Criminalizing Failure

Most current and past members of the Armed Forces have heard the rumors of soldiers being punished for having a sunburn that prevents the proper wear of the uniform and performance of duty.

Most of us also understand the need to deter self-injury as a means of avoiding or shirking duty.

But, how about the rash of attempted and successful suicides in the military? Where do those fall?

Here, the Marine Corps shows that they have no tolerance for failure.

The court was hearing the appeal of Marine Pvt. Lazzaric Caldwell, who was convicted of “self-injury” after he slit his wrist in a barracks in Okinawa in 2010.

He was convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s Article 134, known as the General Article, because the judge found his self-injury was prejudicial to good order and discipline and brought discredit upon the service.

At least one judge on the military’s high court agreed with that argument. “You don’t think that the public will think less of the military if people are killing themselves? …There’s literature out there that these things come in waves,” said Judge Margaret Ryan.

Underpinning the case is the question of why the military criminalizes attempted suicide when it does not treat successful suicide as a crime.

“If [Caldwell] had succeeded, like 3,000 service members have in the past decade, he would have been treated like his service was honorable, his family would have received a letter of condolence from the president and his death would have been considered in the line of duty. Because he failed, he was prosecuted,” noted Navy Lt. Michael Hanzel, the military lawyer representing Caldwell.

Thanks again to JMo for this heads-up.


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