Updating Military Law

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Wow, talk about your heroes ("West would make 'sacrifice' again," Page 1, Dec. 19). Lt. Col. Allen B. West sacrificed his brilliant military career to protect the lives of the men and women under his command, and for this heroic act, he subsequently was fined and forced into retirement.

Almost certainly his act did save lives, and almost certainly he knew at the time he committed it that the penalty would be severe. How can this be? a fair-minded person would ask.

The problem was that Col. West and his superiors had few rational alternatives under the military's bible of laws, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). But save a huge outcry of public support, Col. West's punishment under this outmoded code could have been worse

In basic military training, one learns that the UCMJ is an extreme interpretation of law that goes far beyond anything we have in our civil and criminal justice systems, erring on the side of administering harsh and extreme punishment for even the most minor offenses, with little regard or concern for the intent or rights of the accused. …