To start with Ned.
Beheading the NW deserter is not an immoral act. Ned had no way of knowing that the NW man was speaking the truth - because no one had seen or heard of the White Walkers for 8000 years south of the Wall. NW deserters are executed because most of them end up there because they're criminals, and because of their oaths. We, the readers understand that the NW deserter DID see these creatures, but it's akin to using as a defense for deserting the military - going AWOL - as "I saw Big Foot/space aliens/the Loch Ness Monster"! That won't keep them out of the brig, anymore than it should stop Ned from killing the deserter.
He explains it in Bran's chapter - why he had to do it. Because NW deserters know that their lives are forfeit, thus they don't care anymore about what's right and wrong, and go around from town to town basically feeling above the law, since no matter what, if they get caught, they'll die anyway. Might as well have some rape, stealing, and murdering on the side, eh?
That was the rationale. Had Ned Stark been given ANY indication that what Gared said (sorry for spelling, it's prob wrong) was true, I'd be with you here, but to Ned what Gared was saying was utter madness. As liege Lord and since Gared was captured on Ned's lands, Ned was responsible for mete-ing out justice, which was beheading.
No convention in the King's law provides that deserters must be returned to Castle Black for punishment. I don't understand why people make that argument - that Ned should've shipped him back to be hung by the NW. Beheading is a much kinder way to die, actually.
ETA: I am judging Ned in a Westerosi context AND in a modern context. I tend to do so with most characters. I do understand that there are societal norms, and that people such as Drogo and the Dothraki taking slaves was normal for them. I don't think this makes them right.
And I don't think slavery is right - it was outlawed in the 7 kingdoms, so it IS a societal norm ( an anti-slavery stance, that is) from where Dany was born. The Grandmasters should
know that killing slave children to taunt an invader is wrong - but they dehumanize their slaves and use them as chattel and animals. Dany correcting this error in perception is not wrong, and is a noble endeavor, IMHO.
So it's difficult to separate Westerosi standards from our own universal standards.
Rape, incest, murder, kinslaying, disobeying oaths/promises, and war atrocities like the RW are all wrong according to modern AND Westerosi norms. We don't have to argue from a 21st century perspective to say that Ser Gregor raping innocent women is wrong. It was wrong by the King's law, and punishable by gelding. We also don't need to argue that slavery was okay just because they practice it in Essos and have never known any other way.
Or are there people on the boards who defend the American South for keeping slaves because they "needed" the free labor for their massive agricultural exports? Do we really have people who defend this? I've never seen one.
But one would necessarily have to excuse a wealthy Georgian plantation owner with 100s of slaves from, say 1824, as "a product of his time", if we're going to excuse the Grand Masters for their brutal form of slavery in Essos and call Dany "stupid" for trying to reform their society.
I don't do this. Slavery is wrong no matter what time period. That wealthy Georgian should have been punished, or at the very least forced to provide real, adequate wages to every single slave he had.
The Grand Masters of Mereen are far more brutal on the whole with their slaves than any Americans (in general) were (and yes I know there were plenty of cruel slave-owners who beat, raped, and impregnated their slaves without caring at all - they deserve the same condemnation as the Mereneese slave-owners).
But I don't recall a time when an American slave-owner nailed up 163 slave children and cut out their entrails as a taunt to a Unionist army marching toward their city.
In any case, slavery was morally wrong in America, it is morally wrong in Westeros (otherwise Ser Jorah wouldn't be wanted for execution), and it's morally wrong in Mereen, Astapor, Yunkai, Volantis, Qarth, and all the free cities who practice it. Even in Pentos where they still have "slaves" yet pretend they do not.
I do not need to argue using 21st century values of right and wrong, or using the Geneva Convention, to make these statements.
Edited by Silmarien, 05 April 2012 - 03:14 PM.