THEY CALL IT JUSTICE: Command Influence and the Court-Martial System by Luther C. West

THEY CALL IT JUSTICE: Command Influence and the Court-Martial System

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KIRKUS REVIEW

But it isn't. An army lawyer for 17 years, West writes a coolly controlled, tightly documented indictment of military ""justice."" He argues that it is ""fixed"" from the outset by command influence. What this means in plain English is that a single individual--a division commander or ""convening authority""--decides which crimes will be dealt with by court-martial; decides on the make-up of the jury; selects the judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel. The concept of ""due process"" is rendered a nullity. The imperatives of barracks discipline, a commanding officer's reputation, battlefield exigencies, and military public relations are the actual determinants of who will be brought to trial and punished, and how severe the sentence will be. West is not the first to challenge the anomalies of the court-martial. Robert Sherrill's Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music (1970) gave the outraged civilian's view of military ""show"" trials, and did so in a context allowing full play to the barbarities and sadism of military discipline. West compiles a lawyer's dossier of cases with the force of inside knowledge. He comes down especially hard on the paper reforms of the landmark Uniform Code of Military Justice (1951) which specifically outlawed command influence--but in fact didn't make a hell of a difference. The cases he discusses at length--the scape-goating of Lt. Calley, the acquittal of Capt. Medina, the acquittal of Col. Henderson--underscore the self-serving nature of military justice. More restrained than Sherrill, West proposes some obvious and belated reforms to save the Billy Budds of the future from the dubious ideals of ""military necessity.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Viking