The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 12, 2014

Our View: ‘Good soldier’ no defense

There are lots of people whose jobs serve the public good. Police officers, firefighters and teachers quickly come to mind.

But their noble work is no defense if they commit a crime. So why should it be any different for a soldier?

Our lawmakers are finally recognizing that the “good soldier defense” is really no defense at all.

According to The Associated Press, U.S. senators voted 97-0 late Monday night to make significant changes in military law to curb rape and sexual assault within the ranks. They approved steps to protect victims and barred the “good soldier defense” to ensure that evidence alone will determine a defendant’s fate.

Among those leading the charge on the military sexual assault bill is Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who joined with two Republicans to write the bill.

In the House, the bill could be incorporated into the next defense policy bill, which will be written in the spring.

This is all part of a change to Uniform Code of Military Justice. Democrats and Republicans rewrote parts of it last year, stripping commanders of their ability to overturn military jury convictions.

We know we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our soldiers. But that does not mean we should allow gratitude to interfere with justice.

“Unanimous agreement in the U.S. Senate is pretty rare — but rarer still is the kind of sweeping, historic change we’ve achieved over the past year in the military justice system,” McCaskill told The Associated Press on Monday night.

It’s good to know that we can bring about change when it’s the right thing to do.

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