I have never really spent a great deal of time discussing the Confederacy of Independent Systems on this site. While the Separatist Alliance has popped up here and there, I’ve otherwise never discussed them at length. This surprises me because I have always had a deep fascination with the Confederacy. Since encountering the organization in Attack of the Clones, my interest in the Separatists has never really ceased to expand. True, they are the “bad guys” in the Clone Wars, their droid armies – led by the vicious General Grievous – reaping havoc across the galaxy. But while the evil machinations of Grievous, Count Dooku and Darth Sidious, not to mention others like Nute Gunray and Poggle the Lesser, drive the deadly war effort for the Separatists, it is easy to forget that they do not represent the motivations of every member of the Alliance. This is no more apparent than with Mina Bonteri of Onderon, a former Republic Senator turned Separatist Senator who was introduced in The Clone Wars episode “Heroes on Both Sides.” In the episode, Bonteri – whose husband died a year prior during a clone assault on a Separatist military installation – presents herself as an individual who has legitimate feelings of discontent with the Republic. While she is friendly with Republic Senator Padme Amidala, both of whom agree that the war should come to an end, Mina Bonteri is never-the-less fully committed to the Separatist cause of independence from the Republic.
As a result of Bonteri’s views and choices to support the Separatist cause, I am left wondering why others chose to ally themselves with the Confederacy and join the war against the Republic. This is not to suggest answers can easily be found, or even at all. Unlike Bonteri, other Separatist figures are rarely given the chance to express their deeply held or personal views regarding the Republic or even the war. Moreover, the motivations of Separatist figures, especially in The Clone Wars animated show, are often one-dimensional, tending to present Separatists as entirely “evil.”
Consider how in the first act of The Clone Wars movie – an act which introduces the effervescent Ahsoka Tano – we are also introduced to the Whorm Loathsom, the Separatist general leading the war effort on the planet Christophsis. While his name invites us to quite literally loathe him – why would we willingly side with someone named “Whorm Loathsom”? – he is “loathsome” precisely because he is battling the forces of dynamic duo of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Moreover, he has pushed Kenobi and Skywalker to the breaking point, their forces having been backed into a corner and barely holding on thanks to a battery of artillery holding Loathsom’s tanks at bay. When Ahsoka Tano arrives on the battlefield, she does so during a short lull in the fight, a lull brought on by Loathsom when he chooses to disengage his tank forces to keep them out of range of the cannons.
With the story focused entirely on the three Jedi, their bleak situation, and the cunning plan they conjure to combat the renewed Separatist assault, we are never given the chance to view Loathsom as anything but a bad guy facing off against the good guys. Now, I am not going to go out of my way to suggest that Star Wars fans should be cheering for the Separatists at the beginning of The Clone Wars film. Nor will I try to persuade you that the film should have given us more of Loathsom’s backstory. But what I will offer is a two-fold suggestion:
- General Whorm Loathsom is clearly a much more gifted commander than either Kenobi or Skywalker.
- It is worth asking why Loathsom chose to join the Separatist cause, wanting to know more about his backstory so as to better understand what led him to the point of commanding the Separatist forces during the Battle of Christophsis.
In regards to the first point, it is worth reiterating what I already said: at the outset of the film, the clone battalion which Kenobi and Skywalker command have been backed into a corner by Loathsom. For all intents and purposes, the outcome of the Battle of Christophsis is already decided, with Loathsom having effectively won the tactical engagement. Pulling his forces back because of the Republic cannons, Loathsom chooses a new strategy: advancing his forces while under the protection of a shield generator. It is a brilliant decision that immediately neutralizes the Republic artillery fire. Without any conventional answers available Kenobi, Skywalker (and Tano) must enact an unconventional plan to stop Loathsom. With some cunning and deception the Jedi and their clone forces are able to come out victorious, but not because Anakin and Ahsoka end up destroying the shield generator. This is certainly an important part of the Republic victory but it is not, in my assessment, the reason the Republic wins. Rather, it is because Kenobi is able to capture Loathsom that the battle is concluded. Even with the shield generator destroyed, had Loathsom not been captured he could have simply disengaged his forces once again and developed a new strategy.
But underneath Loathsom’s prowess as a field commander is a deeper question: why is Whorm Loathsom a Separatist general? His backstory resides entirely in shadow, although a small nugget lurks within The Clone Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi, using flattery, tells Loathsom, “…you’re a legend throughout the Inner Core.” There is no reason to assume Obi-Wan is lying and, as such, Loathsom’s “legend” as a general is a tantalizing morsel. For myself, the desire to know more about his legend burns bright, wanting to discover what sort of military campaigns he previous led. While it is unlikely his legend as a general will ever receive any serious treatment I can, never-the-less, hold out hope that it will be (maybe I will just fill in the gaps by writing some Whorm Loathsom fan fiction…). Moreover, the question regarding his decision to take up arms against the Republic, his personal motivations for doing so, persist. For whatever reason, he chose to bring his military prowess, his “legend,” to the Confederacy and, until we are given even one line (even in a reference book!) answering “why” he did so we will be left in the dark.
This is really too bad because without a motivation for joining the Separatists, Whorm Loathsom is just another “bad guy.” Perhaps his reason for joining is actually a nefarious one and he truly is just a bad guy with bad intentions. That is certainly one option but the possibility also exists that he, like so many others, viewed the Republic as corrupt and felt compelled to act to create a more just galaxy. Or, maybe his homeworld of Kerkoidia chose to secede from the Republic and he was honor-bound to defend the planet.
But these are just guesses and, well, your guess is as good as mine.