against their own nations.

Conclusion:

Considering the historical context and legacy of the Nuremberg Trials, it is hard to believe that they were meant to be just at all. They were not fair to the defendants, and equally importantly they did not treat both sides equally. Though I do not deny the fact that many of the Nazis were terrible and deserved their punishment, the trials were nonetheless carried out in a way that was unfair to them. More importantly, many crimes just as terrible as theirs went unpunished because they were committed by the winning side.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org...... - Wikipedia article providing general information on the Nuremberg Trails which repeats some of my criticisms.

http://en.wikipedia.org...... - Wikipedia article providing information about the Strategic Hamlet Project in Vietnam. It notable omits the fact that a large number of people died as a result of this project, as discussed by Noam Chomsky in "Imperial Ambitions."

http://www.brainyquote.com...... - The quote from Chomsky was found here.

http://en.wikipedia.org...... - Wikpedia article provides information about the show trails of Stalin.

http://avalon.law.yale.edu...... - This is a very detailed and unbiased assessment of the trial conducted at Yale Law School.
hankpin

Con

First off, I would like to accept the debate. Although I am not an expert in this field, I shall try my best in negating this resolution.

Resolved: That the Nuremberg Trials were not a true application of justice, but rather one that was heavily biased in favor of the victorious.
Since the affirmative side did not provide definitions, I would like to put forward some of them.
Nuremberg Trials: A tribunal established in the German city of Nuremberg by Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States, to bring to trial those war criminals whose actions during the Second World War were deemed to be international crimes against humanity.
Application: the act of bringing something to bear; using it for a particular purpose
Justice: the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity.

Also, I would like to put forward the additional definition of war crimes as violations of the laws or customs of war.

Since the resolution specially addresses the Nuremberg Trials and whether or not it is "just", I believe that this debate should be framed around events that happened during the Second World War. All examples that occurred after the war should therefore not be accepted.

Contention 1: Nuremberg Trials Present the Greatest Benefits for the Greatest Number of People
During World War II, the German military committed many questionable actions throughout Europe. From France to Poland, more people suffered from the Nazi regime than those who benefited from it. Nuremberg Trials allow for retributive justice for those people who were oppressed under the Nazi regime. Since more people received retributive justice in the form of Nuremberg Trials, therefore it is just.

Contention 2: German War Unjustified
According to Jus ad bellum, in order to wage a just war, the war must have a just cause and a right intention. However, in the case of Germany, it neither has a just cause nor a right intention in the invasion of Poland. Adolf Hitler's ideas of "lebensarum" and "Greater Germany" seem hardly to be "just". Since there is no just cause for the war, we can reasonably assume that the war Germany waged isn't a "just war". As the result, Nuremberg Trials, by punishing the perpetrators of an unjust war, serve as an instrument of justice.

Contention 3: Porportionality
Though it is true that the Allied powers may have committed war crimes during the Second World War, porportionally, it is still drastically smaller compare to the actions perpetuated by Germany during this conflict. As the result, though German civilians may have suffer, it still did not outweigh the harms that the Nazis brought to others. Porportionally speaking, the Nuremberg Trials did serve its function as an instrument of justice.

I am now open for cross-examinations before moving on to rebuttals.
Debate Round No. 1
Grape

Pro

Because my opponent used the previous round to offer his own arguments, I am going to focus this round on a rebuttal rather than constructing my own points further. I accept all of the definitions proposed by my opponent.

However, there is one point that I do not accept: "Since the resolution specially addresses the Nuremberg Trials and whether or not it is "just", I believe that this debate should be framed around events that happened during the Second World War. All examples that occurred after the war should therefore not be accepted." I don't see the logic here. The Nuremberg Trials happened after the Second World War, so can the trials themselves not be used as evidence? This seems like an attempt to arbitrarily ignore long term consequences. When examining an event in history, it is important to look at both the short and long term effects.

