Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond

Chris Bray. Norton, $27.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-393-24340-6
Bray, a historian and former U.S. Army infantry sergeant, explores a neglected aspect of American legal and social history—“the limits of power and the boundaries of dissent”—in this persuasive study of the relationship of military courts-martial to broader social questions. For Bray, the court-martial reveals “the ways that ordinary people managed big social and political pressures in the face of sweeping changes.” In the early national period, military law was mostly a “set of fair guesses and reasonable assumptions.” With the Civil War and imperial expansion came issues of trying civilians under military law, finding “any level of legal process at all for black soldiers,” and addressing torture and reprisal killings as routine aspects of American counterinsurgency in the Philippines. The 20th century brought drastic changes: “American military justice produced giant show trials, a mass execution carried out in secret, towering acts of racial injustice, routine cruelty, and a set of procedural rules that finally made courts-martial so much more fair for defendants.” Bray convincingly argues that as the military justice system continues confronting fundamental questions about American society, “a steady march toward the civilianization of military courts has given soldiers due-process protections that are, in their historical context, stunning.” (May)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-393-24341-3
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