Newswise — Michal R. Belknap is a legal historian and constitutional law professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego. Belknap is one of the nation's leading experts on military tribunals—and has written several books on the Vietnam War including The Vietnam War on Trial: The My Lai Massacre and the Court Martial of Lieutenant Calley. He can discuss My Lai in detail and compare it to the current situation with charges being filed against U.S. Marines in the civilian killings in Haditha, Iraq.
At this point, he says, it would seem likely that more than one person will be charged. "The big question," he says, "is whether any of those who will be charged will be high ranking officers, or whether somebody of comparatively low rank will be stuck with responsibility."
Unfolding the Calley case step by step, Belknap's 2002 book reveals exactly how the U.S. system of military justice functions. He can offer thoughts on how the system actually works and can demystify the military-tribunal process.
His book examines every stage of the trial, from pre-trial investigations to actual courtroom exchanges among prosecutors, defenders, witnesses, and judges. In the process, he reveals how a court-martial conducted within the public eye transformed a purely legal proceeding into a political debate about the conduct of the Vietnam War.
The book is part of the Landmark Law Cases and American Society series.