Contention 1: More people suffered from the Nazi regime than benefited from it. This is correct. However, it does not logically follow that "retributive justice" (an oxymoron at best) is justifiable. Was the suffering of the victims of the Nazi regime assuaged by the imprisonment and execution of Nazi leaders? My opponent uses the phrase "received retributive justice" as though it directly benefits the victims of the Nazis. I doubt the sufferings of the Holocaust were greatly reduced by a further injustice. In any case, this "retributive justice" could be used to justify all sorts of atrocities. Surely many people feel that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a just retribution against the United States. The number of people that "received retributive justice" certainly exceeds the number of people who were directly harmed. Does that make it just? Of course not, because majority rule does not determine justice. No logical connection has been established to suggest this.

Contention 2: I agree that Germany had neither a right cause nor right intention in waging war. This may have been the stated reason for bringing Germany to trial, but it could not have been the actual reason. How do I know this? Because victorious nations have not been put on trial for the same crimes as Germany. The end result of the trials with regards to Germany may have been reasonable, but that does not make them just. Many of those who committed crimes were not punished. Many wars are fought today without right cause or intention, but I do not see leaders being brought to trial and hanged.

Contention 3: This contention does not make sense within my opponent's definition of justice. Is it just that because the Allies committed fewer crimes, they should not be punished? That is not how justice works. It is not "rational" or "fair" or "equitable". Everyone who commits a crime should be tried and punished equally regardless of what side they happened to be on. The point of justice is to have the moral intent to make sure crimes are punished. If crimes are punished based on who was on what side, than there is obviously no moral intent.

Conclusion: Whatever my opponent is arguing for, it does not fall within the definition of justice. Justice cannot be measured in degrees because it is about intent. If there was no intent for justice to be served, then no justice was served. If the majority of crimes are punished but some are ignored, it is clearly not justice because it is obviously not based on morality, ethics, or fairness. Simply because something benefits a large number of people does not make it moral, fair, ethical, or rational.
hankpin

Con

In ths round, I will first refute my opponent's contention and, if time allows, defend my own case.
Definitions:
On the question or not whether Nuremberg Trials are just or not, it is crucial for us to examine the actions that happened during the Second World War. After all, Nuremberg Trials weren't created to try wars that haven't even started. In terms of historic issues, I fail to see how later events would affect whether or not Nuremberg Trials were just at the time.

Rebuttal:
Contention 1:
"At the time that the German officials on trial committed the various atrocities for which they were charged, no international law specifically banned their actions."
Actually, killing of civilians, as well as killing of POWs, are against the established laws of war under the Hague Conventions and Geneva Conventions. German actions during World War II are clearly already illegal, and they can definitely be tried for it.

Contention 2:
"Both sides bombed large numbers of civilians, a notable example of this being the firebombing of Dresden by Allied forces. This was notably left out of the definition of both "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes" though it can easily be seen as either."
There were yet to be laws that restrict aerial warfare. As the result, legal preccedent is being set in the case of aerial warfare.

Contention 3:
Yes, those there are some faults with the judges' selection on part of the Soviets. However, most judges' records were fairly clean. The acquittal of Rudolph Hess shows exactly that.

Contention 4:
My opponent brings up the Strategic Hamlet Program, which is somewhat confusing. The SHP is, in no way, shape, or form, a crime against humanity. Sure, it may be a major infringement on human rights, but caling it a crime against humanity was grossly exaggerating the program.
Also, U.S soldiers suspected of committing war crime were court-martialed. This, of course, certainly did not happen in the Wehrmacht.

Defend:
Contention 1:
Retributive justice is one of the many justice theories around. I see no reason why it is not acceptable as a way to weigh whether or not something is "just". In fact, this theory of justice has been around for centuries, even fining a place in the biblical boook of Deuteronomy. Again, the definition of justice, which my opponent accepts, is "the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity." Retributive justice, being a morality, is certainly an acceptable way to value justice.

"The number of people that "received retributive justice" certainly exceeds the number of people who were directly harmed. "
The basis of the retributive justice theory is the the punishment must be proportional, e.g "Let the punishment fit the crime"

Con.2)
"Because victorious nations have not been put on trial for the same crimes as Germany."
Are there any actual examples of this?
"Many wars are fought today without right cause or intention, but I do not see leaders being brought to trial and hanged."
Again, we are discussing whether or not Nuremberg Trials are just, not whether or not current conflicts are justifiable. I do not see how punishing Germany for an aggressive, unjustifiable war would be considered unjust.

