Ethics and "A Few Good Men."

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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 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, and should have reported him to the proper authorities at the navy Jag Corp.

The "training" also known as the "Code Red" was known to have harmful consequences. There were two examples of the severity of the "Code Red" shown in the movie: The first example was that of Private Bell, a soldier, getting nothing but water for a period of one week to keep him alive. The second example involved a soldier been given a "Code Red" for dropping a gun during a training exercise. His punishment was to put glue on his hands, and have his arm punched for about twenty minutes. Evidently, a "Code Red" in military parlance meant punishment in its higher degree.

PFC Santiago was known to be a weak person. Dawson and Downey ignoring the fact that PFC Santiago's condition was deteriorating still followed Col. Jessup's order for "Code Red" on Santiago. They should have been aware of the fact that "Code Red" would cause irreparable damage to PFC Santiago's health; on humanitarian grounds, Dawson and Downey should have contacted the proper authorities at the navy Jag Corp for a fair assessment of the order....
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