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Following Military Orders That May Be Unethical

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Following Military Orders That May Be Unethical


This paper is based on the issue of following the Military Orders that appears to be unethical. Obeying or declining to obey these orders depends on the kind of order that has been issued and these military members do it at their own risk. Either way one may land into trouble by either agreeing to follow an order that is unlawful or declining to obey an order that that is lawful according to the decision that the superiors and the court will settle for regarding the legality of the order. This paper will discuss the manner to determine the legality of an order and when to obey or decline to obey an order.

Identification of specific the ethical issue and the ethical problems it presents

Every time one is enlisted to join the Military, whether it is on active duty or reserve, it is mandatory that they take an oath in which they swear to defend the constitution of their country and to obey orders from the president and the officers that are appointed over them. One of the major reasons why this is done is because the military effectiveness and discipline are founded on the compliance to different orders.

New recruits are trained to obey with immediate effect and with no question, the orders that come from their superiors, and this begins right away from the day they set their feet into the military camp. The members of the military who fail to obey the military orders from their superiors are considered to be risking a great deal punishment. In most of the constitutions of different countries, it is a crime to disobey the orders of a superior officer willingly and this carries some serious effects that include death. For example, in the united states, under the Article 90, in the times of war, any military member who is found guilty of willful disobedient to the superior commissioned officer can face a death sentence (Olsthoom, 2010).

This may appear too many appear to be a good motivation to obeying any order as issued but this is definitely not the case. The articles in the constitution call for the obedience of the LAWFUL orders. As a result it is should be noted and the military people should keep in mind that not every order falls within the confines of the LAW. Only the lawful orders should be followed and to be able to determine the legality of different orders as they are being issued requires the military officers to be conversant with the provisions of their constitution. It should be clear that any order that contravenes the law of the land should not be followed and any person who follows such an order may find himself facing the same government he or she works work when being prosecuted in a court of law. According to the military courts, it is clear that the members of the military are held accountable for all their actions despite the fact that they acted while following orders from their superiors and this applies as far as the order which they were following was against the law. The common phrase that, "I was acting under superior orders", which has been used in several cases as a legal defense does not apply any longer (Federal Bar Association, 1998).

For example, a case involving an American Military officer who used the infamous phrase of, "I was acting under superior orders" was first recorded in the year 1799. A law was passed by the Congress permitting the seizing of ships that were bound to all French ports during the War with French. Nevertheless, in writing an order that was meant for the United States Navy to undertake the mentioned course of action, President John Adams wrote that the ships belonging to the Navy had the authority to grasp all the vessels that were bound to or coming from any of the French Port. Acting in accordance with the order that was issued by the US President, one of the American Navy Captains seized a Danish ship that had passed through the French Port. As a result of this, the captain was sued by the owners of this vessel in the United States Maritime Court with an account of trespass.

It was after casing that it became clear that such orders from the senior people in government officials should only follow an order as long as it falls within the jurisdiction of the law of the land. This was the reason the case was ruled in favor of the owners of the owners of the ship and the supreme court of the United States upheld this decision despite the fact the captains argued that the seizing of the ship was done in pursuant to the presidential order. The Supreme Court required the Navy commanders to "act at their own risk" when executing such orders that are considered illegal though they are presidential orders (D,Amato, 2007).

The most famous case in regard to execution of orders that are actually illegal is probably was case of the court-martial as well as being convicted for premeditated murder involving William Calley, a First Lieutenant as a result of the responsibility he beared in the Lai Massacre on 16th March 1968. Calley,s defensive mechanism of arguing that he did what he did under orders from above was rejected by the military court and he ended up being sentenced to life imprisonment. Nevertheless, there was an intense public outcry in the US because this controversial trial had been much publicized and as a result President Nixon had to grant William Calley clemency. Calley spent some three and half years under house arrest and ultimately was released through an order by one of the federal judges (D,Amato, 2007).

It was only recent in 2004, when the United States Millitaly opened some court-martials for a number of soldiers who were among the troops that were deployed to Iraq and they had to answer charges of mistreat of detainees and prisoners. A good number of them claimed that they were acting in accordance with the orders issued by the military intelligence officers. However, this was unfortunate because their defense could not hold water based on the fact that mistreat of prisoners is criminal offence both under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as the International Law (Friedrich, 1993).

The United States military law states clearly that the military members should be held accountable, if the course of executing their official duties, they commit a criminal offence under the disguise of being obedient to orders from above. The law also does not have a provision for the obedience of orders that are considered to be illegal. Nevertheless, the major controversy arises based on the fact that, a military will only decline to obey such orders at his or her own risk (Friedrich, 1993).

At the end of the day, it is not the military member to decide whether the order that has been issued is against the law or illegitimate, it is upon the military



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