Con.3)
"Is it just that because the Allies committed fewer crimes, they should not be punished? That is not how justice works. It is not "rational" or "fair" or "equitable"."
According to the utilitarian moral standard, justice is the maximazation of welfare for all relevant individuals. Even if the Nuremberg Trials are bias, it is still "just" because it benefits a larger number of people. According to utilitarianism, punishment is a necessary sacrifice to bring about a greater good. The reason for punishment is the maximization of welfare, and punishment should be of whomever, and of whatever form and severity, are needed to meet that goal. Utilitarianism, being a moral/ethics system, is also another valid way to describe whether or not something is just.

Conclusion:
This debate revolves around one issue: What is justice? Unfortunately, there is no one answer to what is "just". However, my opponent seems to believe that there is only one universal system to determine whether or not something is just. This is absolutely false. Justice, being "the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity", also changes depending on what system of ethics, rationality, law..etc it is base on. Since the definition also did not specify which system we should use to weigh justice, utilitarianism is therefore acceptable. In my case, I have shown you how the Nuremberg Trials can be justified under utilitarianism.
Debate Round No. 2
Grape

Pro

My goal for this round is to address my opponent's arguments on a point by point basis and then to address them holistically in the conclusion.

Defenses:

C1: The Hague Convention of 1899 does ban the killing of civilians and POWs, but those were not the only crimes the Germans were charged with. I refer specifically to the first and second indictments (1). These are: Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War and Waging Aggressive War (or "Crimes Against Peace"). Nations have been and continue to commit these crimes, and there was absolutely no legal precedent for the charges. The third and fourth indictments were illegal and the Germans did deserve to be tried for them, but I will address the problems surrounding those charges later. The Geneva Conventions are also not a relevant example since the first Geneva Convention was in 1949 (2).

C2: There were no laws restricting aerial warfare. However, the Hague Conventions (3) do restrict the intentional killing of civilians. Whether they are killed from bombs that are fired from the ground or dropped from above does not seem particularlly important. Section II, Chapter I, Act 25 of the Hague Convention of 1899 states that, "The attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited." There is no mention of any specific means of bombardment.

C3: My opponent seems to have conceded this point. If some of the judges were not clean, that is a major flaw in the trial. The fact that "most judges' records were fairly clean" is not enough to make the circumstances of the trial adequate, especially when some of the other judges have a specific history of running sham trials.

C4: The Strategic Hamlet Project could be it's own debate so I'm going to try to avoid going too far into it. However, the number of deaths due to the poor management and unreasonable circumstances placed on civilians by the program resulted in a number of civilian deaths in the hundred thousands (4). It was no Holocaust but it was a Crime Against Humanity and a War Crime. The other examples of violations of the indictments by victorious powers go on and on. The US invasion of Vietnam in and of itself would have been considered Waging Aggressive War by the very harsh definitions of the Nuremberg Trails, as would the recent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It don't hear many people calling for the hanging of US officials, however.

Rebuttals:

C1: Retributive justice is a theory of justice, but it is not a valid theory of justice and it does not work well within the definition used for this debate. The reason that you cannot simply weigh the costs and benefits should be fairly obvious. Would it be just to take all of Bill Gates' money and distribute it equally to every person in the world? Billions of use would gain more money, a substantial amount by the standards of some. Only one person would be hurt. However, this is obviously unjust because the point of justice is to do what is reasonable and fair for ALL, not just the majority. Also, calling retributive justice a valid form of justice because it is a form of morality is equally unreasonable. I can scrawl the Holy Book of Grapism on a napkin and proclaim it is just to kill and eat other humans. That would be an idea of morality but by itself that does not make it an acceptable form of justice. It would also have to be fair and rational and obviously it is not.

C2: Above, I mentioned several examples of victorious nations waging aggressive war. I will maintain that the events following the trials are perfectly valid evidence in this debate. Seeing how the precedents of the trials were follows after provides clear evidence about their intent. Specifically, the indictments were meant to be applied to Germany and not to anyone else, which is exactly what happened.

