Ethics And "A Few Good Men."

2883 words - 12 pages

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 can cause the lives of the marine and his fellow soldiers. Although reserved for wartime, the marines in their day-to-day military life practice this belief. So when time comes for the marines to go to war, the thought of questioning an order never crosses their mind regardless of the severity of the order. Following orders given by a superior officer is a part of the marine discipline, and breaking this discipline is not tolerated in armed forces.

The order given to Dawson and Downey was to "train" PFC Santiago. Santiago's aggravated heart condition was the primary reason of his death, and Dawson and Downey having followed their order were unfortunate to find Santiago dead in the 'training' process. Had Santiago been physically fit, he would have in all likelihood, survived the 'training.'

However on the charge of becoming a united states marine they were found guilty as charged. The reasoning for this is as follows:

Dawson and Downey should have ignored the "Code Red" ordered by Colonel Jessup,...

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