By Commuting Bradley Manning’s Sentence
The military can’t function without trust and discipline. Manning’s commutation undermines that warrior ethos.It might just take going to war to truly understand the nature of military justice. During my deployment to Iraq, I was the only JAG officer at an isolated outpost near the Iraq–Iran border. I worked closely with my commander on the dizzying array of disciplinary issues that arise on deployment: Soldiers fight, they sometimes defy their officers and NCOs, and some of them take drugs. Drop 800 men far into the most stressful situations imaginable thousands of miles from home and some will crack. It’s that simple. But here’s the key to military justice: Both words matter. In the civilian system, we tend to think only of “justice.” Does the punishment fit the crime? Are we punishing the guilty? Are we vindicating the rights of their victims? But there’s an additional, supplemental goal to military justice.
The Manual for Courts-Martial puts it this way:
The purpose of military law is to promote justice, to assist in maintaining good order and discipline in the armed forces, to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, and thereby to strengthen the national security of the United States.
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