C3: The utilitarian moral theory is in interesting one, but so is the deontological moral theory, and numerous other theories that are all subject to criticism. Just because something benefits the most number of people does not make it just. This argument breaks down to absurdity so quickly it is almost impossible to argue against it without resorting to argument ad absurdum. In any case, I already presented the argument that punishing the Nazi leaders did not maximize welfare. The horrible sufferings that they were responsible for cannot be assuaged by punishing them. The welfare of people was not improved significantly by the trials. If the Nazi leaders were beaten, tortured, and shot with no trial would that also be just because it might make a few people feel a little better?

Conclusion:

The utilitarian moral theory handles justice very poorly because it does maximize welfare for all, it only seeks to maximize total net welfare. This approach is actually very unjust. My opponent's definition of justice clearly does not apply to to Nuremberg trials. I have also provided amply historical evidence to satisfy his concerns in that regard so far. The definition of justice can be twisted and convoluted to include of sorts of things, but the concept remains immutable. It must be reasonable and logical, it must apply to ALL, and it must be fair to ALL. It cannot be changed and shifted continuously based on what we feel is convenient at the time or it is no system of justice at all. The reason for the idea of justice is to prevent exactly what my opponent is suggesting: doing what is most beneficial for most people at that time on a case by case basis regardless of what is fair, reasonable, logical, or equitable.

Sources:

(1) http://www.law.umkc.edu...
(2) http://www.icrc.org...
(3) http://avalon.law.yale.edu...
(4) Propaganda and the Public Mind (Noam Chomsky)
hankpin

Con

hankpin forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
31 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Grape 7 years ago
Grape
Votes Summary:

Conduct - con forfeited the last round
Sources - I don't believe con used any sources
Arguments - see the debate for why I think my own arguments were better
Spelling and Grammar - not important to me unless some side has egregious errors
Posted by Grape 7 years ago
Grape
Actually I forgot about a humorous debate yesterday so I am no longer undefeated. My win streak wasn't that legitimate anyway due to the large number of involuntary forfeits.
Posted by InsertNameHere 7 years ago
InsertNameHere
I don't even think Grape has ever lost a debate.
Posted by Rockylightning 7 years ago
Rockylightning
go grape, New Yorkers PWN!
Posted by Rockylightning 7 years ago
Rockylightning
how is grape so good?
Posted by 1stLordofTheVenerability 7 years ago
1stLordofTheVenerability
It could be that way, Hank, or it could be any other way you choose. :D It's pretty loose in debate style. Just respond effectively and push home your own arguments. :D
Posted by hankpin 7 years ago
hankpin
Just for clarification, what is the typical format followd on this website? AC, NC, AR, NR, and Final Focus?
Posted by 1stLordofTheVenerability 7 years ago
1stLordofTheVenerability
This debate is absolutely magnificent. I only wish I could have claimed the opposition to you, Grape. : )

A controversial topic, it's definitely an ideal choice. I think that there was a defineable bias in the Trials, as there were no Allied Commanders whom were tried, and there were several incidences of which there is a possibility of a war crime being committed.

However, one must remember that it was Germany that instigated the war, and they chose to wage a total war. They were the ones that brought the fighting to the people and they were the ones whom abolished any tenable rules as it suited them. They are the ones whom committed a genocide. The Allies did whatever was possible to thwart the Germans and their fellow Axis. The first Nuremburg Trials were against 'Major War Criminals'. There weren't any major Allied war criminals. Even if there were Allied criminals, the crimes would be only minor.

As for Grape's Post Facto arguments, most of the German deeds were most definitely illegal before hand. Murder, slavery, bondage and abuse were all disapproved. Torture had been outlawed and treatment of prisoners had been outlined specifically. A limit on weapons had been placed in former Conventions. Just because the Allies chose to ignore and weren't fully aware of the atrocities the Germans committed doesn't mean that the acts aren't illegal.
Posted by redbrave70 7 years ago
redbrave70
Social Darwinism... Survival of the fittest...or whomever has the bigger gun
Posted by twsurber 7 years ago
twsurber
It's safe to say we have different views on this. Call it a stalemate.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Yvette 7 years ago
Yvette
GrapehankpinTied
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Vote Placed by Grape 7 years ago
Grape
GrapehankpinTied
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Vote Placed by hankpin 7 years ago
hankpin
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Vote Placed by Rockylightning 7 years ago
Rockylightning
GrapehankpinTied
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