Category Archives: Opinion and Analysis

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

This entry is part of On Watch 28.1 Spring 2017
Book Review

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

by Mr. Chris Bray, US Army Infantry Sergeant & PhD in History from UCLA.

The United States came into existence at a time when the laws of war and governance of the armies which fought them were beginning to take hold and develop. The new nation had only a limited history of warfare: formations of citizen militias to fight off attacks from Native American tribes trying to resist further expansion of the European colonists.

These militia formations consisted of friends and neighbors: volunteers and pressured townspeople or farmers, who had a personal stake in whatever fight they were engaged in. Officers were elected. These citizens taught themselves how to fight and behave as soldiers. It was not uncommon for debates to occur as to the best ways to fight. Once the danger was over, these militias would become dormant or even disband.

To keep up a presence, some would become clubs or social organizations. It was from this core that an American revolutionary army would emerge. And this is the starting point for Chris Bray’s Court-Martial and its chronicle of the evolution of American military law and American military justice. The book is not just for those interested in the history of law. Bray presents a picture of military law attempting to protect the status quo as the world changes.

The Injustices of Manning’s Ordeal

This entry is part of On Watch 28.1 Spring 2017

For exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pvt. Chelsea Manning suffered nearly seven years in prison, an ordeal President Obama finally is ending but without acting on the crimes she revealed.

After overseeing the aggressive prosecution and near-seven-year incarceration of Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, President Obama – in one of his last acts in office – commuted all but four months of her remaining sentence but ignored the fact that he had taken no action on the war crimes that Manning revealed.

At his final news conference, Obama explained his reasons for commuting Manning’s record-setting 35-year sentence for leaking classified information to the public. Manning is scheduled to be released on May 17.

“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” Obama said. “It has been my view that given she went to trial; that due process was carried out; that she took responsibility for her crime; that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received; and that she had served a significant amount of time; that it made sense to commute and not pardon her sentence. … I feel very comfortable that justice has been served.”

But there has been no justice for the Iraqis and Afghans whose unjustified deaths and mistreatment were exposed by the then-22-year-old Army private, known at the time as Bradley Manning. An Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning sent hundreds of thousands of classified files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, the “Iraq War Logs,” the “Afghan War Logs” and State Department cables, to WikiLeaks. Many of the items that she transmitted contained evidence of war crimes.

What does a Trump administration mean for the GI Rights advocacy community?

This entry is part of On Watch 28.1 Spring 2017

President Trump has been and remains so unpredictable in his words and actions that there is much we still don’t know about what his administration holds for the men and women who wear the uniforms of the United States Armed Forces. Because he is so often inconsistent in what he says and does, it is also difficult to determine what, if any, principles are guiding his actions. As such, it is important that we who are concerned about ensuring justice for members of the military, especially as an avenue through which to pursue a more peaceful, just and sustainable future for all, keep a close watch on the actions of this administration and begin to develop ideas and strategies to respond to the challenges that may lie ahead.

Chelsea Manning’s sentence commuted, NLG responds

We were pleasantly surprised by President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence on January 17, just days before he left office. In a statement released to the press, NLG also noted that the sentence of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera was also commuted.

In the statement, MLTF Executive Director Kathleen Gilberd was quoted:

While Chelsea’s freedom is long-overdue, we are gratified that she has been afforded some measure of delayed justice. There is no doubt that the tremendous outpouring of public support and organizing for commuting the sentence contributed to this outcome. Still, we remain critical of a government that seems more intent on prosecuting those who expose war crimes than those who commit them.

It is time to abolish draft registration and restore full rights to people of conscience

By Bill Galvin and Maria Santelli, Center on Conscience & War[1]

This article was first published first publishing on Feb. 24, 2016 at It was re-published with permission in the Spring 2016 issue of On Watch. 

With the combat restriction for women in the US Armed Forces now lifted, discussion of draft registration is back in the news, the courts, and the halls of congress. But the problems with Selective Service System (SSS) Registration go much deeper than gender equality. There is little political interest in bringing back the draft. Yet draft registration remains a burden upon our nation’s young men – and now, potentially our young women, as well.