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Few Good Man

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Few good man
Time from time you may hear stories of abuse by the military justice "system". There are multiple destroyed and financially devastated families out there suffering heartbreak and loss at the hands of an uncaring, unfeeling and unjust process which makes a mockery of our Bill of Rights.

Military justice for the majority is prefabricated according to the wishes of the local Commander, and the "trial" or "court-martial" is tantamount to a pre-ordained verdict of GUILTY. How could any court proceeding be considered fair when the "convening authority," by right of title, is given the power to select the judge, the jury and defense and prosecution attorneys? It may go "unsaid," but the implication is very clear - if the convening authority "sees fit" to bring about a court-martial, then the accused can be assumed to be guilty.

What's special, or even topical, about A Few Good Men movie is it speaks to how military honor can be so readily suborned by the authoritarian impulse. And second, how the same honest pride - not to mention competence - is necessary to bring such posturing would-be tyrants to justice. The main issue the movie touches upon is military justice.

A good marine abides by the following code:

1. Unit
2. Corps
3. God and
4. Country

For this code to be at its effective best, it must be governed by truth and justice. What happens when truth and justice fail to be active participants of this code?

Justice has been defined in many ways. But, this is a movie that held those in leadership accountable in the "chain of command".

To be more specific, this is a drama that seeks to question the frameworks of the United States Navy as a scandal seeks to taint the reputation of the country. In the movie, two marines are accused of killing a fellow marine. The real question is whether this is murder or man slaughter plus, who is to blame?

Also, whether the accused marines were following orders from above or not, remain a mystery. The two marines accused of the crime are Louden Downey and Harold Dawson. They are accused of stuffing a piece of cloth into the mouth of Private William Santiago who passes away in the middle of the night due to respiratory complications.

Their case needs to be presented well so that they can clear the accusations but, their defense is ever so wanting as they are assigned inexperienced counsel to take the matter through the court. Lt. Daniel Kaffee is known to have a thing for plea bargains. Known for settling cases out court, this one will be a huge task for him. He wrestles with the question whether he can live up to his father’s reputation or not. His father was not just once attorney general but had been a Navy Judge Advocate General as well. His father’s shoes seem to be too large to fit.

Another Lt. who is part of the lead defense counsel for the accused is Joanne Galloway. She is appointed by Downey’s aunt and her lack of experience does not do the defense any good. They fight between presenting their case as a ‘code red’ command or risk the perception that it had been a sheer act of murder for personal differences.

‘Code red’ is a command given to soldiers to bring a fellow soldier up to the mark; especially if they prove difficult. They mainly use physical and mental torture to achieve this. A lot of facts come up about the late Private William Santiago which is a role played by Michael DeLorenzo.

Hierarchal governmental structures are good at maintaining order or control, but do not necessarily bring about justice or are just in the means to attain justice. The ends justify the means, unless there is a balance of power and a way to address "blind spots", in "goal accomplishment". One must never be a blind slave or servant of injustice or unjust "governments", even in the name and for the sake of justice.

In the end of the movie, this is what the lawyer did, to bring about justice. He held the one in authority accountable to his command. The two Marines were honorably discharged. Justice does require accountability to "the rule of law" and to right norms of human behavior.

Anyone who's been in service has some experience with military justice. The military is society in microcosm, and if you work in an organization of several hundred people, chances are some are criminals. Some break laws unique to the military, others violate the established laws of society.

Strangely, in the minds of many the fact that they've been investigated and prosecuted by the military seems like just another indicator of our brutality - they assume we need such a safeguard in our system because we are overly prone to such transgressions. Even in "doing the right thing" we are apt to be accused of additional violations of societal norms.

That prejudice will be fueled by the media narrative - which will in some way or another build on the pre-existing mindset that proclaims it's the system, and not this innocent young person, that is at fault, and simultaneously express outrage that the same system is prosecuting the case. Add in the defense's relatively broad latitude in public discussion of the case, offer low-hanging journalistic fruit like "cover-up" or "persecution of only the junior troops" and the stage is set for a long and painful experience.

In the background, in reality, less than perfect humans will do their best to judge their less than perfect fellows in a quest for an elusive concept

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