The Star Wars franchise was full of important events that helped shape the narrative and that had an essential influence on what happened within the stories. Sadly (or not, depends on how you look at it), most of these events have to do with betrayal – Anakin betrays the Jedi, Darth Vader betrays Darth Sidious, Count Dooku betrays the Jedi, Palpatine betrays Count Dooku, ans so forth – which is why we have decided to talk about one of those events. This betrayal is certainly among the biggest ones, as it directly led to the Purge of the Jedi and the formation of the Galactic Empire. So, if you wanted to know why the Clones betrayed the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, keep reading!
The Clones were pre-programmed to obey their orders without questioning, which was further assured when Palpatine implanted specific chips into them during Stage 3 of their lives. Not all Clones agreed with Order 66, but were still obliged to enforce it.
When George Lucas launched the franchise in 1977, with the movie Star Wars (later titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for continuity reasons), no one expected that it would become one of the biggest stories of the modern area. Star Wars wasn’t initially that successful, but as the years passed, the franchise became a cult classic, attracting generations of fans and now encompassing nine main continuity movies, video games, several TV shows, comic books and a variety of merchandise that made George Lucas famous. The franchise is today owned by Disney, but wherever it might go after the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars will undoubtedly remain one of the pivotal parts of modern culture.
Now, let us see the answer to the main question.
Order 66, or Why the Clones betrayed the Jedi
In order to fully comprehend the Clones’ betrayal of the Jedi, we have to analyse context of the whole situation at the time. Namely, the Republic was at war with the separatists, whose perceived leader was General Grievous. The Senate has, at one point, given emergency powers to Palpatine, but only until General Grievous was defeated. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi was sent to deal with Grievous. In the meantime, Palpatine approached the unstable Anakin Skywalker and manipulated him into leaning towards the Dark Side of the Force. Anakin initially declined, but his personal issues (his relationship with Padmé Amidala, his status within the Jedi Order) clouded his judgment. Palpatine also admitted to Anakin that he was, in fact, Darth Sidious.
When news came of general Kenobi’s defeat of General Grievous, Jedi Master Mace Windu concluded that the Chancellor must give up his emergency powers, but then came Anakin’s warning:
Windu: “We just received word that Obi-Wan has destroyed General Grievous. We’re on our way to make sure the Chancellor returns emergency power back to the Senate.”
Anakin: “He won’t give up his power. I’ve just learned a terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.”
Windu: “A Sith Lord?”
Anakin: “Yes. The one we’ve been looking for.”
Windu: “How do you know this?”
Anakin: “He knows the ways of the Force. He’s been trained to use the dark side.”
Windu: “Are you sure?”
Windu: “Then our worst fears have been realized. We must move quickly if the Jedi Order is to survive.”
Windu left Anakin and went to arrest Palpatine, but things didn’t go all too well for the Jedi. Palpatine revealed himself to be Darth Sidious and quickly kills Windu’s associates, but the Jedi Master managed to gain the upper hand. Mace Windu initially stated that Palpatine was under arrest, pending a trial in front of the Senate, but Palpatine’s reluctance to accept that fate and Anakin’s arrival changed his decision. Realising that Palpatine would not yield, Mace Windu proceeded to kill him, but was betrayed by Anakin and soon killed by Palpatine. Anakin soon became Darth Vader, Palpatine initiated Order 66 and the rest is history.
So, the Clones betrayed the Jedi because Supreme Chancellor Palpatine activated Order 66. Sadly, Palpatine had every right to do it, as Order 66 was a contingency order that could be initiated by the Chancellor without prior consent of any other body of the Republic.
Did the Clones want to kill the Jedi?
Well, this question is relatively simple to answer, because there really wasn’t any murderous intention on the side of the Clones. The Clone Army was an “instrument” of the Galactic Republic, just like the Jedi (in one aspect), and although they collaborated with the Jedi and followed them, they were actually under direct control by the Supreme Commander, i.e., the Chancellor.
So, no, the Clones did not want to kill the Jedi, but because they were obliged to follow the Chancellor’s orders, they had to treat the Jedi as traitors and execute them as per Palpatine’s instructions.
Still, it didn’t look pretty:
Why didn’t the Clones kill Anakin Skywalker?
Now this is an interesting one, since, at the time when the order to execute Order 66 was given, Anakin’s betrayal was not publicly known. The only living character who knew of Anakin’s crossing to the Dark Side was Palpatine and we’ve seen that he had not explicitly told the Clones to not attack Anakin. So, why did they not attack the – at the time – former Jedi?
The movie canon doesn’t explicitly answer this question, although there is only one possible explanation, which was confirmed in Star Wars: Battlefront 2, which is part of the expanded universe. Namely, the only way that the Clones could’ve known that Anakin – i.e., Darth Vader – was on their side is if Palpatine had told them. This is confirmed in Battlefront 2, when one of the Clones confirms that “Lord Vader” would be their field commander.
