Ethics and "A Few Good Men."

Essay by garimanitaria October 2005

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The movie is about two marines indicted for the murder of a fellow marine in their platoon. Private First Class (PFC) William Santiago died because of lactic acidosis triggered by the assault inflicted by Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private Lowden Downey. This assault was the result of a direct order by the platoon commander Lieutenant Kendrick. The order was to train Santiago to respect the Code of the Marines and the chain of command. Private Santiago had broken this chain and written directly to the NIS asking for a transfer, in exchange for offering information about an illegal fence-line shooting. When Colonel Nathan Jessep, commander of the marines stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, learned of this letter, he ordered the "training" of Private Santiago. In Guantanamo Bay, this "training" was referred to as "Code Red", which was defined as the discipline of marines within the unit, by the unit, without involving the proper authorities - navy Jag Corp.

When the navy learned of Private Santiago?s death, Dawson and Downey were placed under arrest, and moved to Washington DC to be court-martialed. After a thorough litigation by defense attorney, Lt. Danial Kaffee, the court found Colonel Jessep and Lt. Kendrik guilty of the murder of PFC Santiago because they ordered the ?Code Red?. Dawson and Downey were cleared of charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, but were found guilty of conduct unbecoming a marine, and were discharged from the Marine Corp.

6. Normative Ethical Question:

Did Dawson and Downey do the right thing by following the order?

Dawson and Downey's actions were in strict accordance with the orders given to them by their platoon commander, and were thus justified.

The Marines believe, "You follow orders or people die." This was primarily applicable during wartime when questioning an order...