So, even if we did not see it in the movie, it seems that Palpatine did tell the Clones that Anakin had joined them, which means that the movie did not show the whole conversation between Palpatine and the Clones, as was originally thought. Despite this being a hypothesis, there is just no other plausible solution that we can think of.
Did all the Clones betray the Jedi? Did any of them refuse Order 66?
Another big question related to the infamous Order 66 is whether the Clones could do anything about it. Namely, as we know, the Clones were an artificially created army whose main trait was complete loyalty. Still, they were sentient beings and there was a chance that they would stop being loyal at one point. This is why Palpatine, unbeknownst to the Jedi, had an “inhibitor chip” implanted in all the Clones to assure their full obedience. This was revealed in The Clone Wars animated series. So, according to this fact, it would seem that the Clones were unable to refuse Palpatine’s orders and indeed, the canon material offers no evidence to the contrary. With one notable exception. Maybe.
Namely, the second season of The Clone Wars animated series reveals a rogue Clone Trooper, Cut Lawquane, who ran during the Battle of Geonosis and escaped to a solitary planet and started a family. He was later found by Commander Rex and it was revealed that he deserted the Empire and still supported the Jedi. So, how was this possible? Well, there are two possibilities:
- Due to the injuries sustained while fighting on Geonisis, Cut’s “inhibitor chip” might’ve gotten damaged so he was able to refuse Order 66 and make a decision based on his own, free will.
- Due to him finding refuge on a distant, solitary planet and not being part of any regiment or unit, Cut might not have even received Palpatine’s order, so he was completely unaware of it and was thus able to keep his loyalty towards the Jedi and the Republic, unaware of everything else.
This is the only canon example of a possible refusal of Order 66 by a Clone Trooper, but the show never really confirmed why Cut Lawquane continued to support the Jedi. The expanded universe, on the other hand, gives us an example of a whole unit refusing Palpatine’s order, as stated in Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader:
“Word has reached me,” Palpatine was saying, “that a group of clone troopers on Murkhana may have deliberately refused to comply with Order Sixty-Six.”
Vader tightened his hold on the lightsaber. “I had not heard, Master.”
He knew that Order Sixty-Six had not been hardwired into the clones by the Kaminoans who had grown them. Rather, the troopers-the commanders, especially-had been programmed to demonstrate unfailing loyalty to the Supreme Chancellor, in his role as Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. And so when the Jedi had revealed their seditious plans, they had become a threat to Palpatine, and had been sentenced to death.
On myriad worlds Order 66 had been executed without misfortune-on Mygeeto, Saleucami, Felucia, and many others. Taken by surprise, thousands of Jedi had been assassinated by troopers who had for three years answered almost exclusively to them. A few Jedi were known to have escaped death by dint of superior skill or accident. But on Murkhana, apparently unique events had played out; events that were potentially more dangerous to the Empire than the few Jedi who had survived.
“What was the cause of the troopers’ insubordination, Master?” Vader asked.
“Contagion.” Palpatine sneered. “Contagion brought about by fighting alongside the Jedi for so many years. Clone or otherwise, there is only so much a being can be programmed to do. Sooner or later even a lowly trooper will become the sum of his experiences.”
Here, we have an official confirmation of two facts. For one, that Palpatine really did program the Clones to be completely loyal, but also that the programming’s effects are in fact limited and that the Clones were, despite all their interventions, sentient beings to a certain degree. The latter fact is quite important as it opens up a possibility that there have been more individual Clones or even whole units who refused to execute Order 66 due to their loyalty to their Jedi friends.
Did any Clones regret executing order 66?
Well, this one is tough to answer, mainly because there is no precise evidence in any of the material. The canon certainly doesn’t suggest that the Clones regretted their participation. Firstly, they couldn’t do anything about it and, secondly, it was a “this is just business” situation from their point of view. In addition to that, the Clones were programmed to be obedient so even if they felt bad about their actions, they kept quiet about it and did not reveal their true sentiments.
On the other hand, in Battlefront 2, a Clone Trooper says nobody was able to look the Jedi in the eye before the killing started, which would suggest that they did feel at least some degree of remorse. But, whatever the truth might have been, the Clones never expressed their regret outwardly.
What happened to the Clones after Order 66?
As we all know, the successful execution of Order 66 enabled Palpatine to become Emperor and establish the Galactic Empire. The Clones remained loyal to the Emperor and were reformed as Stormtroopers during the the initial years of the Empire. Still, the need for new clones decreased until it fully disappeared at one point, so production halted. The Empire started recruiting regular humans into their army so the Clones’ numbers eventually decreased, even if their legacy lived on with the Stormtroopers.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!